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The growth in the number of reality TV shows that feature police officers has been noticeable in recent years. At the last count I spotted seven different series on British television - Police, Camera, Action!, Cops with Cameras, Traffic Cops, Police Interceptors, Cops, Road Wars and Sky Cops. A few thoughts:
1. The shows are much cheaper to produce than TV crime dramas. There are no paid actors, no sets, no stunt men, no equipment, props lighting or make up. Fixed costs are a camera, an editing suite and some background admin.
2. The programmes show no breaches in police regulations. No police officers on these "reality" programmes ever receive bribes, leak information to the press or beat up suspects. Although 400 people have died following police contact in the last ten years, no policeman has ever been convicted of murder or manslaughter for such a death in the UK. The shows are, therefore, effective PR for the various forces represented. I don't deny the police the right to present themselves in the best possible light, but it is worth asking what measures the media are taking to present the full range of police reality through television.
3. Members of the public are routinely filmed over a range of alleged and actual misdemeanours, and then have these acts broadcast to millions. On occasion when members of the public challenge the film crews, the police routinely state that the cameras are operating within the law, since the events filmed are taking police in public, and that there is freedom to film in public. On some occasions, it seems that the camera's role is close to that of incitement.
4. Members of the public should feel free to film police officers in the course of their duty, as long as they are not interfering with a police officer as s/he carries out their role. It would be quite unacceptable for the police to object to this, in my view.
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