Live PD host slams cancellation: 'There's an overreaction going on'
Live PD host Dan Abrams has some thoughts about the surprise cancellation of his hit reality crime series by A&E.
The cable network axed the show — which documents police officers on duty around the country — in the wake of worldwide protests against police brutality and racism.
Speaking on his SiriusXM show The Dan Abrams Show, the host called the cancellation an "overreaction" to recent events.
"I think that it's very troubling that we're suddenly in a culture where all police officers have to suffer for the sins of a few," said Abrams, who is also the chief legal affairs anchor for ABC News. "And I say that for every group, it's not just police officers. It's just so interesting to me that many on the left have criticized this sense of collective justice, right? That it has to be individual justice. You can't sort of impugn a community of people. And yet when it comes to this, the left seems very willing, ready, and able to impugn all police officers. Now let me say again, that doesn't mean we don't have to have a discussion about the inequities in our society. And not just a discussion — action. There should be changes. There's real positive change in many ways going on in this country. But there's also an overreaction going on. And I think that that's what Live PD suffered from."
Abrams said that he expected to work together with A&E to try and make some changes to the show in light of recent events, and was "shocked and beyond disappointed" when the show was outright canceled instead.
"So, what I had thought was going to happen was I thought we were going to have a discussion about how to make the show better. And we were going to sort of try and — together — figure out how to deal with some of the positive change that people are implementing and figure out how to incorporate that into the show," he said. "But lo and behold, the show got canceled. So yeah, that's where we are. I'm definitely not happy about it. I love the fact that Sean Penn called me a 'used car salesman.'"
Civil rights advocacy organization Color of Change is among those who called on A&E to cancel Live PD and, before that, Paramount Television to cancel Cops. "For more than 30 years, Cops has miseducated the public and normalized injustice," said Color of Change vice president Arisha Hatch in a statement provided to EW earlier this week. "Crime television encourages the public to accept the norms of over-policing and excessive force and reject reform, while supporting the exact behavior that destroys the lives of Black people. Cops led the way, pushing troubling implications for generations of viewers. Now it’s time for other networks to cancel similarly harmful shows. We call on A&E to cancel Live PD next. In a moment when everyone wants to proclaim that Black Lives Matter, we must hold these companies accountable to put actions to words with a complete industry overhaul."
Canceling the 4-year-old Live PD was arguably a far more significant move than canceling Cops, which had been on the air since 1989. Cops delivered rather modest ratings for Paramount Network. But Live PD was A&E's cornerstone series and often ranked as the top-rated cable show on Friday and Saturday nights. The network had ordered 160 additional episodes just last month.
Live PD's fate might have also been impacted by increasing coverage of a case in Texas where the show destroyed footage of the death of a black man, 40-year-old Javier Ambler, who perished in police custody 15 months ago. A&E explained the move was routine procedure given that the case was initially dismissed by investigators and the footage was not used on the show or requested by investigators.
"They ended up tasing him four times and you can hear him on the video and it's heartbreaking, yelling, 'Save me. I can't breathe,'" Abrams said. "And he ends up dying as a result of the tasing. Live PD cameras had been there with him at the time, and it wasn't while we were on the air. It was during a hiatus in the show where we're just shooting for additional footage. The show has a policy of not retaining video for more than roughly 30 days. The reason for that is that we didn't want to become a video repository for either side — prosecutors, for defense, et cetera. We didn't want to become an arm of law enforcement. We didn't want to become an arm of defense attorneys, et cetera. So we had this policy in place about not retaining videos. The Williamson County Sheriff's office requested right after this incident happened that we retain the video while their investigation transpired. So Live PD did that. [We] held the video until June of 2019, at which point, the sheriff's office informed Live PD that the investigation had concluded. The most important point is that they had their own body cam footage, which they used for their investigation. They didn't request the Live PD footage, they informed us the investigation was over. No one requested the Live PD footage. And now a year later, people are asking, 'How did you guys not save the video?' And, you know, I wrote an article on Law and Crime trying to answer a lot of the questions that I was being asked about this."
The actions of the Williamson County Sheriff's office are now under investigation by the adjacent Travis County, whose district attorney is looking into the possibility of taking the case to a grand jury.
To help combat systemic racism, please consider donating to these organizations:
- Campaign Zero, which is dedicated to ending police brutality in America through research-based strategies.
- Color of Change, which works to move decision makers in corporations and government to be more responsive to racial disparities.
- Equal Justice Initiative, which provides legal services to people who have been wrongly convicted, denied a fair trial, or abused in state jails and prisons.