Williamson County votes to keep agreement with ‘Live PD’ production company

Williamson County

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Television cameras will keep rolling on the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. 

The Commissioners Court voted 3-2 Tuesday to keep the agreement that the county has with Big Fish Entertainment, the production behind “Live PD.” The popular A&E show began featuring deputies from the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office in November 2018.

Before the narrow vote Tuesday, Sheriff Robert Chody told the commissioners that he received more than 100 emails overnight from fans who wanted to see Williamson County remain on the show.

“To be completely frank with you, the community wants it on a large scale,” Chody told the court. “There’s always going to be naysayers. We are going to make mistakes. I promise you we’ll do our due diligence, and we can do better. I promise you we’ll do better.”

Commissioner Cynthia Long introduced the proposal to terminate the deal with “Live PD.” She said she supports deputies and their work, but added that she no longer thought the show was in the best interest of the county. 

During her remarks, she brought up the complaint filed last month by a Georgetown lawyer against a Williamson County commander, who reportedly told deputies that it was his goal for one of them to have sex with a “Live PD” producer. 

“Association with the show has already inflicted a black eye on the county because of highly inappropriate comments made regarding it,” Long said. “What I have heard from community leaders, citizens and business owners is that they don’t believe a national TV show highlighting crime is an accurate portrayal of life in Williamson County.”

Chody said the show has led to better recruitment, more community engagement and changes in policy. For instance he said he received a lot of criticism about arrests happening on the show for minor marijuana possession. 

“Because of the many complaints I got about that, I approached the County Attorney’s office and said what else can we do?” Chody said. “Cite and release for possession of marijuana came about for the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office because of ‘Live PD.’ That’s another positive.” 

Commissioner Valerie Covey joined Long in voting to terminate the contract. She asked the sheriff about rumors that deputies waited to serve warrants until filming happened.

“Do we delay, do we change our process, do we anything in order for the camera to film?” Covey asked Chody. He responded, “No, not that I’m aware of, no.” 

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell joined the two other commissioners, Terry Cook and Russ Boles, who ultimately voted for the sheriff’s office to keep working on the show. However, Gravell voiced disapproval for a response shown involving the SWAT team.

“The ‘Live PD,’ I like. I like what it does for the community. I like what it does for the county,” Gravell said. “I’m not comfrotable with what I saw with the SWAT.” 

Chody assured the commissioners that he would not allow cameras to roll on sensitive situations like SWAT operations again.

“If that’s the case and that keeps ‘Live PD’ here, then I’m okay with that,” Chody said after the meeting Tuesday. 

Tanya Valencia, who lives in Georgetown, said that she became a fan of the show because of Williamson County’s involvement. However, she said it may affect the county’s image because it does highlight crime. 

“I can see where it brings a negative thing to Williamson County,” Valencia said, “but I think people like to see what’s going on in Texas, too. I think it’s exciting, so it would be unfortunate if they took it off.”

KXAN reached out Monday to Big Fish Entertainment for comment but has not received a response yet. 

The current contract between the production company for “Live PD” and the sheriff’s office has expired. After the vote Tuesday, those talks can now resume. A deal will be brought back to the county commissioners for another vote at a later date. 

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