FLORENCE — Deputy Jeff McElwain wanted nothing more in life than to be a cop — he didn’t have a plan B. Now he is living that dream working with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.
He didn’t expect it to make him a TV star.
McElwain is frequently featured on the A&E show “Live PD,” which can top 2 million viewers and captures the top spot among viewers ages 18 to 49. The show, which launched in October 2016, follows officers from police departments around the country and broadcasts their adventures enforcing the law almost live, with a 10- to 25-minute delay to allow for blurring or to address legal concerns.
McElwain has been on the show since October, and since then he has gained a considerable following. He has almost 13,000 followers on Twitter and gets stopped for selfies by fans. PCSO even hosted a meet-and-greet fundraiser where fans were able to pay to meet the deputies.
But McElwain insists it is all about straight-up police work.
“It’s not a Hollywood show; it’s not scripted,” McElwain said. “I’m not Hollywood. I’m not a celebrity. I may be a little popular, but I’m definitely 100 percent cop.”
McElwain said he likes participating in the show because it gives law enforcement a voice, and working on the show has improved community relations. He gets a chance to show people that peace officers are just regular people with families who simply have a different job than others.
“I got the opportunity to showcase what I feel like is the best agency in Arizona, which is, you know, PCSO,” he said. “By far that’s been the best benefit, and showing the transparency of what true law enforcement is. We’re not the bad guy here, you know, we want to work beside our community.”
He admits that the show does add a little extra pressure, with all of his actions in the spotlight to be debated on social media, and extra people in the car with him on “Live PD” nights.
“If you have a camera on you 24/7, everyone is going to chime in whether they’re in law enforcement or not, with positive or negative feedback of how they feel about how you handle stuff,” he said.
Despite the extra pressure, the show’s producers have often worked in high-stress and high-risk situations before, and he never feels they are a burden on his work. He just focuses on doing his job.
“I feel like if you start concentrating on what is it going to look like to this person, you start putting yourself in a jeopardizing situation where your life’s in danger,” he said.
McElwain has taken heat for some of his actions on “Live PD.” During one pursuit of a vehicle, the car stopped and a passenger jumped out. McElwain instinctively leapt out of his car and pursued the passenger on foot.
“That’s a big no-no because you still have a driver in the car,” he said. But he just brushes it off as part of the process of continual learning intrinsic to the job.
“It’s all about learning and adapting and evolving in this career and taking constructive criticism from your peers.”