Unscripted

A&E cancels “Live PD” amid protests against police brutality, controversy

UPDATED, 6/11/20, 12:08 PM ET: The ride is over for A&E’s hit docureality series Live PD. The network has canceled the series in the wake of national and global protests against ...
June 10, 2020

UPDATED, 6/11/20, 12:08 PM ET: The ride is over for A&E’s hit docureality series Live PD.

The network has canceled the series in the wake of national and global protests against police brutality, stemming from the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who died while in police custody.

The cancelation also comes following a report from the Austin American Statesman which revealed that Live PD cameras were rolling when a Black man died while in police custody in March of 2019. Javier Ambler was being arrested by Williamson County deputies for a traffic violation at the time. According to the Statesman, “representatives of the reality TV show” told the paper the footage has been destroyed.

A statement from the network regarding the cancellation reads: “This is a critical time in our nation’s history and we have made the decision to cease production on 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.”

A network spokesperson also supplied Realscreen with a statement regarding the footage of the March 2019 incident.

“Video of the tragic death of Javier Ambler was captured by body cams worn on the officers involved as well by the producers of Live PD who were riding with certain officers involved,” it reads. “The incident did not occur while Live PD was on the air but rather during the show’s hiatus, when producers are regularly out in the field gathering footage. The footage never aired on Live PD per A&E’s standards and practices because it involved a fatality.

“Immediately after the incident, the Austin Police Department conducted an investigation using the body cam footage they had from the officers,” the statement continues. “Contrary to many incorrect reports, neither A&E nor the producers of Live PD were asked for the footage or an interview by investigators from law enforcement or the District Attorney’s office. As is the case with all footage taken by Live PD producers, we no longer retained the unaired footage after learning that the investigation had concluded. As with all calls we follow, we are not there to be an arm of the police or law enforcement but rather to chronicle what they do and air some of that footage and our policies were in place to avoid having footage used by law enforcement against private citizens.”

Live PD, produced by MGM-owned Big Fish Entertainment, was one of A&E’s biggest unscripted ratings smashes in recent years and one of the highest rated series on basic cable. It had recently been renewed for 160 additional episodes.

While the network didn’t air episodes last weekend, series host Dan Abrams tweeted on Tuesday (June 9) that it would return. “To all of you asking whether Live PD [is] coming backā€¦ The answer is yes. All of us associated with the show are as committed to it as ever. We are still discussing some specifics but I want to assure the #LivePDNation that we are not abandoning you.”

Once news broke of the cancellation of the series, Abrams tweeted: “Shocked & beyond disappointed about this. 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. . More to come. . .”

Abrams has since posted a more elaborate response regarding both the cancellation of the series and the situation surrounding the death of Javier Ambler and the program’s handling of the footage on his Law and Crime site.

He commented that he wishes the footage still existed and that the program would’ve aired it in some capacity. “Given what happened, I wish the tape had been preserved and the policy should have had an exception for this sort of situation. Many of us were advocating for a change in the policy before the show was canceled,” he wrote

“It would have been very difficult to watch but in an ongoing effort to show all sides of policing I wish this had been aired just as we had shown many other controversial moments that led to criticism of, and appreciation for, police,” he added.

As for the cancellation, Abrams wrote: “It seems to me that the antidote to bad policing and officers is transparency and that means more body cams and more shows like Live PD. It’s important to distinguish Live PD from a show like Cops that just presented a highlight reel of crazy moments. Live PD was totally different — following the officers in real time, in their real environments showing the nerves, the adrenaline, the bad, the good, and often the mundane and boring. I will miss it all.”

Earlier on Wednesday (June 10), Paramount Network announced it would be canceling the long-running reality staple Cops.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news editor at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joined the RS team in 2015 with experience in journalism following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and with communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.

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