Two weeks ago, Tulsa mayor GT Bynum announced that the Tulsa Police Department would not be renewing its contract with hit reality TV show, “Live PD.” The decision came in the wake of a controversial encounter caught on camera during filming for the show, which some have said shows a Tulsa police officer unjustifiably harassing a citizen.
“Live PD,” which airs Friday nights on A&E, allows camera crews to follow around dispatch units from police departments across the country as they patrol the streets. The video feeds then air live directly to the program’s viewers at home, with ABC News Chief Legal Affairs anchor Dan Abrams and other law enforcement experts providing studio analysis and commentary to explain why officers do or not perform certain actions.
Tulsa PD signed up to participate in the show’s inaugural season, which premiered in October 2016. Chief Chuck Jordan said “It was a new concept, it was something we were interested in.” However, recent events have caused the department to reconsider the merits of appearing on “Live PD,” which though meant ostensibly to provide more transparency to the police force, has “represented Tulsa and the police department” in a negative light, according to Jordan.
The incident in question involved Tulsa resident Randy Wallace, who was captured on “Live PD” footage being questioned by police after he was seen rummaging through the trunk of his car in a convenience store parking lot. The footage, which shows Wallace arguing with Sergeant Sean Larkin and accusing the officer of harassment and racial profiling, originally aired in the show’s premiere episode in October. It went viral after A&E uploaded it to their Youtube channel in January.
During the footage, Sgt. Larkin tells the camera crew that he is pulling over to question Wallace because of the latter’s blue shirt, a possible identifier for the local branch of Crips. After driving away from the convenience store, in apparent response to Wallace’s appeal to “look up my file,” Larkin tells the camera that Tulsa’s police records indicate that Wallace has been arrested 52 times and is listed as a “certified member of the neighborhood Crips.”
Wallace recently spoke out at a press conference organized by grassroots activism group We the People Oklahoma and detailed having been stopped by police as many as five times in the month leading up to the airing of his argument with Sgt. Larkin. He maintained that he “had never been convicted of any gang-affiliation … or violent crimes.”
Tulsa police officers have been featured prominently in other episodes of “Live PD,” which has captured drug busts and arrests of gang affiliates, though the incident involving Wallace and Larkin remains the most controversial.
Mayor Bynum announced Tulsa PD’s decision over Facebook, stating “Our Tulsa Police Department exists to protect the citizens of Tulsa. The Department’s leadership determined over a month ago it was in the best interest of that mission to not renew their agreement with a reality television show. I support that decision.”