First, there was “Cops,” a show that followed police officers and aired the most shocking or funny chases and arrests. Then, there was “First 48,” that focused on detectives solving murder cases. Now, for the past three years, there has been “Live PD,” which broadcasts live encounters with officers from eight law enforcement agencies, along with an in-studio host and roundtable of guests.
All three have been criticized for linking potentially innocent people to crimes they did not commit or criminal charges that were later dropped or of which they were acquitted. Now, a South Carolina man is suing the show, and the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, claiming his arrest on the program (which resulted in no conviction or even a trial) is hurting his reputation.
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On April 29, 2017, Greenville County deputies searched Frederick West and his friends while on “Live PD” in hopes of finding contraband. After an unsuccessful initial search, deputies began searching nearby areas and eventually found drugs hidden in a bush. West was arrested and charged with trafficking cocaine, and the arrest was also broadcast live on “Live PD.”
The charges against West, however, were dropped a year later due to insufficient evidence. But his arrest continues to be televised in reruns of the program. West says the re-airings have caused him ongoing pain and suffering and tarnished his character, according to his lawsuit. He also claims he targeted because of his race, is seeking actual and punitive damages from Big Fish Entertainment (which produces “Live PD”), A&E Television Networks (which airs the show) and the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office.
… At Lawsuits Waiting to Happen
Big Fish Entertainment, for its part, appears confident it did nothing wrong. “We have not been served with the complaint in this case,” Cameron Stracher, attorney for Big Fish Entertainment, said in a statement. “but any claim that someone’s rights were violated by the producers of Live PD is completely without merit.” The Greenville Sheriff’s Office declined to comment, as did A&E.
But it’s not the first time “Live PD” has been sued for the way it portrayed its subjects, and not even the first time the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office has been sued over its role on the show. Javonte Hall filed a lawsuit last year claiming gross negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and invasion of privacy after a literal run-in with the law was filmed on “Live PD.” Hall also claims he was targeted because of his race after an officer rammed his car in a parking lot, and although he was released without any charges being filed, the Greenville deputy involved “made various defamatory comments to the cameras, and commentators painted the Plaintiff as a dangerous criminal.”
- Miami Proposes $1.3 Million Settlement for Wrongfully Accused First 48 Subject (Miami New Times)
- ‘Cops’ and Suspects’ Rights: Whatcha Gonna Do When They Record You? (FindLaw’s Celebrity Justice)
- Criminal Procedure ‘Secret’ Study Tip: Watch ‘COPS’ (FindLaw’s Greedy Associates)
- 5 Things TV Cops Always Manage to Get Wrong (FindLaw Blotter)