Williamson County commissioners ended ‘Live PD’ over concerns for residents’ rights

The Williamson County Sheriffu2019s Office is located at 508 S. Rock St., Georgetown.n

The Williamson County Sheriffu2019s Office is located at 508 S. Rock St., Georgetown.n

Williamson County commissioners agreed to end the county’s contract with Big Fish Entertainment LLC and its appearance on “Live PD” citing increased liability and presenting the county in a negative light and protecting residents’ rights.

The commissioners voted unanimously to terminate the contract Aug. 20 after failing to do so during a May 21 meeting with a 3-2 vote.

“Live PD” is a documentary series on the A&E Network that follows law-enforcement officers live in the course of their nighttime patrols.

The initial agreement allowed camera crews to film, photograph and record Williamson County Sheriff’s Office personnel and the situations they encounter and/or become involved in, according to the contract.

In May, County Judge Bill Gravell, Precinct 1 Commissioner Terry Cook and Precinct 4 Commissioner Russ Boles voted in favor of keeping the contract, and production of the show continued.

Gravell said his thoughts changed when he thought about the effect the show had on those arrested on national television.

“‘Live PD’ portrayed our officers and our deputies and our folks in a wonderful light; however I don’t think it portrayed our residents well,” Gravell said. “Some folks perhaps who had made a poor decision and that poor decision is broadcast on national television. The preset of being innocent until proven guilty was suddenly thrown out the window.”

Other members of the court said they believed the show could be a liability for the county, and ultimately the negatives outweighed the positives.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long during the May meeting said she believed the show portrayed the county negatively, highlighting crime when many of the cities in the county are some of the safest in the state.

“My concerns with this show and associated liability issues should not be mistaken for not supporting law enforcement or the great work they do,” Long said. “While there are positives that have come from the agreement, I believe for me the negatives outweigh the positives.”

Hal Hawes, general counsel to the Williamson County Commissioners Court, said in an email that the county was able to terminate the contract at no cost and that the county was not paid for its participation in the show.

Hawes added that the county is not currently being sued for a matter relating to “Live PD.”

Boles said part of the reason he voted to end the contract was its liability to the county and the protection of those who appeared on the show.

“There was absolutely good that came with ‘Live PD,’ and there’s liability that comes with it as well, but at the heart, I want to make sure the citizens are treated properly, and I want to make sure the deputies are treated properly,” Boles said.

Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody said in an email that he disagreed that the show increased liability to the county.

“I do not think it was any more a liability than it is now,” Chody said. “It only made the community more aware of the actions deputies displayed to the world. Many demand transparency of their law enforcement agencies and [‘Live PD’] gave our community live view.”

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