FLORENCE — With no apparent benefit to Pinal County or its citizens, and the possibility of portraying a seamy side of life here, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 against a contract with a TV production company to film sheriff’s deputies pursuing drug traffickers for the Netflix “Dope” documentary series.
“I see a huge liability,” especially if a film crew member is shot, Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, said Wednesday. “I can’t see the positives.”
Supervisor Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, said he had similar concerns and asked what such a program would say to economic development prospects looking at Pinal County.
The contract would have allowed Wall to Wall Media Ltd. some access to law enforcement operations, personnel and locations between Jan. 20 and Jan. 31. The Arizona Counties Insurance Pool approved the contract, Deputy County Attorney Chris Keller told the board.
Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Bryan Harrell told the board the show’s focus would not be drug users, but drug traffickers.
“It will show us in a good light, fighting the war on drugs,” he said.
But Supervisor Todd House, R-Apache Junction, who participated in the meeting by phone, said according to his recent conversation with Sheriff Mark Lamb, the program would show the consequences of illegal drug use and ramifications to families and friends.
House said it would be good education for the public and would show the county is fighting drugs.
But Miller said he hopes the words “Pinal County” never appear in the show, although they likely would. “How does this benefit the citizens of Pinal County? … We don’t need bad press,” Miller said.
To help clarify what the show is about, Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer did a quick internet search and quoted a website to the supervisors:
“This reality series offers a sobering look at the drug trade and its effects on the people involved. Filmed from the perspectives of dealers, users and law enforcement, the series covers topics that include cocaine, the heroin epidemic and the war over marijuana that is ongoing at the U.S.-Mexico border.”
Roberto Reveles of Gold Canyon spoke against the contract. “This just smacks of something we don’t need in this county.”
Miller asked why the show wants to film here.
“I’m not sure why they chose us,” Harrell replied, except for perhaps “the popularity of the sheriff.”
Lamb wasn’t present at Wednesday’s meeting. Supervisor Pete Rios, D-Dudleyville, asked if the show also had contracts with actual border counties, such as Pima and Santa Cruz. Harrell replied he didn’t know.
Harrell called Interstate 10 a “drug corridor.” He said the program would film normal shifts and would not result in any overtime or any other costs to the county.
Miller made a motion to disapprove the contract and was joined by Goodman and Rios. Voting for the contract were board Chairman Anthony Smith, R-Maricopa, and House.
Previously supervisors approved contracts to allow PCSO to be filmed for “60 Days In” and “Live PD!”