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On Patrol Live: Live PD’s copaganda is back, with a tiny twist

On Patrol Live: Live PD’s copaganda is back, with a tiny twist
A toy cop, which is part of copoganda along with Live PD and soon, On Patrol: Live. (Image of Lego toy by Praveesh Palakeel/Unsplash)

Two years after Live PD was cancelled, the show is coming back, but on a different network, Reelz, and with a new title, On Patrol: Live.

The show isn’t really trying to hide that it’s just Live PD with a new name, so I’m surprised they just didn’t call it PD Live or Live PD: You Can’t Kill Us.

On Patrol: Live will be on Reelz, which is a cable network that’s basically positioned itself as the trashy cousin of A&E and ID—though, as it proudly points out, it is “one of the last truly independent television networks remaining.”

This is how A&E described Live PD: “following diverse police departments from across the country in real time as they patrol their communities”.

And this is how Reelz describes On Patrol: Live: “will document for viewers in real time the everyday work of police officers on patrol from diverse departments across America.”

The show will have the exact same schedule as it did on A&E: Friday and Saturday nights from 9 to midnight ET. The new series will be produced by a new studio inside Big Fish Entertainment called Half Moon Pictures, and be executive produced by John Zito, Paul Gordon, Joe Venafro, and Dan Abrams.

This will undoubtedly draw viewers—or Live PD fans—to Reelz, so for them, it’s a smart move. But do we need more copaganda now, in 2022?

Was Live PD just documenting real life in real time?

Live PD and On Patrol: Live being interviewed by Michael Strahan on Good Morning America Sept. 7, 2021
Live PD and On Patrol: Live being interviewed by Michael Strahan on Good Morning America Sept. 7, 2021. (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC)

On Patrol: Live is insisting that it will be “[f]ollowing live news-gathering protocols.”

That’s what Live PD said it did, too. An A&E spokesperson told The New York Times in 2020 that the show “follows news gathering standards like any news organization.”

Was it actually “like any news organization”? Was it a transparent, unbiased look at policing?

You can find answers by looking at Live PD’s contracts with police departments that I analyzed back in 2020, which detail the relationships between the production company, Big Fish Entertainment, and the law enforcement agencies they followed.

For example:

  • officers can “stop filming at their discretion” “at all times”
  • police agencies had access to the control room to edit footage
  • it told police departments that the show only has “the appearance of’ no editing”
  • it positioned itself as part of police departments’ “outreach effort”

You can read the rest here.

Does that sound like news gathering to you? Does that sound unbiased?

Meanwhile, Big Fish Entertainment founder and president Dan Cesareo, wouldn’t answer simple questions I asked him about how Live PD was produced. Is that transparency?

More importantly, will On Patrol: Live be any different?

On Patrol: Live will include ‘the community’

Live PD, Dan Abrams, Sean "Sticks" Larkin, Tom Morris Jr.
Live PD host Dan Abrams and analysis Sean “Sticks” Larkin and Tom Morris Jr. on a 2017 episode of the show. (Photo by A&E)

The one alleged difference from Live PD to On Patrol: Live is so unimportant that the press release didn’t mention it until the seventh paragraph, which says this:

ON PATROL: LIVE will also engage the community by inviting them into the series. “Citizen Ride-Alongs” will give local residents, within the communities of the departments appearing on the show, a first-hand perspective as they ride along with officers followed by ON PATROL: LIVE cameras on live nights; “Citizens On-Set” will invite community members into the studio as guests where they can share their Ride-Along experiences and observations and comment on the night’s live activities. Both features offer a unique opportunity for viewers and members of the community to gain unprecedented access to law enforcement – from routine calls and high-stakes incidents to tracking down fugitives of justice and recovering missing children – all in an effort to promote transparency.

This sounds good, until you start to pull it apart—and think about how Live PD gave so much power, from filming to editing—to the police and sheriffs departments it partnered with.

Also, isn’t a first-hand perspective what the show already gives us, via the cameras? How does having a random person there change that?

Having the community ride along doesn’t change the fact that the show is still 100 percent from the perspective of law enforcement, glorifying its work. There has already been more than “100 years of the police in pop culture,” with COPS and Live PD contributing to systemic racism.

On Patrol: Live’s point of view will still be that of the police. After all, both of the studio co-hosts are cops.

