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A&E has canceled reality show Live PD amid a second week of nationwide protests against police brutality and days after a Texas newspaper reported that the series’ crew filmed the death of a Black man while in the custody of law enforcement officers and subsequently destroyed the footage.
In a statement, A&E said: “This is a critical time in our nation’s history and we have made the decision to cease production on Live PD. 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.”
A&E’s decision to cancel Live PD, which follows police officers on patrol in real time, will come as a blow to the network. The series, which filled multiple hours a weekend, was a ratings juggernaut, regularly dominating all other basic cable series in competing time slots. Just two months ago, the network renewed it for 160 episodes — tacked on to an already substantial order. The network was so confident in the series that it earned a 450-hour renewal back in 2018. It was also among the few unscripted series able to navigate the production shutdowns in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, airing specials focusing on first responders.
Live PD spinoff series Live Rescue, which follows EMTs and firefighters, is not canceled, but A&E hasn’t made a decision on its future yet. The second season of Live Rescue ended in March.
The move comes after Paramount Network pulled the plug on the long-running police reality show Cops on Tuesday and as demonstrations continue across the U.S. against police brutality and systemic racism, protests that were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes. A spokesperson for Discovery’s ID channel says its similar show, Body Cam, is also off the schedule for the foreseeable future.
On Monday, the Austin American-Statesman reported that the Live PD crew shot video of the March 2019 death in custody of Javier Ambler II following his arrest for a traffic violation by Williamson County sheriff’s deputies. A representative of the reality show told the newspaper that the footage had been destroyed and can no longer be handed over to Austin investigators.
On March 28, 2019, police attempted to pull over Ambler, a 40-year-old Black postal worker and father of two, in North Austin for a traffic violation. The American-Statesman reports that 28 minutes later Ambler lay dying in the street after deputies tasered him four times while a crew from Live PD filmed the incident. Police bodycam footage, which was only released in June, shows Ambler repeatedly pleading for mercy, telling deputies he had congestive heart failure and that he couldn’t breathe.
As news of the cancellation broke, Live PD host Dan Abrams tweeted that he was “shocked & beyond disappointed” and that he was previously “convinced the show would go on.” Abrams, the chief legal analyst at ABC, also upbraided the American-Statesman and District Attorney Margaret Moore for pursuing the Ambler story. “@statesman should really focus on the death of Javier Ambler and on the fact that DA @ElectMargaret (note the twitter handle) is suddenly focused on this now even though she had the body cam footage for over a year? Their reporting on #LivePd has been a journalistic disaster,” Abrams wrote.
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