Santa Fe New Mexican
Reality shows about cops fall short
Ididn’t shed any tears late last month when a city spokeswoman told my colleague Daniel J. Chacón that the Santa Fe Polic e Department no longer would participate in the A&E cable TV network’s reality show Live PD.
“Insurance costs” were the reason given. Not the best reason to cancel, but I’ll take it.
This news came just a couple of weeks after I finished listening to Running from Cops, a six-part podcast by Dan Taberski, who in recent years has done other podcast series, including Missing Richard Simmons and Surviving Y2K.
Running from Cops mostly deals with the precursor of Live PD and the grandfather of all reality TV, Cops, which premiered in 1989. Taberski and his crew watched and analyzed more than 800 episodes of Cops and conducted more than 100 interviews. But Taberski’s podcast also includes a look at Live PD, which some have described as“Cops on steroids.” It’s “live” (actually running on an unspecified delay) and has color commentary from host Dan Abrams and others. (It also lacks Cops’ cool reggae theme song, “Bad Boys.”) The problem with Cops and its clones is that it gives a distorted view of poor neighborhoods. Watching these shows, you’d think that 90 percent of people living in these neighborhoods are drug pushers, prostitutes and/or maniacs. There has been a lot of criticism that black people come off looking bad on such programs. However, the white people on Cops etc. — at least those not in uniform — are overrepresented by shirtless meth heads and screaming hillbillies. Fast Company, a publication Mayor Alan Webber founded, noted in its review of the podcast: “Taberski and the producers also found that while prostitution, drugs, and violence make up 58 percent of crime depicted on Cops, according to the FBI, those three categories only account for barely 17 percent of crime. …” How does this not have the effect of making viewers more paranoid? As Taberski said in the podcast, it makes the world seem like a zombie movie where the “only thing between them and us is the thin blue line.” Nearly 20 years ago, Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chávez decided to no longer allow his police department to participate in Cops. And he didn’t even use “insurance” as an excuse. “The city’s police officers are portrayed in a good light [on Cops], but the rest of the city looks horrible,” Chávez told the Albuquerque Journal. “That has a real impact. That’s all people see, and that’s not who we are.” Getting rid of Cops hardly solved Albuquerque’s image problems — much less all the problems with the Albuquerque Police Department. And dropping Live PD probably won’t have a major effect on law enforcement in Santa Fe.