WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas — Williamson County commissioners have unanimously decided to sever their contract with the show "Live PD," according to the county.
The Williamson County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to terminate the contract between the county and Big Fish Entertainment, the producer of the show, on Aug. 20. The show must stop recording on Williamson County property in 30 days.
The vote came amid new questions by the KVUE Defenders and others about whether the sheriff's office has a duty to collect video from “Live PD” producers so that it can be used in criminal cases.
It also follows months of scrutiny on the participation in the show by the Williamson County Sheriff's Office.
District Attorney Shawn Dick and a group of defense lawyers sent several emails and memos in June – soon after commissioners agreed to renew the contract – about a provision in the document that said the video is owned by Big Fish Entertainment and that it will be destroyed within 30 days.
The dispute resulted in no action at the time but intensified in recent days.
"I had always assumed that the footage was available if someone wanted to get it. I didn't realize that apparently the footage is being destroyed," Dick said in an interview last week.
Dick and defense lawyers said that the videos should be preserved because they can help bolster an investigation – or prove a suspect's innocence.
However, an attorney representing the sheriff's office said that because "Live PD" crews are not law enforcement, they have no duty or legal obligation to keep the video.
Attorney Jason Nassour said in an email in June that the footage taken by "Live PD" crews is no different than a citizen filming and that Dick is attempting to place an inappropriate regulation on sheriff's deputies to collect the video.
The president of the Williamson County Defense Lawyers Association also objected in June to Dick about the lack of preservation of the video.
"The sheriff cannot contractually sign away his duty to collect and retain evidence made during an investigation of an alleged criminal act," Hesse wrote.
Big Fish Entertainment provided the following statement on Tuesday:
“It is disappointing that 'Live PD' became embroiled in an issue of Williamson County politics, especially with our last scheduled appearance there already slated for this weekend. We thank the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office and the community for their participation and wish everyone of Williamson County the best, as we shift our attention to the many other agencies around the country asking to work with 'Live PD.'”
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