FLORENCE — A popular cable television program that featured the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office has been canceled.
A&E, the channel that airs “Live PD,” pulled last weekend’s episodes off the air. The network initially announced it was “evaluating” when it would bring the show back.
On Wednesday evening, A&E, in partnership with MGM's Big Fish Entertainment, announced it had made the decision to cancel the show, according to Deadline, an entertainment news website.
"This is a critical time in our nation's history and we have made the decision to cease production on Live PD," the network said in a statement to Deadline. "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."
Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb regularly appeared on “Live PD” as a guest host. PCSO was one of the agencies featured by the show’s producers in 2018, and Lamb has attained a sizable celebrity status from his appearances on the show.
In April, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors agreed to another contract to have “Live PD” film deputies on patrol in the county.
The hiatus of the show leading up to its cancellation made it unclear what that meant for the latest PCSO stint on “Live PD,” although the latest footage had already been recorded.
“PCSO’s most recent contract with ‘Live PD’ resulted in approximately five weeks of filming,” PCSO spokesperson Lauren Reimer said in an email to PinalCentral on Wednesday afternoon before the cancellation had been announced. “Crews finished filming in mid-May and have already left Pinal County. We have not communicated with them since they left in May, so we are not aware of their programming plans.”
Public perception of law enforcement has been significantly damaged during the nation’s unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer May 25. Floyd, a black man, died after Derek Chauvin, a white officer, had his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes while Floyd pleaded that he could not breathe.
Protests to end racial injustice and to stop police brutality against black people broke out around the nation and the world. That has led to attempted changes in legislation to reform police departments.
Long-running TV show “Cops” has also been canceled from Paramount Network, and Paramount does not have plans to bring it back.
“Cops” and “Live PD” are both reality programs that feature law enforcement officers patrolling, chasing and arresting suspects. This often leads to car chases, foot chases and physical confrontations. Critics claimed the shows glorified police.
The appetite for such shows may never be the same again.
“Live PD” is also under fire for destroying video footage of the March 2019 arrest in Texas of 40-year-old black man Javier Ambler, who died while being taken into custody by Williamson County sheriff’s deputies.
Ambler was chased by deputies for 20 minutes after not dimming his headlights. While being arrested he was shocked with a stun gun four times, and he pleaded with deputies that he had congestive heart failure and could not breathe.
Despite these issues, “Live PD” host Dan Abrams promised fans that the show wasn't going away.
“All of us associated with the show are as committed to it as ever,” he wrote in a tweet Tuesday evening. “We are still discussing some specifics, but I want to assure the #LivePDNation that we are not abandoning you.”
Under the leadership of Lamb, PCSO has been the subject of two reality TV shows.
In addition to “Live PD,” the Pinal County Adult Detention Center was the location of “60 Days In,” a show that chronicled behavior in the jail by using volunteers who are incarcerated as undercover inmates for 60 days. Pinal County was featured in the show’s fifth season, which aired in early 2019.
In January, the Sheriff’s Office also asked for permission to film another show called “Dope,” a Netflix documentary series that chronicles sheriff’s deputies pursuing drug traffickers.
The Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to reject signing a contract for the show.
“How does this benefit the citizens of Pinal County?” asked Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, during that board meeting. “We don’t need bad press.”
Miller then asked PCSO Deputy Chief Bryan Harrell, speaking on behalf of the Sheriff's Office at the meeting, why Pinal County was chosen to be featured on “Dope.”
“I’m not sure why they chose us,” Harrell said, except for perhaps “the popularity of the sheriff.”