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'Live PD' was canceled. But in one Texas county, its twisted legacy lives on

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Williamson County
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Even at that early hour, as a crime scene technician from the sheriff’s office arrived to photograph the body, Waldon felt convinced that Ambler wouldn’t have died were it not for the presence of the cameras from "Live PD."“There is no way that pursuit would have been allowed to continue if they weren’t trying to make good TV,” Waldon said.For less than a year, "Live PD" had been following Williamson County deputies as they arrested drunk drivers and suited up in tactical gear to serve arrest warrants. The arrest warrant stemmed not from a new drug manufacturing case, but from a judge revoking his bond after Blake admitted to using drugs and alcohol while on pretrial supervision.“This was done,” Fairchild said, “totally, without a doubt, to make TV.”Patricia Gutierrez, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, said in a statement that the deputy’s account that an opportunity to make a peaceful arrest was abandoned in order to make TV is untrue.Planned search and arrest warrants, Gutierrez said, are “executed using the safest timing and resources.” She did not elaborate.A spokesperson for Big Fish Entertainment said that producers never pressured law enforcement to produce material."Live PD" turned policing on its head in Williamson County in other ways, too, according to interviews with nearly a dozen former and current deputies.Once, detectives couldn’t use a license plate reading tool they needed to investigate a string of residential burglaries because it was being used on patrol with "Live PD," the former deputy said. In one case, the former deputy said, detectives were told to postpone filing a search warrant for a week to coincide with filming, causing them to lose access to critical DNA evidence.In addition to serving warrants for the cameras, deputies increasingly initiated dangerous, high-speed pursuits — like the one that led to Ambler’s death — according to reporting by The Austin American Statesmen and ABC affiliate KVUE, which have extensively covered the fallout over "Live PD" and the sheriff’s office.“'Live PD' was a distraction allowing complete and utter destruction of standardized best practices in law enforcement,” the former deputy said.Dispatchers were told not to assign calls to deputies riding with "Live PD," said one former Williamson County dispatcher, who spoke on anonymity because the dispatcher still works in the field. But the Williamson County district attorney saw it another way.It was a “brutal takedown,” Dick said.Mitchell’s case is one of several excessive force incidents involving Williamson County deputies investigated by the Texas Rangers over the past year.Attorneys representing Camden and Johnson said in a joint statement that “we have reason to believe the Texas Rangers looked into this use of force and did not identify any potential crimes committed by Johnson and Camden.”A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety declined to comment on the investigations.When Ramsey Mitchell’s mother, Sandi Price, learned of Ambler’s death, she wondered why the same deputies had been put back in front of TV cameras, why "Live PD" was still in the county at all.“Everybody that they stop and everybody they arrest and everybody they throw down in the street, those people aren’t actors,” Price said. “I just felt lucky that no one was hurt.”‘Boiling point’From the start, Williamson County’s top prosecutor was uneasy about "Live PD" coming to town.“You just see so many things that you want to try to correct or fix,” Dick said, describing what it’s like for a lawyer to watch policing in action.Big Fish Entertainment’s contract allowed the sheriff’s office to review recorded segments, as well as the right to have a representative in the “local control room” to review material as it was shot.What was most problematic for Dick was a stipulation in the contract that called for raw video to be destroyed by producers within 30 days, “except to the extent Producer is required to retain the Raw Footage pursuant to a valid court order or other state or federal laws.”When he read the contract, Dick thought the provision was “ridiculous.”Dick said he told Chody when "Live PD" first began filming that prosecutors needed footage and contact information for crew members who witnessed incidents. It began to look, he said, like prosecutors were withholding evidence from defendants.Dick emailed a memo to Chody outlining what would be required of the Sheriff’s Office if his office were to prosecute felony cases that appeared on "Live PD."He reminded the sheriff that videos of deputies doing police work “are evidence — just as the recording from a body cam or dash cam is evidence.” Texas law, he added, prohibits the destruction of evidence during an ongoing investigation.Dick said he warned the sheriff that his office would be forced to decline to prosecute cases involving the show if the presence of "Live PD" wasn’t made known to prosecutors at the time of a case’s filing, and if witness lists and raw footage weren’t provided.Records show that’s what happened. According to documents received through a public records request, since January 2019, the Williamson County district attorney’s office has declined to prosecute at least eight felony cases associated with "Live PD."The spokesperson for Chody's office said in a statement that Big Fish Entertainment owned the video it produced and that obtaining a court order to preserve it was "the job of lawyers in the prosecutor's office."“The sheriff’s office adjusted our reporting once requested to do so by the DA’s Office,” the spokesperson added.Dick said Chody didn’t only withhold "Live PD" footage. The sheriff failed to disclose that a man died in a police encounter in front of "Live PD" cameras.The county’s top prosecutor didn’t learn about Javier Ambler’s death until more than a year after it happened.“The whole while I’m discussing needing video evidence with the sheriff and his staff, they knew about it,” Dick said. “But it was never mentioned to me.”The sheriff’s office spokesperson said there was no need to alert Dick because Ambler’s death occurred in the neighboring county.“I don’t think that’s normal at all,” Dick said.Javier AmblerThe incident that led to the cancellation of "Live PD" began when deputies spotted a white Honda Pilot riding with its high beam headlights on.The pursuit of Javier Ambler carried on through Williamson County into the city of Austin, the seat of Travis County, where he crashed his car for a fifth and final time and exited the vehicle.In June, The Austin American Statesman and KVUE published disturbing video of Ambler’s struggle with police and his final moments gasping for air, captured by the body camera of an Austin police officer who responded to the scene.

As said here by Hannah Rappleye