The City Council had no part in the decision to renew the Tulsa Police Department’s association with the television program “Live PD,” several councilors made clear Wednesday.
“It never went before the council,” said Councilor Lori Decter Wright.
That became a point of confusion because a public document posted after TPD’s return to “Live PD” was announced last month incorrectly stated that the contract had City Council approval.
That error was later corrected, but not before Decter Wright and other councilors began hearing from citizens unhappy that citizen interactions with Tulsa police would again be seen on the A&E series.
During a Wednesday committee meeting, Councilors Decter Wright, Kara Joy McKee and Vanessa Hall-Harper expressed reservations about TPD’s participation.
“I don’t see the benefit other than entertainment value,” said McKee. “I’ve never been one much for gladiator sports. But the main thing that concerns me is that while ostensibly the participants in ‘Live PD’ are consenting, some of those in these programs are not necessarily of age to consent.”
McKee said that while faces are blurred and voices are altered, many of the people shown are still identifiable and may not realize the potential implications of giving their consent. She said many of those who agree to participate appear to be low income and may be unduly susceptible to the small payment offered.
“It’s abuse of people in poverty,” she said.
Decter Wright agreed and said she’s also concerned because much of this year’s “Live PD” action occurs in her east Tulsa district.
“For the business community, there’s a question of whether this is the best way,” she said.
Tulsa’s previous involvement with “Live PD” featured a special operations unit working largely in Hall-Harper’s district.
“No one I’ve spoken to wanted ‘Live PD’ back,” Hall-Harper said.
“We’ve been told it will be different this time, but I don’t know,” she said. “It seems to me it’s profiting off black, brown and poor people.”
Neither the city nor the Police Department receives any money for participating in the TV program, but Mayor G.T. Bynum said last month that TPD believes the exposure is beneficial.