Sponsored by FOX Nation
By Lexi Wessling for Police1 BrandFocus
Leo Tolstoy wrote, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Tolstoy wasn’t writing about LEO families, of course. But with “COPS” back on Fox Nation following a year-long hiatus, I can’t help but think of his famous line a little differently: “All happy LEO families are alike ... because ‘COPS’ is back.”
As a cop family, my fiancé – an officer at a large metropolitan department in the South – and I always caught as many episodes together as his first watch schedule allows. We like it for the same reasons most viewers have, LEO or not, since 1989: “COPS” is an honest, unabashed glimpse at what officers endure every day on the streets. It’s fun to watch the crazy things people do to get arrested, and hear the ludicrous excuses they come up with. (Oh, the 10 pounds of meth in your car belong to your sister’s best friend’s uncle’s dog?)
But for LEO families, “COPS” also does something else: It gets us talking.
Many officers are famously reticent about the struggles of the job, especially around family. Talking about work at all, even in casual conversation, can feel like bringing the work home. It’s like the mini-language some LEO families use when they ask their loved ones in uniform about their day. We know “great” means fine, “fine” means OK, and “OK” means don’t ask.
But when you’re watching “COPS,” the conversation just happens. Someone else in the room is in uniform, and the stress of the job is, for 20 minutes, only on them. LEO families can watch together and ask, “Is that really what you do if a drunk guy tries to fight you?” “Is that really what it feels like to pursue someone into the woods at night?” “What is it like when someone pulls a weapon on you?”
That’s the secret magic of “COPS”: It’s the invisible bridge between two worlds – the overworked, overstressed LEOs and their curious, concerned families.
When he first joined the force, my fiancé and I watched an officer on “COPS” arrest someone on a domestic violence charge, and he said, “I had one like that a couple nights ago.”
His experience had been uglier than the one we’d just watched. It turned out that he had been wanting to tell me about it, but wasn’t sure how. Seeing a similar event on “COPS” helped us break through that emotional barrier.
We talked about it for so long that we accidentally talked through three whole episodes. That showed me something invaluable: A fair and honest depiction of someone else doing the job is all it took for my fiancé to start telling me about his.
So when “COPS” was taken off the air last year after 32 seasons, it left a noticeable void in many LEO households. This was a time when, more than ever, many officers and their families needed to talk but struggled to in the face of conflicting news reports and back-to-back high-stress shifts.
I remember my fiancé returning exhausted from night after night of riot duty. He trudged in with dark-rimmed eyes and a shock of helmet hair after 12 hours in riot gear. There were some minor cuts on his hands. Someone had smashed in the back window of his duty car with a rock. He kicked off his boots and fell into bed.
I’d been following the riots in our city on social media, but the right words were hard to find.
“How was it?” I whispered.
“OK,” he replied. LEO translation: Don’t ask.
That was the extent of our conversations about work for a while. When your loved one comes home desperate for peace and quiet after 12 hours of being screamed at, spit on, hit with rocks and trash, you only want to comfort them. No matter how badly you’re dying to know about their night, the last thing you want to do is start a conversation that just sends them right back to the streets.
That was the limbo many LEO families found themselves in after that summer. “COPS” left the air as a gesture of goodwill toward the global conversation on policing, but for hundreds of thousands of LEO families, that conversation never included them.
restoring the conversation
Now, thanks to its new home on FOX Nation, the conversation can resume more freely and unapologetically than ever before. The 33rd season of COPS is available to stream, plus 15 more from the season before. All first responders (including police, firefighters and EMS personnel) can watch with a free one-year subscription.
Since FOX Nation does not have ads, “COPS” is protected from advertiser boycotts.
For my family, watching new episodes of “COPS” after a year of absence reminded us not only why the show has lasted more than three decades, but why it’s become such a significant part of our home life. It’s not about the interesting characters or the funny excuses they make (OK, maybe it is a little). It’s about the conversations that start from what we see. It’s about staying connected.
“COPS,” for my LEO family, is a show about us.
“COPS” season 33 episodes drop Friday nights, exclusively on FOX Nation. First responders can redeem a one-year free subscription here.
About the author
Lexi Wessling is a former editorial assistant at Police1. She has a degree in criminal justice and is currently pursuing master’s degrees in criminal justice and cybersecurity.