At first, I thought it was interesting and sort of funny. Then, I thought it was interesting and pitiful. Now, I think it is interesting and just plain sad. I’m talking about “Live P.D.”
For those of you who may have not seen it, “Live P.D.” is a television show on the A&E cable network. The program, which airs on Friday and Saturday nights, follows law enforcement officers in the course of their duties. What is unique about the program is that it is live, as the cameras follow officers in six different departments across the country. It’s the live part that makes it interesting, not knowing what might happen.
It’s interesting to see law enforcement work in a live setting. When the TV cameras follow a patrolman or a deputy up to a car he or she has pulled over, you wonder. When they walk up to a house where there has been a disturbance, you wonder. Is it just another traffic stop or call, or will there be something else, something more threatening? It makes you respect even more the work of law enforcement officers, and what they face every day.
The reality of the program was shown this past summer. The Richmond Co., S.C. Sheriff’s Dept. was investigating a large house party. A car sped away from the house and was pursued by Senior Deputy Chris Mastrianni. The chase followed through the streets of Columbia with speeds up to 90 miles an hour. It was dramatic live TV which was about to get even more dramatic. The chase ended when the pursued car attempted a sharp turn and flipped over. As Deputy Mastrianni jumped out of his patrol car to check on the scene, the driver climbed out of the car and tried to run – with what turned out to be a two year old baby! The deputy grabbed the driver and tried to hold him down. The baby was taken into safety by the Live P.D. producer. Deputy Mastrianni struggled with the driver for what seemed like an hour, (It was probably about five minutes.) trying to get him to calm down and quit resisting, until backup came to help. It was real and it was live, not like the scripted “reality’ TV that we see so often.
The program was, and sometimes still is, sort of funny, because of some of the people those law enforcement officers come in contact during the program. The situations and the people that the officers are often dealing with are fit for “Dumb Crook News.” How do they get in those situations, and how can they expect law enforcement officers to believe their stories? Almost every episode of “Live P.D.” has some driver after a traffic stop saying, “I don’t know how those drugs got into my car.”
And this, for me, is where “Live P.D” changes from funny to pitiful and sad. Drugs. It seems like just about every traffic stop on those Friday and Saturday night programs end up with some illegal drugs being involved. The stop may be in Seattle, Washington, or Columbia, South Carolina. It may be in Jeffersonville, Indiana, or Phoenix, Arizona. You soon learn the term, “ridin’ dirty,” which means that those stopped have illegal drugs in their car. The officers may bring out the drug sniffing dog, or may search the car due to probable cause. And most of the time they find the drugs. These officers are good. Of course, they have had a lot of experience.
It’s pitiful, because you are watching lives that are being wasted away by drugs and alcohol. It’s sad, because that person is someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister, or even worse, some child’s mother or father. It was heartbreaking one night seeing a mother being arrested during a traffic stop for drugs, with little children in the back seat of the car.
“Live P.D.” is real TV showing a real problem that’s affecting every portion of our country. From the state of Washington to Florida, Maryland, Indiana, South Carolina and other locations, as shown on the program, illegal drugs are not just a regional problem. “Live P.D.” shows how the drug epidemic is taxing public resources and public safety. The program highlights the economic disparity throughout our country, and a growing subculture of hopelessness that that has too often been ignored. The program shows that it is not a black or white problem. It is a people problem. And the problem is real. As real as “Live P.D.”
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]