Meeting the stars of ‘Live PD’

Story Courtesy of Fort Jackson

COLUMBIA — The Fort Jackson community met with the law enforcement personnel they watch on TV during a meet and greet with local stars of “Live PD” Nov. 29 at the NCO Club.

“Live PD” is an A&E show that takes viewers along for the ride on police shifts.

After nearly a year of trying to book the program’s Richland County deputy sheriffs, Fort Jackson’s Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation finally succeeded.

Brig. Gen. Milford H. “Beags” Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson commander, appeared to support the event. Community members turned up for autographs and photos.

Recruiters from the Columbia Recruiting Battalion attended to encourage youth excited about law enforcement to join the military police.

It was a perfect crowd, said Cheryl Woodhouse, the battalion’s public affairs specialist.

“There is a fear” about joining the police this day in age, she said, claiming the military angle builds in some level of comfort, especially for kids already living on post.

One military police member/recruiter at the event was Sgt. Christopher Grdinich.

He never intended to join the Army. Instead, Grdinich planned to become a sheriff. He enlisted when he discovered the five-year wait to become a member of the force in his hometown of Phoenix.

Some regulars from the show have military backgrounds of their own. Master Deputy Sheriff Chris Blanding of Sumter took after his dad, a former Air Force member, to the extent a self-described “homebody” can. He said he became a cop to follow in his footsteps.

Corporal Supervisor Deputy Sheriff Mark Laureano, of Chicago, is a veteran. He served in the Marine Corps. Both provided insight on their television experiences.

The show is beneficial because it depicts what law enforcement really does, Blanding said. It allows officers to It also hones in on the reality that when someone is shot by a police officer, there is more to the story than just the outcome, Laureano added.

Only the best of the force are chosen to represent them on air.

Laureano said it requires a quasi-audition. Not everyone is right for the role.

“You get people who freeze,” Laureano said. “They overthink it.”

Sheriff Leon Lott, who has prior experience working with the media, selects the “Live PD” deputy sheriffs from the bunch. Richland County’s department appeared on the television series “Cops” and “Beyond Scared Straight” before they were featured on “Live PD.”

Lott said they were initially approached for the shows because of their reputation as a “professional agency.”
Richland County’s organization is the only one that has been on “Live PD” for its entire two-year lifespan. Good communication skills and being community-oriented are criteria for deputy sheriffs who air, Lott said.

“We’re not actors and actresses,” he added. He doesn’t select based on who will be the most entertaining.

The deputy sheriffs do their jobs as normal while being taped. They don’t create drama to make it more exciting, Lott said, so slow nights are sometimes aired.

Laureano added that “the only difference (between a live night and a weekday shift) … is nothing.”

All of the same protocols are followed. The officers aren’t paid extra, and they don’t write additional tickets or anything of the sort to make it more interesting, Laureano added.

He said the boss is “very specific” on that rule.

Blanding added that the only real change is that law enforcement explain more of what is going on for the sake of the viewers.

There are two extra people in the squad cars those nights, one being the videographer, Blanding added.

Footage is taped by that person and a GoPro action camera mounted on the car, he explained.

While the show is considered “live,” there is a time gap of up to 15 minutes between taping and airing. That is done to prevent heartbreaking stories like the one Laureano witnessed during what he said was probably his worst experience on the show.

On one episode, the deputy sheriffs responded to a call of a man fatally shot in his front yard, Laureano said. The victim’s family learned of the tragedy while watching “Live PD.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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