AUSTIN (KXAN) - The City of Austin this week launched a new reality TV series about Austin’s police cadet training academy.
It follows the trials and experiences of two police cadets, a male and female. Coincidentally, it comes during a time of intense public scrutiny after July’s deadly police shooting of Larry Jackson Jr.
For City of Austin senior video producer Jonathan Uhl (a former KXAN News photographer) it was a story that needed to be told.
“For me, it’s a labor of love," he said. "It really is, I love to tell stories."
Uhl spends most days behind the camera recording the city’s many council and committee meetings, city-led news conferences, and creating public service announcements.
But during one recent eight-month police cadet training period, police trainers gave him unfettered access, night and day. Uhl shot the series all on company time. He later edited it and even produced the music. The series didn’t cost the city extra penny.
Normally hiring a production company to produce eight, half-hour shows would cost thousands of dollars.
“With my busy schedule it’s hard to fit things in," Uhl said, "but I made it work."
He followed two cadets through the process and tried to humanize a sometimes brutal, military-like experience.
“The police department puts hours of training into their cadets," he said. "It’s very surprising and I think the citizens of Austin will find it very surprising."
For APD the series is an easy marketing tool for a department lacking many female applicants or those from minority groups, recruits who would reflect Austin’s growing diversity.
But police say they hope the raw, in-your-face series won’t simply glorify police, or worse, marginalize a department whose use of-force policies are under the public microscope after half a dozen officer-involved shootings this year.
“There are a lot of negative things that are portrayed on the news, but it’s not easy to be a police officer," said officer Craig Smith who serves as an on-call public information officer and is six years out of the Austin Police Academy. "There’s a lot of heartache and there’s a lot of pain."
“Our police department is all about transparency good and bad, we’re not going hide from anything,” Smith said.
“This video will show what it takes, the requirements to be a police officer,” he said, pointing out many cadets fail out of the academy for various reasons.
As for the two officer cadets featured in the video series, Uhl isn't giving out any clues about their time at the academy.
“You’ll have to wait to see,” he said.
The series airs Fridays at 7 p.m. on Channel 6 through October 11. It’ll also run on the city's You Tube channel.
Other people involved in the production as microphone boom operators were an intern, Fransisco Gonzales, who now works for Killeen’s city government station, and James Williams, another City of Austin videographer.
The video production appears high for the series. Uhl said The City of Austin has won the national award for overall excellence for a government station two years in a row from an organization called Natoa. An Emmy the city received was the first for the City of Austin for videography.
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