With cell phone videos of police officers being added to social media, YouTube and news media outlets daily, and the huge success of series like LivePD and COPS, it was only a matter of time before someone would (seemingly) flip the script and tell of the side – focusing on police misconduct and brutality.
Viewers will have to look no further than Viacom’s BET. On October 16, 2019 a ten-part docuseries named “COPWATCH AMERICA” will air on the BET network.
On April 16, 2019 BET announced “Today, BET Networks announces its new 10-part one-hour docu-series “COPWATCH AMERICA.” Executive produced by London-LA based creative production company Renowned Films and Critical Content, the new original series, is a groundbreaking, high stakes, and controversial dive into the men and women on the front lines fighting police brutality and injustice. This action-driven, character-centric series gives viewers exclusive access to America’s fearless and distinct copwatch crews.”
The BET announcement goes onto state; ““COPWATCH AMERICA” cross-cuts the incredible stories of “copwatchers” from two U.S. cities, some of whom are life-long activists and others who are new to the movement. Through these characters, viewers will come to understand the specific issues facing each community. Armed only with their cameras, these “copwatchers” fight every day to protect citizens, amplify the truth, and keep abuses of power in check.” BET explains that the series will also take a closer look at the “copwatchers” themselves, who they are, and why they “put themselves on the line” to do what they do for the series.
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It is also reported that the series is meant to examine “all sides of the story, from police officers who insist they are just trying to build up their communities, to the “copwatchers” determined to speak truth to power…” Although there isn’t much more description of how this will actually look on the screen.
(A promo for the series can be seen below.)
The reasoning behind why this series is being brought to the national spotlight as described by Marisa Levy, the VP Head of Unscripted, BET Networks, “BET Networks is committed to bringing important stories of systemic issues of race and justice across our nation to light. We are taking this on in a way no other brand and network can, through platforms like our powerful ‘Finding Justice’ franchise and our upcoming original docu-series Copwatch America. We look forward to partnering with acclaimed storytellers Renowned Films and Critical Content and continue to empower our community and focus on activists who use video cameras to protect the rights and, in some cases, the lives of African Americans in police encounters.”
As reported by deadline.com the series is produced in connection with “Renowned Films, which was set up by Max Welch, Duane Jones and Tim Withers in 2012, and is co-produced by Critical Content.” Renowned Films has already created a COPWATCH series through the BBC.
Max Welch responded to the new BET series stating, “We’re incredibly excited to be working with BET and the Copwatch movement on such an important and powerful series. Copwatch America will be shocking, eye opening, exhilarating, explosive must watch action getting to the core of one of the biggest issues facing America, its police and the communities they serve today. Prepare for plenty of confrontation, powerful personal stories, injustices and debate, as we capture the groundbreaking stories of those on both sides of the story in search of truth.”
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As reported by Variety.com “BET said the show’s cameras will be “embedded” with activists in major cities and will also aim to give the perspective of law enforcement officers on incidents. BET said the series is slated for a fall premiere.” There were no further details on how these perspectives would be given, or how these events would be captured, other than by camera embedded.
Duane Jones went on to further explain why they felt this series was needed; “It has never been more of an important time to bring the remarkable stories of “copwatchers” across the U.S. and their continued fight against injustice to the public. Renowned understands how important the conversation sparked by Copwatch America will be, and we look forward to working with BET to dig deep into this complex narrative. With before seen, unprecedented access to the frontline over ten compelling episodes, we will detail the personal experiences of those affected on all sides by this deadly epidemic.”
Tom Foreman, the CEO of Critical Content, which backs Renowned Films stated, “I’ve spent my career telling law enforcement stories, but never from this perspective. Not even close. Hats off to BET for allowing us to tackle this subject matter in a way that speaks to their audience and this time.”
It is unclear at this time whether the 10 episodes will be renewed to continue further episodes. It also brings into question, if this will create a movement of individuals that will put themselves in harms way to get video footage of police officers. Not only will approaching officers who are in the midst of working a scene or a call, place the amateur filmmaker in harm’s way, but it also refocuses the attention of the officer, which could cause harm to them. Not to mention, other individuals that might be involved at the scene.
Arguably, checks and balances must be in place. Like in any population, there are always bad individuals. But do the actions of the few justify putting the greater population in danger? Is this type of action the best to weed out the bad seed?
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More information as reported from the BET press release:
ABOUT CRITICAL CONTENT
“Critical Content is a leading global independent content studio. Launched in October of 2015, the company focuses on unscripted and scripted programming for broadcast, cable and digital platforms. Critical Content currently has more than 50 projects in production for more than 30 different networks. Recent series include “Catfish” (MTV), “Very Cavallari” (E!), “StayHere” (Netflix), “Get a Room with Carson & Thom” and “Backyard Envy” (Bravo), “Ozzy and Jack’s World Detour” (A&E), “Who Shot Biggie & Tupac?” (FOX), “Caribbean Pirate Treasure” (Travel Channel), “The Case Of: JonBenét Ramsey” (CBS, Netflix), “The Great Food Truck Race” (Food Network), “Disney’s Fairytale Weddings” (Freeform), “Racing Wives” (CMT), HOME FREE (FOX), “StartUp” (Crackle, Amazon), “Limitless” (CBS), “Pretty.Strong.” (Oxygen), and “Young and Hungry” (Freeform).”
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