“Live PD” host Dan Abrams is answering questions about why the show, which was canceled Wednesday, destroyed footage of the tragic last moments of 40-year-old postal worker Javier Ambler, who died in police custody last year.
In a lengthy, self-written Q&A on his website Law & Crime, Abrams expressed regret over having not saved the footage, attributing the decision to “Live PD” policy.
“Given what happened, I wish the tape had been preserved and the policy should have had an exception for this sort of situation,” he said. “Many of us were advocating for a change in the policy before the show was canceled.”
The policy in question, he explained, was that footage is deleted after a few weeks to prevent law enforcement from “attempting to use Live PD video to prosecute citizens seen on the footage.”
He added that the footage is saved if there is a specific legal request to do so, but says that no requests were made to save the footage from last March until this week.
“Live PD was there to chronicle law enforcement, not to assist the police as a video repository for prosecuting alleged criminals,” he continued. “In this particular case, the Williamson County Sheriff apparently requested that Live PD retain the video pending an investigation. Live PD did just that for three months until June, 2019 when the Williamson County Sheriff informed Live PD attorneys that their investigation was complete using the body cam footage that they had.”
He also clarified that footage of Ambler’s death was never aired on the show due to a policy preventing them from airing fatalities. In retrospect, he said, he wishes the show would have aired “everything up to Javier Ambler’s final moments.”
“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,” Abrams wrote.
Now, Abrams says he is just “frustrated and sad” over the cancellation.
“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.”
In a statement to TheWrap, the rep for A&E confirmed what Abrams said about the decision not to air the footage, and said that neither A&E or producers were asked to provide footage to law enforcement. The network also explained that it is their policy not to retain footage.
“As is the case with all footage taken by Live PD producers, we no longer retained the unaired footage after learning that the investigation had concluded,” the spokesperson said. “As with all calls we follow, we are not there to be an arm of the police or law enforcement but rather to chronicle what they do and air some of that footage and our policies were in place to avoid having footage used by law enforcement against private citizens.”