Set in the fictional Riverside Police Station, Cop Shop combined self-contained stories focusing on specific police investigations with the type of open-ended serial storylines familiar from soap operas. This allowed Crawford Productions to make use of the expertise gained from their highly successful police procedurals (all recently cancelled) and serials such as The Sullivans (then still airing).
According to Moran, in his Guide to Australian Television Series,
Although the format may sound predictable and routine, in fact it was pioneering. In putting women police on the screen, Crawford's were moving Australian crime drama away from being an all-male domain. In addition, by choosing a suburban police station populated both by uniformed police and plainclothes detectives, Cop Shop introduced an upstairs and a downstairs world. The latter, in particular, began to exert its own attractions with handsome young men and women in the roles of the new constables.