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A&E cancels top-rated show, ‘Live PD,’ which showed audiences a law enforcement perspective

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Noah Feit

The State (Columbia, S.C.)

The exploits of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement officers across the U.S. won’t be featured on “Live PD” this weekend, and likely not again after production was stopped on popular TV show Wednesday.

The live-action documentary series was canceled, a spokesman for A&E network told The State.

“This is a critical time in our nation’s history and we have made the decision to cease production on ‘Live PD,’ ” A&E said in a statement to The State by spokesman Dan Silberman.

The move comes days after scheduled episodes were pulled from programming over the weekend in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in Minnesota police custody and the nationwide protests that have followed.

The decision stunned “Live PD” host Dan Abrams.

“Shocked & beyond disappointed about this,” Abrams said on Twitter. “To the loyal #LivePDNation please know I, we, did everything we could to fight for you, and for our continuing effort at transparency in policing. I was convinced the show would go on.”

On Tuesday Abrams confidently said the show would return, tweeting “To all of you asking whether Live PD (is) coming back. … The answer is yes.”

The move also was not expected at the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. But Sheriff Leon Lott did say “any decision about the future of ‘Live PD’ is not in our hands.”

“The Richland County Sheriff’s Department has been part of ‘Live PD’ from the beginning, and we will continue our commitment to the show,” Lott said hours before the program was canceled Wednesday. “The community response to our involvement in ‘Live PD’ has been overwhelmingly positive. It has served to humanize deputies and showcase the transparency of our department.”

Lt. Danny Brown, one of the Richland County deputies who regularly appeared on the show, bemoaned the lost opportunity.

“Very sad … even if we weren’t a part of it anymore, they are missing opportunities for transparency in law enforcement, the show has humanized the cops, and started conversations across all boundaries … and just like that a great tool is cut off,” Brown tweeted. “Y’all watch out they gonna get paw patrol cancelled next.”

Another deputy who frequently appeared on “Live PD” also tweeted about the cancellation.

“Wow that’s a shame smh,” Sr. Deputy Addy Perez said. “The reason ‘Live PD’ was put together was because the world wanted transparency with LEO & improve the relationship with the community & educate. The show & Departments did that for 4 yrs! But we got shows that show nothing but nonsense.”

Deputy Chris Mastrianni, who left the show to become an investigator at the sheriff’s department echoed those sentiments.

“Wow … this show did (so) much to help bridge the gap between community relations and law enforcement. I saw it first hand,” Mastrianni tweeted. “This show helped officers at (Richland County Sheriff’s Department) talk with citizens who would have never spoke to cops before. They saw the person not the badge. This show helped us.”

Public scrutiny of violent incidents involving law enforcement has intensified following the death of Floyd, a black man, in Minneapolis last month.

Protests have been held across the U.S. in response to Floyd’s death on May 25. It’s the latest in a series of deaths of African American men in police custody, and has sparked national outrage since a video showed a police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck before he died.

Public sentiment played a factor in A&E pulling “Live PD” off the airwaves last week.

“Out of respect for the families of George Floyd and others who have lost their lives, in consultation with the departments we follow, and in consideration for the safety of all involved, we have made the decision not to broadcast Live PD this weekend,” according to a statement to The State from Silberman.

“Live PD” was the No. 1 cable series on Friday and Saturday nights, Variety reported.

A&E left the door open for a possible return of a show focused on law enforcement, but it will be different from “Live PD.”

“Going forward, we will 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. And with that, we will be meeting with community and civil rights leaders as well as police departments,” it said in Wednesday’s release.

“Live PD” debuted in October 2016, and followed several law enforcement agencies around the country with TV cameras. It provided viewers with real-time access to law enforcement on patrol.

Last Saturday’s “Live PD” was supposed to be its 300th episode.

About a month ago, A&E renewed “Live PD” for an additional 160 episodes, Deadline reported. The decision to cancel the show was made by network executives and MGM’s Big Fish Entertainment, which produces the show, according to the news outlet.

The show’s initial run of eight two-hour episodes was extended to 21 episodes because of its surging popularity and ratings, which eventually extended the first season to more than 60 episodes. The episodes themselves also were extended to three hours each.

In addition to Richland County, “Live PD” has also featured South Carolina law enforcement departments in Berkeley County in the Lowcountry, as well as Greenville County in the Upstate. The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office has been sued in for two separate incidents involving the TV show.

One lawsuit said a man was racially profiled and falsely arrested on drug charges in a 2017 incident that was filmed on “Live PD.”

Another lawsuit against the sheriff’s office came from a man who said in 2017 Greenville County deputies rammed his car and searched his vehicle before he was released with no charges. The suit also claims the man “was largely targeted in this manner because of his race.”

“Live PD” was not the only TV show featuring law enforcement that won’t be coming back. “Cops” was canceled by the Paramount Network, and a spokesperson for the channel said “we don’t have any current or future plans for it to return,” Deadline reported.

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©2020 The State (Columbia, S.C.)

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