The show has been criticized for its predominant focus on the criminal activities among the poor. Critics of this aspect of the show say it unfairly presents the poor as responsible for most crime in society while ignoring the "white-collar crimes" that are typical of the more wealthy. Controversial documentary filmmaker Michael Moore raises this tenet in an interview with a former associate producer of Cops, Richard Herlan, in Moore's 2002 film Bowling for Columbine.
His response to Moore was that television is primarily a visual medium, requiring regular footage on a weekly basis to sustain a show, and police officers "busting in" on an office where identity theft papers are being created or other high-level crime rings are operating does not happen very often. It is therefore not likely to be recorded and thus not shown. The low-level crime featured on the show happens every day, providing large quantities of material suitable for taping.
Chciago Police Department Deputy Director of News Affairs Patrick Camden in 2005 stated in response to a request for Cops taping that "police work is not entertainment. What they do trivializes policing. We've never seriously even considered taping."
Impact of filming on the Dalia Dippolito caseEdit
During the trial of Dalia Dippolito, convicted of solicitation to commit first-degree murder, the defense attorney claimed Dippolito was tricked into signing the Cops release form. Also the defense claimed the husband orchestrated the plot to get aired on Cops.
The show X-Files released an episode "X-Cops" (season 7, episode 12) where Mulder and Scully collaborate with the police in order to catch a mysterious, shapeshifting entity. In the tradition of the real-life Cops program, the entire episode is shot on video.