John Langley, creator of the long-running reality TV show Cops, passed away on Saturday from an apparent heart attack. He was 78 years old.
At the time of the incident, he was competing in the Coast to Coast Ensenada-San Felipe 250 off-road race in Baja, Mexico, according to Variety. Langley was reportedly with his son Zak at the time, per TMZ.
Starting in 1989, Cops aired for 32 seasons before being canceled in 2020 following George Floyd’s death and amid protests against social injustices and police violence. When Fox canceled the show in 2013, Cops found a new home at the Spike network—now Paramount Network—before being scrapped last year. The show released over 1,000 episodes while in production and launched the cinéma vérité documentary style for TV. During its early years, the show earned four Emmy nominations for the Outstanding Informational Series category. The show is still being produced on international networks.
One of Langley’s earlier works was the 1983 documentary Cocaine Blues, which he wrote and co-directed with his production partner Malcolm Barbour. Langley’s first endeavor into reality TV was his 1986 special American Vice: The Doping of a Nation. He also produced Inside American Jail for TruTV and Las Vegas Jailhouse, both with his son, Morgan, who also is an executive producer for Cops.
Prior to his TV and documentary work, Langley was in the U.S. Army’s intelligence unit during the 1960s. He later received his undergraduate degree from Cal State Dominguez and went to grad school at U.C. Irvine. He leaves behind his wife Maggie, his sons Morgan and Zac, daughters Samantha and Jennifer, and seven grandchildren.