Commissioners Ban 'Live PD' From County, Find Out Hard Way They Can't Do That
Georgetown, TX – There’s a battle underway over whether A&E’s “Live PD” will be able to continue filming in Williamson County after the sheriff signed an agreement to let production continue despite a ban on the show by the Williamson County Commissioners Court.
The Williamson County Commissioners Court voted to pull its sheriff’s department off of the nation’s most popular reality show in August of 2019 after the production company refused to allow the district attorney to have access to raw footage, Deadline reported.
Williamson County sheriff’s deputies made their debut on “Live PD” in November of 2018, and shortly thereafter, the district attorney asked production company Big Fish Entertainment for access to the raw footage, according to the San Marcos Daily Record.
District Attorney Shawn Dick and some defense attorneys argued that the footage contained potential evidence and could be used for investigations.
However, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office said that the production company had no legal obligation to preserve the video, the San Marcos Daily Record reported.
"I had always assumed that the footage was available if someone wanted to get it," Dick said. "I didn't realize that apparently the footage is being destroyed."
He took his complaints to local lawmakers and on Aug. 20, they voted to shut down participation in production.
“The Commissioners Court voted unanimously to terminate the contractual agreement between Williamson County and Big Fish Entertainment, the producer of the show ‘Live PD’,” Williamson County tweeted, according to Deadline.
The show was ordered to stop filming in 30 days which coincided perfectly with the launch of the new season on Sept. 20.
Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody was disappointed by the county commissioners’ decision, KUT reported.
Sheriff Chody said that “Live PD” had been good for sheriff’s department recruitment and community engagement.
So, after doing some research about who was actually in charge of giving Big Fish Entertainment access to the sheriff’s department, Sheriff Chody agreed to let the television show come back to his county and signed an agreement in March, according to the Statesman.
The Commissioners Court was furious with Sheriff Chody and voted Tuesday to send a letter to Big Fish Entertainment that ordered the production company to “immediately cease and desist using Williamson County facilities, vehicles and property for the purposes of filming, producing and publishing the TV series, ‘Live PD.’”
But it turned out that the Commissioners Court doesn’t actually have the authority to tell the sheriff that his department cannot be filmed, the Statesman reported.
Jason Nassour, the general counsel for Williamson County Attorney Dee Hobbs, said Sheriff Chody didn’t need permission from commissioners to sign an agreement with Big Fish Entertainment for the show’s production.
“The Commissioners Court said they’re in control of all county facilities. That is false,” Nassour explained. “The law gives the sheriff the control of his facilities and his equipment.”
On a conference call with the Commissioners Court on April 28, the commissioners seemed to take being cut out of the decision-making process personally, KVUE reported.
“You just dissed the Commissioners Court,” Commissioner Terry Cook told Sheriff Chody. “We're in the middle of a pandemic crisis, and you want to throw non-critical personnel into vehicles to travel around the county when we have 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' orders?”
Commissioner Russ Boles warned that county’s insurance premiums for law enforcement could increase if “Live PD” films without a contract.
Sheriff Chody took to Twitter to prove that Boles had been talking out of both sides of his mouth.
The sheriff posted a screenshot of a text exchange with Boles in February asking for tickets to a “Live PD” watch party for his family.
“Commish Boles seems to have changed his tune on livepd,” Sheriff Chody tweeted. “He attended the watch party. And then calls me names? The remaining court takes what they hear in rumors instead of bringing to me. Commissioner Boles, Covey, & Long didn’t respond to my email. Why? Boles didn’t call back.”
The new year-long agreement signed by Sheriff Chody in March gave producers and production personnel permission to enter and film at the sheriff's office and its facilities, as well as in the deputies’ patrol vehicles, and production resumed in April, KVUE reported.