On Patrol: Live co-host Curtis Wilson says police 'want to do the right thing'

·7 min read

When On Patrol: Live premieres July 22 on Reelz, fans of Live PD will probably feel some déjà vu. Not only does new law enforcement docuseries have the same weekly schedule as the now-canceled A&E series — it airs Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. to midnight — OPL also reunites Live PD hosts Dan Abrams and Sean "Sticks" Larkin in the studio.

Though the third musketeer of the Live PD hosting trio — crime reporter Tom Morris Jr. — was not able to return for On Patrol: Live due to scheduling conflicts, he was quick to suggest a replacement: Curtis Wilson, deputy sheriff in Richland County, S.C. "Tom was the first person to mention Curtis's name," says On Patrol: Live executive producer John Zito. "Curtis is just a tremendous people person, he's such a gentleman, and he just has the experience. I think he's going to bring a dimension to the show that is going to be special."

Deputy Sheriff Curtis Wilson
Deputy Sheriff Curtis Wilson

Curtis Wilson/Twitter 'On Patrol: Live' co-host Deputy Sheriff Curtis Wilson says police 'want to do the right thing'

Wilson isn't a complete newcomer to the OPL universe: He appeared as a contributor on Live PD during that show's "Wanted" segments. Now the man of many jobs — in addition to being a Deputy Sheriff, Wilson also works as a local TV news and radio host in South Carolina — is adding one more gig to his packed résumé. EW caught up with Wilson during a rare moment of free time.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You were a contributor on Live PD during its run. When they approached you about joining On Patrol: Live as one of the three full-time hosts, what interested you about that?

CURTIS WILSON: At first, I was like, are they kidding me? Are they really serious? I was excited because being a person who had been a part of the show for a long time and then getting this phone call to actually be on the set — that was amazing.

Having been on Live PD and being a member of law enforcement, how did you feel about the show being taken off the air in 2020?

Personally, I felt that it was bad timing. With everything going on with law enforcement in the community at that point, a show like that was needed, because you'll see there's some great officers doing some great things out there. A small percentage [of bad cops] does not cover everyone — look at what these officers are doing. Yes, they're human and they do make mistakes. But the majority of them are doing the right thing when they put that uniform on, and [Live PD] was able to show how they interact with people and deal with the community and with issues that go on. It's not all shooting and doing negative things.

Why do police departments want to appear on a show like this, especially since producers have what they call "exclusive creative control" over all footage?

I think it helps with the recruitment. You get to see this is what a police department is doing, and that can inspire [someone] to say, "Hey, I wanna be [part of] this department." Not only that, it showcases [the department] being proactive with the community. You see law enforcement officers patrolling and meeting and greeting and talking to the citizens out there… That's a positive when you see law enforcement doing the right thing. In this culture, that's important.

True, but letting cameras follow your department around live means that if an officer makes a mistake or does something wrong, it will most likely end up on air. Is that not seen as a big risk?

Transparency is very important with [police] departments. Richland County Sheriff's Department has a Citizens' Advisory Council. So if there's an officer that does something that's negative, or if it happens during On Patrol: Live, it's not over just because the show is over. That officer will be placed on disciplinary action, and the Sheriff here does not hide that fact. It's important for the citizens to see that…

I think the good has to go with the bad. If there's an officer that does something [wrong], people get to see it, and then they get to see what happens [to the officer]. We're responsible for our actions. Just because we have a badge and a gun doesn't give us the right to do and say anything. It will help ease fears if [viewers] see that officers are being held to that standard if they do something wrong.

Tom Morris Jr. suggested you as his replacement. Were you able to talk with him before you signed on?

No. It was really nice of Tom to suggest me. I think the idea came from my work with him on the previous show, with the "Wanted" segment. I guess he figured, you know, I was doing such a great job with those segments — not to put a feather in my cap, but I'm just saying he had to think that to suggest me, you know? [laughs]

Fans of Live PD are familiar with the dynamic between Dan and Sticks in the studio — what can you tell us about what role you'll play as co-host?

I'll probably bring some humor because I like to be funny when it's called for that. And then I'm also there to be that analyst, to be that citizen-slash-law enforcement officer. And coming from my media background with radio and TV, and then also law enforcement, I can talk about what's happening out in the community because I've been out there and I've talked to all these people and I could bring that, that side of things to it as an analyst.

If you have to put money down, how long do you think it's going to take for somebody to get pulled over and then say, "These aren't my pants"?

[Laughs] I'll venture to say it'll take three weeks, maybe a month. And, I'm being lenient with that.

What are your favorite kinds of calls for the public to see when cameras follow police officers live?

For me personally, I like seeing officers who are doing things to help deescalate situations, officers who are helping to solve issues. You know, it could be even something as small as helping get a stuck puppy out of a hole or something like that. Or finding somebody who's lost. Those things that touch your heart. I know other people like the other craziness that goes on, but for me, I like seeing people smile.

Some people will have concerns about On Patrol: Live and will expect it to be "copaganda" — what would you say to critics about why you think this show is important?

I believe this show is important because people will actually get to see what's going on. Anything can happen on this show, and that means we can't script it. Nothing is scripted. When deputies or officers go out on patrol, they never know what they're going to encounter. I hope that [critics] would give it a shot. I think it would help people who feel negative about [police] understand that they're human. They live in your community; they have kids that go to school just like you. It shows that they are part of the community, and they want to do the right thing. Watch the show and see what we do.

On Patrol: Live will have a new segment called Citizen Ride-Alongs. What do you think about that idea?

I think that's a great thing. A citizen who gets to ride along with an officer gets to see what they do on a daily basis. They get to see how situations are handled and so forth. And they'll have a newfound respect and appreciation for what we do because now they see it firsthand, they're not just hearing it from a third party. Then they'll go on the set and be able to explain that to other [viewers].

Have you ever had a citizen in your car?

I have actually. It can be [stressful] because you wanna make sure you keep them safe first and foremost — especially if you have to go on a call that could escalate from zero to a hundred really quick… Citizens love the blue lights and the siren when we're going to a call. That's what they love.

On Patrol: Live premieres on July 22 at 9 p.m. on Reelz.

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