FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) - Broward's Sheriff apparently believes the lines of reality and a reality show have become too blurred for comfort and he wants it to stop, now.
Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti has put his foot down with the producers of the reality show "Police Women of Broward County", which is taped in Broward using members of BSO, after he found out they allegedly coerced and paid arrested suspects to sign release forms so their faces could be shown on television.
After Lamberti confronted representatives from the TLC network and the production company RelativityReal, one of the shows producers was fired on Monday.
"The producers crossed the line. I told them we are not going to arrest people and then bail them out," said Lamberti.
Ten episodes of the new season, which feature three deputies from the 2009 season and two new ones, have been shot since January. Crews will return and shoot three more before it airs in May.
Lamberti said he was not aware that the production company was reportedly coercing suspects to sign release forms until he received information from the Sun-Sentinel that a drug suspect and his girlfriend were paid $500 for his bail in exchange for allowing the program to show their faces. Lamberti said the show's producers should not be cutting deals with those arrested.
It is not against the law for someone to help pay another person's bail, and it's common practice among television reality programs to make payments, if needed, to get 'releases' top allow a person's face to be used in a production. At issue is whether or not suspects felt pressured or coersion when asked to sign the form.
The county's Public Defender's Office is reportedly aware of at least three cases in which the show's producers offered or paid cash in exchange for the signing of release forms.
"The way it is done, it is not good for the community and demeans the criminal justice process," Public Defender's Office Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes Jr. told CBS4's Joan Murray.
In additional to payments, some of those featured in segments of the new season say they felt pressured to do so by the deputies or the show's producers. A Pompano Beach woman who reported a date rape in January said she was unsettled when one of the show's featured deputies, Julie Bower, pushed her for details in front of an all male crew.
Lamberti said his deputies have been trained to act professionally and resist pressure from producers to play to the camera.
The deputies featured in the new season each have independent contracts with RelativityReal. The production company has also pledged to donate three thousand dollars per episode to three charities; Women In Distress, the PACE Center for Girls and the Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel contributed to this report.
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