Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers are participating in the controversial Live PD program on the Arts and Entertainment network. As is the case with other departments, they’re giving broad access for free.
The contract the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety signed with New York-based Big Fish Productions in February runs for one year but could be extended into 2021.
It gives producers broad access.
“ODPS grants to producer and its production personnel permission to enter upon and use OHP’s offices, facilities and vehicles,” the agreement states.
The department has the right to review pre-recorded segments but that right only extends 24 hours, according to the contract.
Like the rest of the law enforcement agencies taking part in the show there is no compensation, though the department does receive a credit at the end of each episode.
“We are not being compensated,” Oklahoma Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Sarah Stewart said in an email to NonDoc.
Like most of the departments who participate, the motivation seems to be positive publicity.
“I’m excited to showcase the skill, compassion and humility of the men and women of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol for the Live PD Nation,” OHP Chief Michael Harrell said in a statement earlier this year.
Troopers have been featured in at least three episodes so far this month. In one, a trooper questions a female motorist in Tulsa about the lack of documentation she is carrying with her.
In another scene, a driver is pulled over for swerving by a trooper. She’s found to have no insurance verification and wasn’t wearing her seat belt when pulled over.
The woman was issued a ticket for the seat belt violation and told to watch her lane changes. The exchange is professional, and included playful banter. The motorist jokes she has been cited four times in the last month.
“You’ve already knocked off two of the tickets, so now you’ve got to pick a new law to violate next time,” the trooper jokes in response.
Tulsa PD ended its contract
Live PD has become wildly popular in its three years on the air, spawning several spin-off programs.
The program airs in two-hour live blocks on Friday and Saturday nights, with a delay of up to several minutes. It regularly draws about two million viewers.
But it has not been without critics. In 2017, Tulsa police ended their participation in the program amid controversy. During one broadcast, an officer inaccurately accused a man of being a gang member. The man went public with his complaints.
Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said at the time the program didn’t represent Tulsa well.
“We just didn’t feel it was in the best interest to continue,” Jordan told The Frontier at the time of the decision. “We vetted it as best we could. It was a new concept, it was something we were interested in. We just didn’t like the way it represented Tulsa and the police department.”
Tulsa isn’t alone. Police departments in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Streetsboro, Ohio, recently ended their participation, along with the Greenville, South Carolina Sheriffs Department.
Some of have criticized the program for being exploitative of people in difficult or dangerous situations while others have wondered if producers are invading the privacy of those caught up in the action.
In a recent development, a Texas sheriff’s department commander has come under fire this month for challenging his deputies to have sex with a female Live PD producer.
Most of the incidents involving Oklahoma troopers have taken place in the Tulsa area, which still gives the show a presence there.