The reality show exploits people’s worst moments and does little to help police accountability.
Let’s quickly clear the air: I’ve never seen an episode of “Live PD” and personally see the commoditization of the impoverished individuals that oftentimes make up the “content” for these type of shows as disgusting. I also had no clue that the show filmed in Tulsa. Now, with the retirement of Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan, Mayor G. T. Bynum has gathered a group of seven applicants and held two town meetings to get the feedback of his constituents on the candidates and has taken the opportunity to reinstate the agreement between the Tulsa Police Department and the hit show. However, individuals at these town meetings have made it clear they do not approve of the continued exhibition of crimes committed in Tulsa.
Ranging from Reverends to City Counselors, Tulsa citizens have pressed for Bynum to discontinue the city’s involvement with the show. They see it as exploiting some of the most vulnerable individuals in society, because, from what I’ve found, “Live PD” is not always about robberies and gang fights, but domestic disturbances and various forms of public indecency, which happens to impact communities racked by mental illness and instituted gang cultures the most. Bynum’s excuse that it shows the day-to-day life of Tulsa police officers cannot compare to the degradation of his populace.
Make no mistake, “Live PD” glorifies the act of crime and the supposed justice done in the name of the law by making the act of law enforcement into a stage for people to perform on, which can contribute to the shifting of officers away from actually protecting the public and converting them into would be actors trying to play it up for the camera, attempting to make good, saucy television. By recording and marketing it, the show fundamentally alters how individuals treat the policing of the populace. If the police force turns into a bunch of goons trying to get a little kickback from “Live PD” viewers through misusing their power to create a better story, then that’s a gang. Not a police force. A gang.
One of Bynum’s defenses for letting the show capture footage in Tulsa is that it brings accountability to the actions carried out by officers because of the constant recording of their shifts, and that it bridges the divide between the common populace and the difficult lives of law enforcement officers. However, the obvious rebuke to both of these points is body cams. The requirement of body cams for every officer and strict penalties for not keeping them on would both remove the “acting for an audience” problem and retain the most important benefits of Mayor Bynum’s defense of “Live PD.” However, this path would trade any revenue brought in by “Live PD” and replace it with actual accountability, so it comes down to spending money or making it.
Another deflection from the mayor’s office is that the mayor has total control over these type of deals, but if it isn’t in the best interest of the most vocal members of the most oppressed minorities in the city, then why pursue it? If it will make the populace fear the individuals that should be protecting them, isn’t that a sheer negative outcome? Another aspect floating around is how this actually aids law enforcement. If it’s all about bridging the gap between cop and citizen, well, how does that directly help the police officer do their job? Reducing the animosity between officer and normal person would make them more willing to come forward with information, but the constant filming and broadcasting the lives of people featured in the show does nothing more than prevent that type of relationship.
If I’m a witness with serious evidence about a crime that just happened, but I see the officers on duty have several cameras floating around them, I’m not talking to that officer and potentially risking my identity as an innocuous observer. Even if they blur out my face and remove any identifying features, the simple act of these people having that footage presents the possibility of individuals piecing together who the witness is and then the possibility of repercussions from certain less savory groups.
Perhaps this is a low blow, but it’s not like Bynum has drastically reduced the amount of crime in Tulsa over the past couple of years. One can go to the TPD website and look at the amount of crimes reported over the past six years, and it is not pretty. Robberies and burglaries have fallen, but violent crimes and other forms of theft have stagnated, with crimes like aggravated assault and auto theft staying near their peak counts in 2014 and 2015. This must be one helluva contract between Bynum and “Live PD,” because the continued exploitation of his citizenry doesn’t seem to make much sense without a hefty monetary reimbursement.