The controversial reality TV show “Live PD” was recently taken off the air, as the country is beginning to rethink its relationship with police, and how they are being portrayed in the media. Just like the show’s predecessor “COPS,” Live PD has been accused of crossing ethical boundaries in order to get their footage.
In one case, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office in Texas is being accused of intentionally passing up an opportunity to arrest their suspect, Asher Watsky, while he was in court, just so they could raid his home for the television cameras a few hours later. The court appearance and raid happened in May of 2019, but is just now getting new attention after the cancellation of the show.
“The second I saw the cameras, I’m aware of the Live PD program, I figured out right then, I had a feeling what was going on,” Asher said.
Gary Watsky, one of the occupants of the home, says that the SWAT raid was “all for show.”
“It was all for TV,” he said.
Watsky was wanted on a warrant relating to an assault charge that he faced from a fight that he got into with his roommate. He was fulfilling all of his court requirements for the initial charge, but for some reason, the police filed an additional charge against him, but didn’t activate it until after he appeared in court.
Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick was among many people involved with the case who felt that Watsky could have been arrested peacefully when he was in court less than four hours before the raid.
According to KVUE, Dick said that officials with the sheriff’s office admitted that they removed Watsky’s warrant from the record system so no one in the court would see it that day and try to arrest him.
They reportedly claimed that a SWAT raid on his home would be safer than arresting him after he passed through security in a courthouse. Dick has also identified at least five other cases where the Williamson County sheriff’s office used excessive force while cameras were rolling for Live PD.
Three former officers with the department have said that it was common for supervisors to push for arrests to happen during Live PD recordings, instead of off-camera where more peaceful interactions might be possible. One former officer, Gil Unger, complained to his supervisors but says that no one listened to him.
Law enforcement officials and legal experts insist that the tactics used in the Watsky raid are highly unusual. National law enforcement consultant Jeff Noble said that this raid may not have been necessary, and he fears—
“That this was staged for the value of live television.”
“That is not the type of situation to take lightly but, at the same time, it is not the type of situation I would expect a SWAT team to enter a home to make an arrest,” Noble said.
Both Live PD and Cops were taken off the air earlier this year in response to the growing protests against police brutality — when they encourage cops to do things like this, only good can come from it.
In June, TFTP reported on a similar instance with a much more tragic ending. Javier Ambler, a 40-year-old postal worker, was on his way home from a friendly poker game when he allegedly made the mistake of failing to turn off his brights when passing another vehicle.
Ambler’s last moments alive were captured on police body camera footage as well as footage from the crew from A&E’s reality show “Live PD.” He never resisted, posed a threat to cops, or attempted to attack them, yet he was thrown to the ground, repeatedly tasered, and the air squeezed from his body until he fell unconscious and died.