Amid nationwide protests against police brutality, A&E has canceled one of its most-watched programs, “Live PD,” a reality show that follows police officers in cities around the country in real time.
News of the cancellation follows a report Monday by the Austin American-Statesman that a 40-year-old black man named Javier Ambler, stopped by police in Texas for failing to dim his headlights, died in custody as a “Live PD” crew was filming last year. Footage of the encounter, during which police repeatedly used Tasers on Ambler, never aired and was later destroyed.
In a statement Wednesday, the network seemed to leave open the possibility that the show might continue in a revised format in the future.
“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.”
In a previous statement, the network had defended the presence of “Live PD” cameras during the deadly incident with Ambler, saying, “As with all calls we follow, we are not there to be an arm of the police or law enforcement but rather to chronicle what they do.”
A&E pulled the show from the air late last week, as outrage over the killing of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police fueled widespread protests and prompted scrutiny of cultural depictions of law enforcement. On Tuesday, Paramount Network canceled the long-running reality show “Cops,” a forebear of “Live PD” that was often criticized for its exploitative portrayals of black people and sensationalist focus on violent crime and chase scenes.
Hosted by Dan Abrams and featuring analysis by law enforcement veterans Tom Morris Jr. and Sgt. Sean “Sticks” Larkin, “Live PD” blended in-studio commentary with live (and live-seeming) footage of police officers on patrol around the country.
The series premiered in 2016 and quickly became one of the biggest hits on A&E — and all of cable television — regularly drawing more than 2 million viewers to its broadcasts on Friday and Saturday nights. It has spawned numerous spinoffs and made celebrities of the police officers featured on the air. Larkin, a Tulsa, Okla., police officer, dated singer Lana Del Rey for about six months.
Just last month, A&E renewed “Live PD” for an additional 160 episodes. As of Tuesday, host Abrams was confident the show would be back, assuring fans on Twitter, “We are not abandoning you.” Wednesday night, his tweets were more measured: “Thank you for making this so much more than a tv show,” he wrote. “You created a huge community of kind, caring people with whom I hope to stay in touch with in this next chapter.”
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