Santa Fe is on TV.
Live PD, the COPS knockoff on A&E with the "as-it-happens" twist, will have at least a six-week run in the city, according to Santa Fe Police Lt. Sean Strahon. The first episode featuring the City Different aired on June 1, and Strahon says his department could appear on the show throughout the whole season.
"This is a real-time documentary-type of show with analysis and commentary from veteran officers in the studio as it happens," Strahon tells SFR. "Think of it as an extension of our body-worn cameras."
Those in-studio veteran officers, in the case of the June 1 episode, were Tom Morris Jr., a consistent presence on the show who intones such gems as, "If you're thinking of smoking weed in Texas, you better think twice," and Jill Marshall, an officer with the Warwick Police Department in Rhode Island.
Dan Abrams, ABC News anchor, Dateline alum and Mediaite founder, hosts.
In addition to Santa Fe, which came up on producers' radar after appearing in Women on Patrol, another A&E effort that has yet to air, the show is currently following officers from Kansas to Texas to California and points in between.
Abrams cuts between them as police across the country find different instances of suspected wrongdoing, to cases like a respiratory issue on Old Pecos Trail near the I-25 junction, or a suspect brandishing a weapon, which turned out to be an airsoft gun with the orange tip removed.
Eschewing COPS' kitsch and gratuitously action-packed clip selection, Live PD is, for much of its nearly three-hour time block, pretty boring. Viewers are often subjected to roadside stops that either go nowhere, take forever to pan out, or simply result in the arrest of a college stoner for using a bong he made out of a water bottle.
The show's producers have argued that their focus on the ordinary is the point: Live PD is billed as an effort to bring transparency and understanding to a ho-hum night on the beat.
Both Live PD and its intellectual forebear, COPS, have courted controversy.
Albuquerque's then-Mayor Martin Chávez banned the latter from interviewing city police in 2001, saying the show put the city in a bad light. In 2014 the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department allowed filming.
FOX, the longtime home network of COPS, cancelled it in 2013 amid widespread hostility toward its perceived racism and sensationalism, only for COPS to get a second wind on the guys-being-dudes channel Spike.
Live PD hasn't been around nearly as long, but has already racked up considerable criticism. Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, have cut ties with the show.
Strahon says that there was initially some concern at SFPD, but ultimately officials decided that the privacy issues weren't a concern.
"This is what the people wanted when they asked for body cams," Strahon says. "Anyone can [file a public records request for] body cam footage and see the same thing."
Questions regarding consent to be filmed naturally arise, but because camera crews typically film from public areas such as streets and sidewalks, they are seldom obligated to get permission to plaster the faces of the accused on televisions across America. This can cause serious reputational harm, as it did in a case that appeared on the show in 2017 in which a man was arrested on suspicion of stealing a car, despite it being his father's. He was cleared of all charges and demanded an apology.
For what it's worth, each commercial break ends with a black screen with white lettering assuring viewers that the people who appear on the show are "innocent until proven guilty."
A slight delay is built into the show, to allow for censoring language, bleeping out last names or other personal information, or to avoid broadcasting any inconvenient police shootings, although the show's producers are cagey about how long of a delay they use.
For Santa Fe's part, in the most recent episode in which the city appeared that is available to watch online, drugs were mostly absent.
The most closely followed case was a stabbing at the infamously crime-ridden Motel 6 on Cerrillos Road, across the street from Denny's. The motel is a place that police have been called to 177 times this year, according to reporting from The Santa Fe New Mexican in April. The case was resolved with a suspect being taken into custody as the episode's credits began to roll. The man claimed that the very bloody-looking substance on his hands and shirt was, at various points, dye, juice and sauce from a Frito Pie.