“Detroit 1-8-7” Premieres as City Cops Still in Unwanted Spotlight

As the department courts primetime ratings, feds investigate police shooting of 7-year-old.

By Jamilah King Sep 22, 2010

Tuesday night marked the premiere of the new primetime ABC show "Detroit 1-8-7," a drama about the city’s police department. While cop dramas certainly aren’t new, this is the first network series set in Motor City, where the relationship between the people and their  police force has grown increasingly tense in the wake of police violence some attribute to the presence of TV crews on raids. 

The Detroit Free Press reported viewing parties around the city gushing about the series. But the department’s moment under the Klieg lights is shrouded by the police shooting of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Jones was killed in May, when officers raided her home in search of a murder suspect. The incident was filmed by A&E camera crews who had tagged along to shoot the cops-and-robbers reality series "First 48," and questions immediately arose about whether the camera crew’s presence had influenced police to act more aggressively. 

The Jones family has sued, and the Justice Department is investigating the shooting. But the city’s desire to take its fight against crime to a national screen has caused considerable fall out since the shooting. Embattled police chief Warren Evans resigned over the summer after video leaked of a show that he had in the works, called "The Chief." According to CBS News, "Detroit 1-8-7" started out as a mockumentary, but controversy over cameras following cops forced a change in plans. 

Meanwhile, the Detroit Police Department has long been under federal scrutiny for allegations of racial profiling and civil rights violations. The department has refused to acknowledge a relationship between what activists call its increasingly aggressive tactics and its courtship of network appeal.