Fans of the reality television series “Live PD” have reason to rejoice today, as it was revealed from Colonel Stephen McCartney that the Warwick Police Department would continue to participate in filming as the third season starts this Friday, Sept. 21.
Seeing your home city on nationally syndicated television is undoubtedly exciting, maybe unless you’re the one getting arrested for shoplifting at Walmart or being chased through the woods in front of a camera (though you shouldn’t steal or run from the police, so those decisions are on you).
Beyond the thrill of having your hometown become quasi-famous through the lens of a popular television series, the presence of “Live PD” does more than just stroke the egos of Warwick residents – it shines a light on a police force that has for many years proven itself to be disciplined, highly trained and capable of handling a wide array of situations that emerge out of otherwise uneventful days.
Fans of cop drama shows have already been introduced to the Warwick Police Department through the series “See No Evil,” which documented the strong police work that led to the capture of the murderers of Fernando Silva, better known as Captain Freddy. “Live PD” provides a more raw, spur-of-the-moment look into the department and its many roles within the community.
McCartney made that same point in the news article featured in today’s edition – that police departments in the digital age represent so much more than just law enforcement agencies. Police today must be peacekeepers, counselors, community liaisons and role models. They have to respond to high-stress situations with steady coolness and not let their emotions take over their training.
While it may seem like having a camera following them around would be a detriment, McCartney has described the situation as positive. Perhaps police officers enjoy the recognition themselves, perhaps they find it easier to do things by the book when they know their actions are being watched by potentially millions of people around the country. Whatever the case, there doesn’t seem to be a downside to letting the cameras roll while they do their jobs – especially given how shamefully entertaining the schadenfreude can be.
We can’t help but ponder – what other governmental departments might benefit from having their activities filmed and broadcast by cameras live?
In an age where there is a greater ability to report city government affairs to more people than ever before, transparency unfortunately seems to be more elusive. Administrators have the ability to hold many cards close to their chest, keeping the public totally shut out of decision-making processes behind closed doors until legally mandated public documents must be filed or public meetings must be had. Even then, some of those documents don’t exactly make themselves apparent without digging.
If City Hall was continuously covered by a live camera crew, how much would actually be allowed to make it to air? What about the daily workings of the fire department, school department or public works?
Arguments against publicly conducting some government business range from logical, such as confidentiality issues pertaining to private information or matters of negotiation related to contracts, to the morally sketchy, such as the notion that the public isn’t capable of handling certain types of information without administrators acting as a filtering funnel.
While we wouldn’t suggest that cameras broadcasting live feeds of day-to-day government business would be anything particularly interesting, it may provide little known insights into how the people are actually governed, how decisions are made and why they are made.
We concede there are certainly areas of government that can’t involve the public every step of the way – as government moves slow enough without people reacting to complex, ongoing processes in real time – but we also contend that there are more areas of government that would absolutely benefit from their public servants being held accountable by an ever-present watchful eye.
After all, if a police officer can calm down a hysterically intoxicated individual on a public sidewalk without raising their voice or breaking a sweat, we would like to think an elected official sitting in a comfortable office can answer some questions live without democracy itself unraveling.