Terre Haute Police will participate in A&E Network's real-time police show "Live PD," following approval of an 1-year agreement Thursday from the Terre Haute Board of Public Works and Safety.
Live PD camera crews will follow officers on the job on Friday and Saturday nights, with television viewers seeing what local police officers see during their shifts. A delay of about 20 minutes prevents the airing of disturbing content or the release of information that could compromise investigations.
Police Chief Shawn Keen said the city was contacted in July to be on the show. After months of discussion and a review from the city's legal department, Keen told the board he recommends approving a contract with Big Fish Entertainment, the production company for the television show.
"I was apprehensive about what the benefit would be for our police department and community," the police chief said. "I went to all of the groups, all of the shifts, to get their feedback on the negatives and positives," he told the board. "I did not have one negative comment about it."
Keen said he thinks the agreement will provide three strong benefits to the department and the community.
"First is in the area of recruitment. We, like many departments nationally now, are suffering from a loss of qualified applicants," Keen said. The police department, he said, has used media and social media to advertise and has trimmed its application to one day with written and agility tests.
"Even with all these measures, we are still struggling to get qualified applicants. We have a large number of officers set to retire at the start of next year and a very small list from which to draw from," Keen said.
Keen said other departments that have been on the show have seen an increase in applicants.
Secondly, "we put a lot of resources of the police department into our community outreach, whether it is our junior police academy, the talks we give at schools and different groups and participation with civic groups and charities, we take a lot of time to get involved in things outside the traditional enforcement of law," he said.
The police chief said "Live PD" is "a better opportunity at a much larger level to allow our community to see what happens from the time an officer gets a call until it resolves," Keen said.
Lastly, Keen said, he also looked at possible downsides, such as how the police department and community might appear.
"I don't see transparency as a bad thing in any of these arguments," Keen said. "From the policing perspective, I understand and accept that we are not perfect and we will make mistakes. Through this process, we are willing to put ourselves out there so the community can see exactly what we do.
"We are willing to hold ourselves accountable, if we make mistakes, we are there, but are doing it in a transparent way for our community to see exactly what we do as police officers."
According to a website for the program, “Live PD viewers get unfettered and unfiltered live access inside a variety of the country’s busiest police forces, both urban and rural, and the communities they patrol on a typical night. Viewers are encouraged to post their comments about what they witness throughout the night on Facebook and Twitter.”
The program is moderated by an in-studio host and analyst to guide viewers through the night and give insight to what audiences see. The crews use a mix of dash cams, fixed rig and handheld cameras. The show bounces between featured police departments during each program.
Keen said officers will volunteer for the program, which film during the department's mid shift — from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. The program usually follows the same three to five officers through a program, with other officers filmed during multiple police vehicle responses.
The show does not film inside a house, unless given permission of the homeowner, Keen said.
The city of Jeffersonville in southern Indiana ended a one-year run with Live PD in 2018.
City Attorney Eddie Felling said he spoke with officials in Jeffersonville, and the production company "was superb and had zero complaints."
After the meeting, Mayor Duke Bennett said the show is an opportunity to showcase the city's police department.
"I think it brings light to the city that we are open to doing something like this. I am sure some communities probably shy away from that and we did not," Bennett said.
"I think that end of the day, it will show what a police officer does in Terre Haute, Indiana, and maybe help the public appreciate what is going on a little bit more and maybe it just helps us overall to keep crime down in a way ... as we are showing people examples of what happens in Terre Haute, Indiana, on a daily basis almost."
"This will be a great opportunity to showcase our very professional police department, but also the city in general. That we are responsive to community needs, we deal with crime to the best of our ability and we are willing to show that to a national TV audience," the mayor said.
The contract starts immediately, Keen said, but when filming starts is up to the production company.
"We will be ready," Keen said.