In the studio, host Dan Abrams will be joined by two law enforcement representatives: Sean “Sticks” Larkin, who was on Live PD and is “a retired Tulsa Police Department lieutenant,” and current “Deputy Sheriff in the Richland County Sheriff’s Department” Curtis Wilson. They will “offering unique insight into the experiences of the men and women of law enforcement appearing on the show,” according to a press release.

Who will provide “unique insight” into how policing affects communities? Could the production company find no experts on policing? (Spoiler: there are, many.)

“Copaganda” includes TV shows that “are still projecting a false narrative that the public has internalized,” as Salon’s Kylie Cheung wrote.

And it includes a “symbiotic relationship between the press and police. Police rely on press and press rely on police,” as Josmar Trujillo told FAIR.

There was very clearly a symbiotic relationship between Live PD and the police, and there is very clearly no difference between Live PD and On Patrol: Live.

In 2020, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, A&E cancelled Live PD by saying it’d “stopped production”—well, forever—in order to “determine if there is a clear pathway to tell the stories of both the community and the police officers whose role it is to serve them.”

A&E obviously didn’t find such a pathway. And On Patrol: Live has not indicated that it has, either. It’s not telling the stories of the community to pop a person in a car alongside a camera operator.

Criminologist Alex S. Vitale, the author of a book about policing, said in an interview with Jacobin that “We’ve all grown up on television shows in which the police are superheroes. They solve every problem; they catch the bad guys; they chase the bank robbers; they find the serial killers. But this is all a big myth. This is not what police actually do. They’re not out chasing bank robbers or serial killers. The vast majority of police officers make one felony arrest a year. If they make two, they’re cop of the month.”

There is an argument that Live PD showed us some of the non-dramatic work, and On Patrol: Live insists it will show us “the everyday work of police officers on patrol.”

Yet the cameras are always giving the police officers’ perspective, aided by two members of law enforcement in the studio, never mind all the control law enforcement has over their own portrayal.

Vitale argues, “We have to understand policing as fundamentally a tool of social control to facilitate our exploitation. So the idea that we’re going to make them nicer and friendlier while they do that task, and that’s gonna make everything okay, is laughable.”

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

Discussion

I value our community at reality blurred, which connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

Comment rules: My goal is for us to be able to share our perspectives and exchange ideas in a welcoming, supportive space. That’s why I’ve created these rules for commenting here. By commenting below, you confirm that you’ve read and agree to them.

Happy discussing!

Aaron B

Monday 18th of July 2022

Andy, what's crazy is that Dan Abrams continues to appear on ABC News as their "chief legal analyst," even though World News Tonight relies heavily on stories about police violence and body cam video, which send exactly the opposite message of these ride along shows.

Ray

Sunday 10th of July 2022

Cry some more wimp. It's our duty and right as citizens to know what kind of crime is happening and what's being done to combat it. If you don't like to see how our brave police officers deal with these everyday threats, then don't watch it. Pretty simple isn't it.

Andy Dehnart

Monday 11th of July 2022

I agree we should be able to know what's happening. But do you want the police to have control over what you know, while a TV show lies to you and says it's transparent?

J- Lee STL

Monday 27th of June 2022

LivePD was the #1 show on all of cable TV when it was taken off the air. On Patrol: Live will soon be the #1 show on all of cable TV. Lamenting Reelz as being the "trashy cousin of A&E" really exposes your bias and shows how out of touch you are with true mainstream America. Your website's name fits YOUR views to a tee.....

Lori

Wednesday 22nd of June 2022

So I guess you wouldn't call the cops immediately for help if someone broke into your house in the middle of the night? Please. The other commenters were right. You should be ashamed & embarrassed to post such a cruel & obviously biased opinion about the brave men & women in uniform who face such danger everyday, multiple times a day, ESPECIALLY in these troubled times we live in lately, that you could never even imagine inside that pea brain of yours. You sit in front of a computer everyday & type nonsense, but that's ok. Because it's better to let the real men handle that danger everyday to keep us all safe. If we had to depend on people like you to do it we'd all be in a world of hurt. I think you should volunteer for the first citizen ride along so you can learn about real heroes like the majority of our police men\women & what they face everyday so that you can come back home to your computer & write a much better article than this one. I've never commented on a random article or blog post but I was so angry over yours I decided to run my mouth off. And now I'm done.

Bob

Thursday 16th of June 2022

There is no such things as transparency in this world. No governmental or corporate organization offers full transparency, your little media group included.