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Should police be allowed to work with reality TV shows?

On Behalf of | Oct 16, 2021 | Criminal Defense

In Texas and across the United States, people are enraptured by reality television. While much of it is somewhat silly and the equivalent of junk food as evidenced by the manufactured drama with wealthy people and competitions, some of it is real life caught on camera. That is especially true with law enforcement programs that document how police investigate crimes and pursue suspects. While shows like “Cops” became part of the everyday pop culture and gave a window into what law enforcement personnel encounter each day, that does not mean the adaptations of other programs to try and keep them fresh and exciting has all been positive.

Although it might be interesting and even beneficial to both law enforcement and suspects to have video documentation of the interaction between them, there is a growing concern that the same manufactured drama that is prevalent with other shows could become part of the template with police who are working with reality TV shows. In some cases, law enforcement is caught doing things they are not supposed to and enlist the producers and staff to help them cover it up. Those who might have been arrested under these circumstances should be cognizant of steps that are being taken to put a stop to it.

Bill would outlaw law enforcement from working with reality TV

A member of the Texas House of Representatives, James Talarico, has proposed a law that would put a stop to police working with television crews as they go about their duties. The catalyst for this was an incident in Williamson County when a Black man lost his life after he was repeatedly stunned by a Taser as deputies arrested him. The deputies were accompanied by a TV crew for “Live PD.” They had pursued the man because of a traffic violation.

As he was continually stunned by the Taser, the man told deputies that he could not breathe and had heart issues. He was taken to the hospital and died a short time later. When this information came to light, the sheriff was arrested for tampering with evidence – a felony. The alleged goal on the part of the sheriff was to keep the actual sequence of events from being known. The show was subsequently canceled after the deputies’ behavior was revealed and it was discovered that producers destroyed the video when it could have provided evidence as to what really happened to the man.

Law enforcement misbehavior could be relevant with a criminal defense

There are some cases where video evidence in real time helps a person who was arrested on a criminal charge. Showing what happened with unassailable evidence can undoubtedly bolster a person’s story that he or she was innocent as part of a criminal defense. However, with the possibility that law enforcement will “play to the cameras” or even try to make a situation worse than it is and cast themselves as heroes, it does significantly more harm than good.

In this situation, the deputies are accused of going so far as destroying evidence that showed how they acted, leading to the man’s death when he was stopped for a minor traffic violation and pleaded for help. People who were arrested as part of a reality TV law enforcement program should know that there might have been untoward behaviors by people who are supposed to enforce the law like those in Williamson County. When placed under arrest, it is imperative to have legal guidance regarding these matters as there are times when law enforcement does go too far or overtly breaks the law.

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