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?
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.
- 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’
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.”