We Wish All Cops Were Like Carl Winslow From ‘Family Matters’

You wouldn’t think a ’90s sitcom would be a source of social justice education, but Family Matters was. A 1994 episode titled “Good Cop, Bad Cop” is currently circulating on Instagram because of its relevance in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the ensuing calls for justice all over the world.

 

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The storyline involves Sergeant Carl Winslow and his son, Eddie, who was pulled over by white cops. “The only reason they pulled me over is because I was a black guy in a white neighborhood,” Eddie tells his dad. Sergeant Winslow is doubtful because apparently Eddie’s had some driving mishaps in the past.

“I thought what I went through tonight was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” Eddie says when his dad expresses disbelief about the incident, “but I was wrong. Not having my own father believe me is even worse.”

The next day, Sergeant Winslow finds and confronts the cops who pulled Eddie over. He inquires about the traffic stop.

“Who are you? The activist on the force?” the older cop asks. Sergeant Winslow presses further, and the cop uses every imaginable excuse for the harassment: that Edward committed a traffic violation, that he fit the description of a carjacking suspect, that he was on the wrong side of town, that he was mouthy, that he should have said he was a cop’s kid.

Winslow knocks down each of these absurd claims one by one. While the cops refuse to admit they targeted Edward because he’s black, Winslow vows to file a complaint. “I really don’t know how that badge stays on,” he says in parting to the worst of the two officers, “because it’s pinned to slime.”

Though Edward thinks filing a complaint is lame (“Those guys should be arrested – or worse!”) and is angry for being treated “like an animal,” he eventually comes around.

While the episode, with its applause track, is admittedly a little cheesy, the message is as powerful and important today as it was in 1994 when it aired. The sad part is that so little has changed in the intervening 26 years. If only there were more cops like Sergeant Winslow, willing to call out their colleagues’ racism, maybe we’d see some real change in law enforcement.

Cover Photo: ABC

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