Just one day after the cancellation of Cops—the longest-running reality show and “cop-aganda” program enjoyed largely by people who aren’t consistently targeted by police in real life—was announced, another unscripted cop series has found itself on the chopping block.
Cable network A&E announced Wednesday that it will no longer be airing Live PD—a show that’s basically just Cops under a different name and one that made headlines recently after new details were reported relating to Javier Ambler, a black man who died in police custody after repeatedly crying out, “I can’t breathe.” Live PD’s camera crew was there to record footage of the incident—footage that has reportedly been destroyed.
We’ll get back to that last part in a minute.
NPR reports that, like Cops, Live PD was canceled amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd and a national conversation about police violence and systemic racism.
“This is a critical time in our nation’s history and we have made the decision to cease production on Live PD,” A&E said in a statement. “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.”
Live PD host Dan Abrams wasn’t too happy about the show’s cancellation, having promised fans via Twitter that the show would return just one day before its cancellation was announced.
“To all of you asking whether #LivePD coming back...The answer is yes,” Abrams tweeted. “All of us associated with the show are as committed to it as ever. We are still discussing some specifics but I want to assure the #LivePDNation that we are not abandoning you.”
After the show’s cancellation was announced, Abrams tweeted that he is “Shocked & beyond disappointed.”
Side note: If you want people—especially black people—to be sympathetic about your little policing-porn show being canceled, maybe don’t include an image of a cop drawing his gun on a black person with their hands up in your tweet.
On Tuesday, The Root reported the new details about the March 28, 2019 death of 40-year-old Javier Ambler in Austin, Texas. Ambler had been involved in a police chase after an officer who was accompanied by a Live PD camera crew tried to pull him over for driving with his brights on. Ambler eventually crashed and the officer who was chasing him, along with his backup, used tasers on Ambler several times, even after he told them “I’m not resisting.” Ambler frantically tried to explain to them that he had congestive heart failure, repeatedly crying out, “I can’t breathe” and pleading with them to “save me.” He died at the scene of the stop, one of the officer’s body-cam footage shows.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, representatives of Live PD said the footage of the incident has been destroyed and can’t be turned over to investigators who are in the midst of taking a fresh look at the case, which District Attorney Margaret Moore told reporters her office plans to present before a grand jury. A&E released a statement regarding the destruction of the footage.
From the Statesmen:
A&E confirmed Tuesday that “video of the tragic death of Javier Ambler was captured by body cams worn on the officers involved as well by the producers of Live PD who were riding with certain officers involved.”
It said that the incident did not occur while the show was airing live and that the video was not broadcast later.
A&E’s statement said that Austin investigators had not asked for the video or to interview show producers. “As is the case with all footage taken by Live PD producers, we no longer retained the unaired footage after learning that the investigation had concluded,” the network said in a statement.
The contract between Williamson County and Live PD producers in place at the time of Ambler’s death allowed the show to destroy unaired footage within 30 days unless a court order or other state or federal law required it to be retained.
So basically the show wasn’t able to do the one thing it may have been good for—provide evidence for a possible police brutality case.