A few months ago, I found out about a new reality television show on A&E called LIVE PD. The promise of the show was to have cameramen ride with on-duty patrol officers and film their encounters with the public. I tuned in on the first night because I remember what it was like for me and wanted to see what had changed in the years since I wore the uniform. I was pleased to find out that one of the co-hosts of the show was a sergeant from the Gang Unit of the Tulsa Police Department so that sort of insured me becoming a regular viewer.
But only for a while. First of all, for an old police officer, the show was pretty boring. Most of the citizen encounters are either traffic stops or family disputes, the same as when I was on the police department. The big difference on the television show was how they are handled and the role the officerís play in their handling. It quickly became obvious to me that some officers are trying out, episode by episode, week by week, for a starring role on television or in the movies because the speeches they give are nothing like the speeches we gave because we didnít give any speeches. People were either in violation of the law or they werenít. If they werenít, the case was handled as quickly as possible because we knew there were far more serious cases happening that needed our attention. If the people were in violation, they were arrested and taken to jail. We didnít do on the spot counseling, explaining to the arrestees the dangers of doing what they were doing and the need to stop. We figured they already knew that because they were choosing to break the law. So to watch some of these officers on television play to the camera instead of just doing their job as they were hired to do wasnít entertaining.
They also attempt to make friends with the people they come into contact with before they do anything else. Theyíre overly courteous, friendly, sometimes even engaging before they know the details of what theyíre dealing with. We were instructed to assess the situation first, find out if a law had been violated and if so, by who and then make an arrest if the perpetrator was still there. Overt public relations at the beginning of a call was never a part of our protocol.
I had just about forgotten how predictable being a patrol officer is. It brought back memories of patrolling my district on a weeknight for an entire eight-hour shift and not getting more than two or three low priority calls. I always tried to find something to do but it wasnít always easy. That part of field work I related to and it seems it hasnít changed too much.
Finally, after watching this show that runs three hours a night both Friday and Saturday, one thing is obviously missing and thatís violence between citizens and the police. There have been a few throw-downs by the police when the suspect wasnít responding to lawful orders and a few Taser firings but no gunplay at all. One of the things weíve become used to in our society is gunplay between police and the public. Itís up to the individual to decide whose fault it is and vehement arguments can be waged on both sides but regardless of who shoots first or last, it happens in the United States on a regular basis and thereís been none of that behavior on LIVE PD. In fact, itís often more like a lovefest than a confrontation when the police come in contact with the public and I know that although itís occasionally like that, thatís the exception rather than the rule. When you have citizens becoming a part of the joke by playing to the camera the same way police officers are, itís no longer a program anyone can take serious. So Iíve watched my last LIVE PD television program. What is portrayed on that program is partly true some of the time but not nearly authentic enough to keep my interest.