"We just didn't like the way it represented Tulsa and the police department," Police Chief Chuck Jordan said.
The show, “Live PD,” follows police officers from several cities while they are on duty. The network promotes the show by saying: “The debate over the policing of America continues to be a part of the daily conversation across the nation. A&E will offer viewers unfettered and unfiltered live access inside the country’s busiest police forces and the communities they patrol in the new documentary series Live PD.”
Over the weekend Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said he had spoken with Jordan about the show and that it was his understanding the contract had been canceled.
“I’m not a fan,” Bynum said on Facebook of the show.
However, Jordan said Monday that TPD had chosen more than a month ago against renewing its contract with “Live PD.”
“We just didn’t feel it was in the best interest to continue,” Jordan said. “We vetted it as best we could. It was a new concept, it was something we were interested in. We just didn’t like the way it represented Tulsa and the police department.
“The production people understood totally; they’ve been very amicable about it.”
The show has been controversial, and critics claim it has promoted harassment of law-abiding citizens.
The Tulsa Police Department was one of several agencies to play a role in the show’s first season, which is currently airing.
Two clips from the show have recently gone viral.
In one, TPD Gang Unit officers Justin Beal and Stephen Blaylock were recorded in an intense takedown of a gun-wielding man. Despite the gun, Beal and Blaylock took the man into custody with no shots fired, and were roundly praised, including in a lawofficer.com story. (The editor of Lawofficer.com is TPD Maj. Travis Yates.)
However another clip caught traction on social media last weekend.
In it, TPD Sgt. Sean Larkin was recorded during an interaction with a black man who was wearing a blue shirt. Larkin said during the interaction that he knew the man was “a gangster” at one time and asked the man what he was doing, pointing out that the man’s blue shirt was a “gang color.”
The exasperated man grew irate as he claimed he was not in a gang and was doing nothing illegal. Critics of the encounter said on social media that it was harassment, and several people in the post’s comments mentioned being afraid to leave the house for fear of ending up on television.
However, the show has also been popular, particularly on social media. Larkin, whose nickname is “Sticks,” has become a fan favorite, with the hashtag #askSticks being used often on Twitter, usually by female admirers.
Bynum spoke with The Frontier on Monday, and said he had grown concerned after watching the show.
“My concerns about the show are that our police officers have a complicated enough job without worrying about a television crew that’s standing around them while they’re carrying out their responsibilities in what may be the toughest time in history to be a police officer,” Bynum said.
Bynum referenced the clip of the two officers wrestling with the armed man, saying the reality of a television crew standing around while officers were in danger troubled him.
“(The suspect) was presumably trying to get a gun to harm officers, and the whole time the crew is just standing there filming it,” Bynum said. “I’m not a fan of a TV show that is trying to feed off the difficulties are police officers face.”
Bynum campaigned last year about the disparity in life expectancy (and other factors) between people living in north Tulsa and other parts of the city. “Live PD” primarily focused on policing in north Tulsa.
The Tulsa Police Department’s homicide unit has been covered by “The First 48,” another A&E show, for several seasons. More recently, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office announced its cold case unit would become the focus of a similar television show, though it has not yet begun to air.
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