Being a high-ranking officer of a police department that's been approached by the production company behind a show like Live PD isn't an enviable position to be in. Chances are, if a bunch of TV producers want to feature your city in their program, it's probably because it's known for having a lot of "action."
Williamson County in Texas is one such PD that's quickly become a fan favorite among viewers of the cop-centric reality TV series.
The problem is, however, when you agree to allow cameras to live broadcast the actions of your officers on a daily basis, you better hope that the cops in your precinct are paragons of excellence, because that opportunity for free PR could quickly turn into a publicity nightmare if there's a single slip-up from one of your officers.
Also, if your community is, well, kinda ratchet, then local governing bodies aren't going to be happy if a network like A&E's putting all of that on blast.
Williamson County is back on 'Live PD,' but not without some controversy.
County commissioners had previously canceled its contract with the wildly popular cable series after they believed Williamson was being portrayed in a "negative light." Prosecutors for the county also had beef with the Live PD production crew as they alleged video evidence from various arrests and other documented scenarios were purposefully not shared with authorities.
However, the local Commissioners' Court only has so much say.
As it turns out, the Williamson County PD doesn't need the approval of said Commissioners in order to continue its partnership with Live PD, and the department has elected to keep the camera crews around to document the kind of situations its officers deal with on a daily basis.
It was a decision that understandably irked officials. Valerie Covey had some choice words regarding the matter.
How is a #LivePD crew riding along again with Williamson County Sheriff's Department considered essential? Isn't this yet another example of those in positions of power ignoring the order the rest of us are expected to follow? I also thought the commissioners said no to Live PD.— Crystal (@Crystal_224) April 19, 2020
"I had no knowledge of this and am so disappointed that we are talking about a TV show again, especially during a pandemic where our efforts should be focused on our citizens," Valerie said. She was also unhappy with the fact that the court's decision, which was a unanimous one, was "completely disregarded."
Williamson isn't the only police department that's ended their relationship with the widely viewed program either.
I’m with @SaraLampeforGC on this. Police depts in Bridgeport, CT; Tulsa, OK; and Streetsboro, OH, kicked out “Live PD" because “the national spotlight on criminal activity overshadowed the positive things happening in their hometowns.” Supporters of #EcoDev should pay attention! https://t.co/0AxSIpfoUG— Britton Jobe (@BrittonJobe) October 25, 2018
The Greenville County Sheriff's office in South Carolina has parted ways with the reality show to give its officers a break from filming. Bridgeport is another city that was over the scrutiny that Live PD brought to its community. While the police department was happy that the hard work and dedication of its officers was being nationally broadcast right to viewers' homes, there were also complaints from citizens.
Namely the University of Bridgeport, local businesses, and the local tourism department, as they believed that the constant exposure on Live PD was compromising economic initiatives for Connecticut's largest city. Mayor Joe Ganim said, "If that's the only thing that's being publicized nationally about our city, it can have a negative impact," he said. "We don't have the Travel Channel doing anything on how wonderful all our economic development projects are."
Dan Cesareo, the creator and executive producer of Live PD said that, "Our only goal is to document policing across America. We very much are very neutral in terms of what we're showing."
Still, it seems that some police departments who participate in filming Live PD are only in it for a "trial period," like Streetsboro officers in Ohio, who were only on the program for six weeks before calling it quits.
The reason? Like Williamson, local officials were worried about the city being "portrayed in a negative light."