Richland Co. Sheriff's Department discusses role on live A&E program

Published: Jan. 24, 2017 at 12:26 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2017 at 8:53 AM EST
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RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Live PD is a new show on A&E that gives viewers new access to law enforcement. Camera crews follow several agencies from across the country and broadcast in real-time on Friday nights.

The show's website says it's about accountability but part of its show from last Friday night is raising some concerns.

On Friday night there was a shooting on Camelot Street in North Columbia. Richland County coroner Gary Watts said 37-year-old Benjamin Johnson died at the scene from a single gunshot wound to the upper body. Johnson's family members reported seeing his body on national television before being informed of his death.

"It's always a concern when you have things like that. You couldn't identify the body. You would actually have to know who this individual was. It wasn't where the cameras zoomed in where you could see his face or anything of that nature," said Lt. Wilson.

Lt. Curtis Wilson, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Department said that was not their intention. He added, the show is on a 30-minute delay but due to the nature of their jobs, it's hard to predict what could happen.

"It's just as if WIS was out riding with us that night - same access. You would have had the same access as Live PD did so it wasn't anything different that actually happened," Lt. Wilson said. "Now, it's up to you and your department, meaning your news program, what you're going to be able to show and what you're not going show. We're not going to tell you what to show and what not to as long as you're not interfering with the deputy that's on the scene doing their job."

Lt. Wilson also said at the time Friday night, Live PD did not know if the shooting victim was wounded or deceased. He said as soon as the show confirmed the victim was deceased they no longer showed the video.

Lt. Wilson said Sheriff Leon Lott agreed to the show to enhance transparency of the department. Transparency has been an ongoing demand from many communities across the country to law enforcement in general.

From crime scenes to connecting with the community, the show bares it all.

"We had a deputy who was on the scene who talked about violence that goes on and how it needs to stop and this was a prime example," said Lt. Wilson. "It was a prime time for him to get that message across saying it's time for us to stop this nonsense, all this killing, all this unnecessary action that goes on in these streets, it just has to stop. When is it going to stop? And it may take something like this to open eyes of citizens to say, 'I need to get involved."

The sheriff's department and Live PD meet weekly to discuss what's working and any changes that could be made. Lt. Wilson said they will be discussing protocol on scenes moving forward.

RCSD has been a part of the show since September and will continue through March, according to Lt. Wilson. He said the camera crew is with deputies gathering information and video Monday through Saturday but they go live only on Friday nights.

When asked if the Sheriff's Department receives compensation from the show, Lt. Wilson said there is not a requirement or an expectation of money but the show is allowed to make donations to the Sheriff's Foundation and/or the K9 Unit. He did not know if any donations have been made at this point.

Live PD airs Friday nights at 9 p.m. on A&E.

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