Is Live PD Fake? Getting The Truth About The A&E TV Show

A&E's new show, Live PD, has been extremely popular showing several police departments "live" on Saturday nights.

Hosted by famous lawyer and journalist Dan Abrams, the show takes viewers along as it follows police officers around the country. And it provides some stunning insights into what police work is really like.

Something's Strange About Live PD

There are several strange things about the Live PD that make you wonder about its legitimacy.

For one, the people's faces are mostly shown unblurred. That's generally not done on TV -- you don't see it done on COPS or any other police show.

Even some well known fake shows blur out the faces in order to appear to be real.

Another strange thing about Live PD is video quality and camera placement.

The video quality is much higher than you would see with any standard method of transmission; the entire series is shot in HD and appears to have no hiccups as the cameras move around.

That is definitely not consistent with what you would expect of a live, unedited show.

Finally, the closed captioning and transcription on the show is very different from other live TV captioning. Other live TV captioning is filled with errors and gaps in transcription. That does not seem to happen on Live PD.

So what gives? Is Live PD just much better than other shows at what it does? Or is Live PD fake? Let's look at the facts.

Live PD Events Do Happen

One thing we know for sure is that the events on Live PD do happen. The police on the show are real, and the events that take place are real as well.

There was an incident in 2016 in which a woman recognized the body of her son, who had been shot to death.

Live PD received a lot of scrutiny over that incident, and some police departments pulled out of the show.

The producers of Live PD apologized and said that once they realized that the man was dead, they turned the cameras away.

So given that we can corroborate events, we know Live PD documents real events...but is it really live?

Why Doesn't Live PD Blur Faces?

The first thing that makes Live PD seem fake is the fact that very few of the faces of the suspects are blurred out.

It's a general rule in television that people need to sign release waivers in order to appear on screen.

There are multiple reasons for this, but they all boil down to the fear of being sued. Here is what Newmediarights.org has to say about it:

You need a release waiver when you are using another person's name, voice, signature, photograph (if readily identifiable), or likeness for exploitative purposes. Even if you have consent to initially record the person, you still need further consent to use or publish those recordings for exploitative purposes. A release waiver provides consent for how you intend to use the recordings.

The laws vary by state, but there is generally an exception for news/newsworthy material. The material should not be creative -- it should be providing information, and the recording must take place in public.

If Live PD isn't really live, then this is not a problem, as it's possible for the producers to get release waivers signed after the fact.

And of course, if Live PD is totally fake like some similar shows, the actors would sign release waivers as part of the hiring process.

However, assuming Live PD is real, they need to deal with this issue somehow. Given that Live PD is a reality show, and it follows real people suspected of wrongdoing, there is a reasonable argument for the producers to say the they are protected by law based on the news exemption.

That begin said, there is definitely legal exposure for A&E and the producers if they don't get a release. So far we haven't found any cases in which the producers were sued based on this.

If Live PD Is Real, How Is Everything Done In Real Time?

One of the things that seems most questionable about Live PD is the production quality of the show. Part of that is the closed captioning and transcription.

If you've ever watched the news with the closed captioning on, you've noticed the high incidence of errors and gaps in the transcription.

In fact, there are often sections of discussion marked inaudible or just skipped entirely. And that happens in a studio, when everyone is mic'ed.

Live PD takes place outside of a studio, where the audio quality varies greatly, and people can have all kinds of accents or speech issues, yet their captioning is perfect. How is that?

One thing to note is that although the show is called Live PD, it's not technically marketed as fully live. In fact, there is a known delay.

The exact length of the delay (for the live parts -- note that there are pre-taped parts marked as such) is unknown.

However, people on the internet who live in the locations being filmed have reported anywhere between 20 minutes and 2 hours.

One person on Reddit named "throwawaySWATguy," who claims to have been involved in the show, wrote this:

There is up to a 40 minute delay. PIOs and Chiefs/Sheriffs/Command Staff can log in to a secure portal and watch live to catch things that shouldn't air or need to be redacted.

The incident involving RCSD where the family discovered the death of a loved one was a mistake. There was a mixup of who was supposed to be monitoring the live feed.

Afterwards, all producers and all officers involved were given guidelines for future similar circumstances. The officers/deputies have total control of what the crew is or isn't allowed to film and should have interceded first regardless of the mixup a level above.

If the delay is 30 minutes or more, that would provide the studio with time to cut pieces together and provide a reasonably accurate transcription. But it still wouldn't help the producers get a release waiver.

It's unlikely that any real people suspected of a crime -- or arrested -- would be willing to sign such a release.

What About The Video?

One other question that comes up is about the video quality of Live PD. Normally, a high quality live remote shown on TV requires a satellite, which means that a satellite truck needs to be nearby.

It also means that the subject needs to be essentially stationary.

Live PD requires camera people to run around and follow suspects, which means that a satellite would be impractical, if not impossible. And video over other networks is unreliable and generally of low quality.

A company named VidOvation claims to have provided Live PD with the capability to transmit the video over multiple standard cell networks.

According to their press release, they provided a solution to the Live PD producers that combined multiple cell phone data streams in order to provide fast enough high quality video to make the show work.

So What's The Verdict? Is Live PD Fake? Or Is Live PD Real?

So what's the verdict? Well we know that Live PD is definitely real in that it shows real events. But it's not 100% live. It's slightly delayed in order to ensure that all of the requirements of the show are met.

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