Chattanooga becoming a destination for police reality TV shows

Chattanooga becoming a destination for police reality TV shows

October 3rd, 2011 by Kate Harrison Belz in News

Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press Thursday in East Chattanooga Chris Voos, producer and camera operator for a truTV show called "Police POV," films as the Chattanooga police Crime Supression Unit checks out a vehicle.

AT A GLANCE


Spot a Chattanooga Cop:

• "Cuff'd"-Airs Mondays at 11 p.m. on MTV

• "Police P.O.V."-Second season begins Nov. 6 at 10 p.m. and will run Sundays on truTV

• "COPS"-Airs Saturdays at 8 p.m. on Fox

To the Chattanooga channel surfer, a series of high-speed police chases aired on television over the last several months may have looked jarringly familiar.

In one clip on truTV's new show "Police POV," a van veers onto the shoulder of Interstate 24, clips a vehicle and rolls down an embankment, taking out a utility pole. And then the driver pulls onto Rossville Boulevard with Chattanooga police Officer Jim Fielden hot on his tail.

This is just one of a growing collection of nationally aired chases, drug busts and stake-outs featuring Chattanooga's men and women in blue.

"Police POV" is one of three police reality TV shows to select Chattanooga as a filming location in the past year.

"COPS" finished wrapping up a six-week stint taping in the city in August. Last winter, Chattanooga played host to MTV's new police show "Cuff'd," which is now halfway through its first season.

And the department is entertaining requests from two other film agencies, said police spokeswoman Sgt. Jerri Weary.

She said she's not sure why Chattanooga has become a destination for police shows.

"I don't know what criteria they look at when selecting cities," she said. "Maybe they like working with this department. I'm not sure."

She paused and added, "I think they got a lot of good footage here."

Rob Dorfmann, who has served as an executive producer on both "Police POV" and "Cuff'd," said many factors go into producers' department selections, but a city's crime rate or crime patterns are not among them.

"In any city you've got crime," he said. "We literally contact hundreds of departments at the beginning of the selection process, to see who is interested in participating."

He said the shows like working in midsize cites like Chattanooga because they are able to work more closely with the departments. For "POV," crews also worked with departments in Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Fort Smith, Ark., he said.

For Dorfmann, the key sticking factor for Chattanooga has been the rapport producers have built with the department.

"I've worked at 50 different departments, and these folks were just very good to work with," Dorfmann said. "They're cops, but they're still themselves. They don't come off like stereotypical hard-nosed cops. They come off very human, still show a lot of finesse."

The police department receives no compensation for playing host to the shows -- besides the occasional "COPS" T-shirt, said Weary.

"There's no real tangible benefit to the department," she said. "It can be actually somewhat of a burden on manpower, changing work assignments to do it."

But she said the department likes participating because it allows officers' day-to-day work to be showcased.

"Police POV" allows viewers access to the officers' actual point of view through a small camera fitted to their temple. "Cuff'd" highlights the interactions between cops and freshly arrested young people in the squad car on the way to jail.

"You get to see a more personal side of the cop you usually don't get to see," said Dorfmann.

Weary and city officials say they're not worried about the shows creating a reputation for Chattanooga as a hub of criminal activity.

"You may not like the fact a show is R-rated or about crime, but while [film crews] are here they have the opportunity see the good things our city is doing," said Missy Crutchfield, Department of Education, Arts & Culture administrator for Chattanooga. "I think it speaks volumes of our police department to be open to this. It shows we're confident of what we do."

The police department reviews the video before it airs, and has the power to confiscate any shots relating to ongoing investigations.

"We only edit for legality," Weary said. "Other than that, it's raw footage. It is what it is."