“Meet the real-life action hero taking on a Mexican drug cartel in Arizona.”
That was the headline on a New York Post profile last June of Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb.
The article went on to describe our sheriff as a real-life action figure whose cellphone ring-tone is the theme song from “G.I. Joe.”
That is the image the sheriff has taken great strides to foster. Rather than G.I. Joe, I think the action figure that most comes to mind is that of a Transformer stuck in combat mode. The vest the sheriff wears is stuffed full of guns and all sorts of crime-fighting accessories.
It was refreshing last month when the Pinal County Board of Supervisors rejected the sheriff’s latest reality TV pitch.
Wisely, the board saw no apparent benefit to Pinal County for another reality program showing the seamy side of life here starring the G.I. Joe sheriff.
“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.”
That’s the description Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer found on the internet for the show the sheriff wanted to partner with.
Supervisor Steve Miller wondered why the show wanted to film here.
“I’m not sure why they chose us,” Deputy Chief Bryan Harrell replied, except for perhaps “the popularity of the sheriff.”
And that’s the problem in a nutshell.
The sheriff’s pursuit of a media persona has created a negative image of the county.
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office was featured on a season of “Live PD,” where the sheriff has appeared as a guest host, and on “60 Days In,” where regular people went undercover as inmates in the county jail.
Lamb is using the county and his office to boost his media profile at the expense of the county’s reputation and image.
At least three of the supervisors have seen the light and pulled the plug on the sheriff’s reality TV stardom by not approving the latest contract.
So what would it be like, if say, the shoe was on the other foot. What if we had a batch of reality TV programs that showed the sheriff more as a bumbling star rather than a superhero. It would just take some tinkering with proven formats, but here are a few scenarios:
SWAT FIXER UPPER on HGTV. This show could feature the sheriff leading the Pinal SWAT team on a chase of a suspect who runs inside a random house to escape. The SWAT team could shoot the house up with tear gas and bullets as the suspect secretly sneaks out the back to hide in a shed and the homeowners flee from the chaos. SWAT members could then bash in the door and rush in the home knocking down walls while looking for the suspect. Later the sheriff could team up with one of the HGTV line of attractive co-hosts and rebuild the house on the taxpayers’ dime. The great reveal would show the homeowner all the improvements county taxpayers paid for.
PCSO PAWN on the History Channel. The sheriff could run a pawn shop in Casa Grande in which he quickly analyzes items brought in on whether they are stolen or not. He would then offer a fencing appraisal for each item.
BACHELORETTE JAILER on ABC. The sheriff could select a female corrections officer to pick out “hot” inmates at the Pinal County Adult Detention Center she would like to date. She would then carry-on a secret romance with the inmate caught on camera. At the end of the show the sheriff could bust her, allowing her to join her selected beau behind bars.
Not sure the supervisors would approve production contracts for these new shows, either. But it wouldn’t be reality TV unless you had made something up.
Andy Howell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.