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Tuesday, October 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

‘Cops’ filming with sheriff’s office through November despite network dropping the show

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich speaks during a Law Enforcement Support Rally in July. The Criminal Justice Training Commission voted against Knezovich’s plans for another police academy training program.  (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich speaks during a Law Enforcement Support Rally in July. The Criminal Justice Training Commission voted against Knezovich’s plans for another police academy training program. (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Despite national pushback to law enforcement reality TV, “Cops” is filming in Spokane County, according to a Spokane County Sheriff’s Office news release.

Two “Cops” film crews started riding with sheriff’s office and Spokane Valley deputies again throughout their shifts in September and will stop filming in the second week of November, the release said.

“Cops” and programs like it, “show, even for a few minutes, what the men and women out protecting our communities deal with day in and day out,” Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said in the release.

Knezovich described “Cops”, which filmed with the department for many years, as an accurate portrayal of what deputies deal with, “despite what some anti-law enforcement activists and those in the media want you to believe.”

Since national unrest broke out stemming from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, Knezovich has sparred publicly with Black Lives Matter protesters over the controversial “Killology” training and has said “the media” blame all law enforcement for the acts of a few.

Amid nationwide protests over police brutality, the Paramount Network announced June 9 that “Cops” had been canceled after 33 years on the air. The A&E Network, which has aired “Live PD” since 2016, announced the following day that show would also be canceled.

It’s unclear if and when the footage will run. The news release did not indicate whether “Cops” has been picked up by another network. “Cops” does not have an announcement that it will continue on its website, has not tweeted since May and has not posted on Facebook since June.

“Live PD” came under fire in June after news broke that a “Live PD” film crew had captured the death of a Black man in custody after officers used a stun gun on him repeatedly.

Amid an investigation into that man’s death, a Texas sheriff was booked into jail Monday on suspicion of tampering with evidence with intent to impair an investigation, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Breean Beggs, Spokane City Council president, said his main concerns are for the privacy of citizens and an accurate portrayal of Spokane. The sheriff’s department does come into the city at times.

Spokane adopted a law in 2018 that came close to banning reality shows involving police.

“I think most people value their right to privacy and that includes not being put on television for profit, without their consent,” Beggs said. “In the city of Spokane, our police protect your personal privacy.”

Under the municipal code, it is a civil infraction for “Cops” or a similar show to air footage of a citizen on TV without their permission. Any Spokane officers featured on the show would need approval from the chief of police, and for the show to film in city limits it would have to get a Spokane business license and a $1 million liability insurance policy.

For both victims and suspected perpetrators of crimes, Beggs said the City ouncil agreed it wasn’t ethical to air people “on their worst day.” For perpetrators, he doubts such publicity would help with rehabilitation.

It’s also bad for tourism, which is already in trouble, he said. “Cops” paints Spokane “in its worst light,” he said, while the many calm interactions police have with citizens on a daily basis won’t make it onto the screen.

“Those are the issues,” he said. “It’s not the issue of showing police working hard. That’s great.”

But when the show was canceled in June, Knezovich was disappointed. He wrote in a statement to The Spokesman-Review that the show portrayed realities some are uncomfortable with.

“Some would argue that they didn’t show when things went wrong. That is a false flag argument. When things go wrong in police work the world sees it in (high definition), hears it in stereo, and reads it above the fold,” Knezovich wrote in June.

Maggie Quinlan can be reached at (509)459-5135 or by email at maggieq@spokesman.com

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