Pinal County Supervisors OK TV show ride alongs
By Dana Trumbull
In a vote of 4/1, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved an agreement between the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) and Big Fish Productions to allow access to jail facilities, offices, patrol cars and other vehicles for the filming of the TV show, “Live PD.” The contract will also allow production personnel to accompany PCSO deputies or other personnel during daily operations. No impact or cost to the county is anticipated. The decision, however, was not without contest.
Gold Canyon resident Roberto Reveles spoke during the “Call to the Public,” stating, “At a time when the public is being asked to raise taxes to fund a critically needed road system, the last thing needed is for the Board of Supervisors to be approving exploitation of our taxpayer funded law enforcement personnel, emergency vehicles and other public assets to produce entertainment for a profit-making cable television network.”
Supervisor Pete Rios, District 1, however, was the lone “no” vote, after a failed motion to postpone the decision for one week to allow for further consideration and input from the Deputies Association.
The item was presented within the consent agenda, but was pulled for discussion at Rio’s request. “I hadn’t heard too much about this. Maybe we’ll have an opportunity to hear why this is a good thing for us to approve.” Rios expressed concern that response time in the more remote areas of Pinal County might be adversely affected, because officers would be, “down here getting powdered and putting make up on so they can be on TV instead of responding to a domestic violence call.”
Sheriff Mark Lamb assured the BOS that there would be no “powdering” of deputies. “We’ve made this very clear to them that we can’t afford for it to affect any day to day operations. They merely are there as observers for how we’re doing our job.”
Lamb explained that he had been working with BOS Chairman Steve Miller, Pinal County Manager Greg Stanley, the Pinal County Attorney and the County insurers since show producers first contacted him. “We’ve gotten the blessing from everybody along the lines. At this point, our legal counsel and our insurers are comfortable with where we’re at with the contract with this company.”
Lamb revealed that the production crews have already begun riding along with deputies, “They haven’t been filming, but they’ve been coming out and riding along, just to get a feel for the different deputies until we had a final approval. They do nothing more than sit in the car and observe the daily operations. Any of the deputies that will be involved in this will have to consent that they are wanting and willing to be involved. This is not something that we’re going to force on anybody. If any deputy chooses to be part of this, they’ll have to acknowledge and give their consent to be part of it.
“We do have to be very careful which deputies participate. They want deputies who pretend they’re not even in the car; they just continue to do their job as usual. We’ve offered some suggestions, and they go through a process to find the deputies who don’t embellish.”
Lamb attributed his enthusiasm to, “the opportunity to be transparent in a climate that is somewhat negative toward law enforcement. I think it’s an opportunity to show how we do our job; to show that, in this county, law enforcement still does care.
“We’re in an epidemic across this country: it is very difficult to hire. We are now exposing what we can offer as an agency. There are people within this state who are unaware of Pinal County, but now we are opening ourselves to be able to recruit nationwide for quality law enforcement officers.”
“Live PD” has filmed in Arizona previously, shadowing the Department of Public Safety. Lamb stated that he had been in contact with DPS and other law enforcement agencies where Big Fish Productions had filmed and that they had reported there had been no down side to the collaboration. “It’s actually been quite positive for their counties. One of the counties actually held an event where the people could come out and meet the officers that were involved in these programs, and they had people come from eight different states.”
The schedule for filming, production and airing the show is not readily available; however, Big Fish Productions has indicated a desire to move forward quickly.