Texas county leaders, sheriff spar over 'Live PD' filming

The show had followed Willamson County deputies until August, when the county ended their contract. The sheriff then signed a new agreement without county approval


Ann Smajstrla
Austin-American Statesman

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas — An ongoing disagreement between Williamson County leaders and Sheriff Robert Chody regarding “Live PD” continued Tuesday as the Commissioners Court voted to issue a cease and desist letter to those involved in the show’s production.

The reality TV show, which airs on A&E and is described on its website as providing “unfettered and unfiltered live access inside a variety of the country’s busiest police forces,” is produced by Big Fish Entertainment.

The show had routinely followed Williamson County sheriff’s deputies while on patrol until August, when the Commissioners Court canceled its contract with the entertainment group. Commissioners cited concerns from local prosecutors and defense attorneys over not having access to potential evidence gathered by film crews in their decision, and that the show put the county in a poor light.

The Commissioners Court’s decision on Tuesday comes after Chody signed a new agreement allowing the TV show to resume filming deputies without commissioners’ approval.

Because of that, the court is sending a letter to Big Fish Entertainment, ordering it to “immediately cease and desist using Williamson County facilities, vehicles and property for the purposes of filming, producing and publishing the TV series, ‘Live PD.’”

But as commissioners approved sending the cease and desist letter, Jason Nassour, general counsel for Williamson County Attorney Dee Hobbs, said that because the county sheriff’s office signed an access agreement with Big Fish Entertainment, Chody doesn’t need permission from commissioners for the show’s production.

“The Commissioners Court said they’re in control of all county facilities. That is false,” Nassour said. “The law gives the sheriff the control of his facilities and his equipment.”

Commissioner Russ Boles said the county’s insurer on Monday said the county’s premiums for law enforcement could increase because of “LivePD” filming without a contract.

“Dealing with this foolishness is going to cost county taxpayers money, and the sheriff can avoid that by stopping immediately,” Commissioner Cynthia Long said.

Some county leaders, including Boles and District Attorney Shawn Dick, took issue with the agreement not requiring “Live PD” crew members to be identified as material witnesses, and that the agreement doesn’t require raw, unedited footage caught by cameras to be retained for evidence.

Chody had previously told Dick he would provide the witness information regardless of it not being stipulated in the agreement.

On Tuesday, Chody responded via Twitter to the court’s actions.

“Commish Boles seems to have changed his tune on livepd (sic),” he tweeted. “He attended the watch party. And then calls me names? The remaining court takes what they hear in rumors instead of bringing to me. Commissioner Boles, Covey, & Long didn’t respond to my email. Why? Boles didn’t call back.”

Dick said that as of this week, the issue with evidence and “Live PD” remains unresolved. “I can’t prosecute a case if I don’t have the evidence,” he said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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