A day after the cancellation of A&E’s Live PD, host and executive producer Dan Abrams is speaking out about the controversy over video footage captured by the show of the death of Javier Ambler in police custody last year and his frustration over the series’ cancellation.
Answering questions posed by himself on his Law and Crime website, Abrams reiterated his previous statements that Live PD, had a “long standing policy to only keep footage for a few weeks absent a specific legal request to retain it.”
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At issue is video footage captured by the show during Ambler’s in-custody death by Williamson County, TX, police in 2019. Abrams confirmed Ambler’s death was recorded by Live PD on video, but said that it never aired because “it involved a fatality and A&E standards and practices didn’t permit us to show a fatality on the show.”
While Ambler’s death occurred last year, video recorded by police officers was obtained and released by news organizations just this month. During the arrest, Ambler, who had been tased by police multiple times, repeatedly stated “I can’t breathe” and “please save me” before dying.
Abrams added, “The reason for this policy was so that we did not become an arm of law enforcement attempting to use Live PD videos to prosecute citizens seen on the footage.” He stressed that the point of the show was “to chronicle law enforcement, not to assist the police as a video repository for prosecuting alleged criminals.”
He also says he was informed by the show’s attorneys that Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore “never asked” for the footage, “nor did anyone else in law enforcement or any other attorney make a request to them for the footage before this week, over one year later.”
In retrospect, Abrams says he now wishes “the tape had been preserved and the policy should have had an exception for this sort of situation.”
“Many of us were advocating for a change in the policy before the show was canceled,” he said. “It would have been very difficult to watch but in an ongoing effort to show all sides of policing I wish this had been aired just as we had shown many other controversial moments that led to criticism of, and appreciation for, police.
As for the series’ cancellation, Abrams said “I am frustrated and sad because I truly believed in the mission of the show to provide transparency in policing. I completely agree with advocates calling for more body cams on officers and more uniform rules for their use. It seems to me that the antidote to bad policing and officers is transparency and that means more body cams and more shows like Live PD. It’s important to distinguish Live PD from a show like Cops that just presented a highlight reel of crazy moments. Live PD was totally different — following the officers in real time, in their real environments showing the nerves, the adrenaline, the bad, the good, and often the mundane and boring. I will miss it all.”
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