Following the death of George Floyd, protests erupted over the United States and the world, demanding action to stop police brutality against Black Americans. This criticism of policing practices has also reached the entertainment industry.
There are many popular and long-running TV shows and films that present police officers uncritically in the role of the protagonist. These shows have been slammed for excusing police brutality and presenting civilian legal rights as problems to be overcome. Now that Americans are waking up to the realities of police brutality, networks are responding with cancellations and changes to scripts and storylines.
One show that has not yet been addressed by the network is Chicago P.D., which airs on NBC and has been renewed for three more seasons. But this show has similar problems to other police procedurals — so will NBC be making changes?
About Chicago P.D.
Chicago P.D. is a spin-off TV show set in the same universe as Chicago Fire. The series started in 2014 and its production team included Dick Wolf, known for creating and producing Law and Order. The show centers around a Chicago police department under Detective Sergeant Hank Voight, played by Jason Beghe, who had been a character on Chicago Fire. Voight was portrayed as a “dirty cop” on Chicago Fire, though later in the show this characterization was explained as a ruse Voight used to catch other bad cops.
Style-wise, the show is a very standard police procedural drama. The series focuses on the characters doing their work to solve crimes, on top of their personal relationships, and lives outside of the force. Ratings-wise, it has crept up in popularity since its premiere.
While Chicago Fire portrayed Voight as invested in maintaining a good police force, the character is still extremely brutal on Chicago P.D. From breaking fingers with pliers to putting guns in the mouths of criminals, Voight’s way of justice isn’t for the faint of heart. Nonetheless, the show doesn’t often criticize Voight’s character for his actions, and his actions are often presented as justified.
One aspect of Chicago P.D. that has come under fire is how it presents every target of Voight’s as deserving of violence. In shows like Chicago P.D., the writing typically reveals that the victims of this violence were actually terrible criminal masterminds in order to justify the brutality. Critics of police shows have said this portrayal shapes society’s narrative about police officers and their use of violence, as well as the narrative about the rights of the accused, according to Slate.
Will Voight be fired?
Now that there is more attention on police violence in the United States, people are wondering how NBC will address this on Chicago P.D. While the show has shown Voight facing some consequences for his actions, it ultimately has kept him as a protagonist. Now, Voight’s actions might be viewed in a much different light. It seems possible that the character will be fired in-universe, or written off the show entirely. After all, actor Jason Beghe, has come under fire for inappropriate on-set behavior, as Deadline reported, so it is possible Voight’s time could come to an end.
We can’t know what will happen to Chicago P.D. until the next season airs, and cast member Marina Squerciati has in the past talked about how a policing show set in Chicago needs to discuss the way police and the Black community interact, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.
Given how the last season ended with Kevin Atwater, a Black officer, being the target of a vendetta from a group of white Chicago officers, the show has the perfect opportunity to address the topic of racism within policing.
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