‘Live PD’ the A&E smash hit follows law enforcement officers while they patrol cities each weekend. Through the show, viewers get the opportunity to see the day-to-day life of police officers on patrol and their interactions with local citizens in nearly real time. The series often highlights exciting moments such as car chases, arrests, and take-downs. For four years, the series has grown in popularity and therefore has fallen into some controversies.
In Bridgeport, Connecticut, one of the cities which originally participated in ‘Live PD’ a resident sued the city and police department for brutality and violating his Constitutional rights following his arrest while filming. Other cities, such as Williamson, Texas and Streetsboro, Ohio have also canceled their contracts with Live PD claiming that the show negatively portrays their communities, focusing on crime and danger, and exploiting them- and particularly in communities of color.
Closer to home, this year in Tulsa community members have come together to demand the cancelation of the ‘Live PD’ contract with the city. “Live PD exploits Tulsa’s citizens,” a Tulsa citizen said at Mayor G.T. Bynum’s Town Hall input session to select a new Chief of Police for Tulsa, according to an article by The Black Wall Street Times.
Having watched ‘Live PD’ numerous times, I have found that the clips that are shown often take place in parts of communities that are run down or have many people of color. This gives the impression that the majority of all the crime takes place in those communities and is perpetuated by people of color. It gives the city the image of a place of crime and places that at the forefront of the viewer’s mind.
In a statement given to The Black Wall Street Times, the Executive Director for Tulsa Remote, Aaron Bolzle, said, “Shows like Live PD make it more challenging to recruit the best candidates for the Tulsa Remote program.” Bolzle added, “when people only hear about Tulsa because of ‘Live PD’, it takes away momentum from all we’re doing to make it a more vibrant and inclusive city.”
By portraying predominantly negative interactions between the citizens and police in communities, the show could also play into giving the public a larger bias of ‘Mean World Syndrome’. Mean World Syndrome is “a cognitive bias where people perceive the world to be more dangerous than it actually is due to long-term, moderate to heavy exposure of violence-related content on mass media, namely television”, according to Britannica. By watching media that focuses heavily on crime and violence in communities, it could lead people to think certain cities are more violent or dangerous than they are in reality.
This could, therefore, have huge repercussions for cities who are given a bad name due to shows like ‘Live PD’. Additionally, reality shows like ‘Live PD’ can slander people violate the rights of people filmed. An East Providence woman claimed the police violated her rights and caused her emotional distress by filming her in her home wearing only a towel. In this particular case the woman has recently sued the show for a million dollars. Other people have said being featured on ‘Live PD’, under misrepresented circumstances’ lead to their reputations being ruined.
I believe shows such as ‘Live PD’ should begin to highlight positive interactions between police and citizens as well as feature parts of the community that are vibrant and show the true character of a city.