TV series to feature Sheriff’s Office body cam incident

By James R. Frye - Guest columnist

In late July of 2018, I received a call from a person who stated they were from England; thinking the call was possibly a scam, I didn’t return the call right away. I received another call later from the same person, and this time I was at my desk and answered it. It was Tom Goble of Arrow Media in London. Tom at first was hard to understand, as his English accent was pretty strong.

Tom started the conversation off by telling me he was with Arrow Media and that Arrow Media was doing a show called Body Cam for Investigation Discovery. He said he saw some footage on the internet and some news coverage of an incident our deputies were involved in, and that they would like to use our incident on the show. Tom asked if I would consider being involved. I told him I would reach out to all of our deputies that were involved and see if they would want to be involved in the project. Tom said if we agreed to be part of the series things would happen fast and asked that I start gathering the information they needed for their review of the incident. The deputies and I agreed to be involved and we started communicating by many phone calls, emails and FedEx packages back and forth providing them with everything we had involving the incident, the incident’s reports, audio of radio traffic and body cam and cruiser cam video. Tom conducted phone interviews will all of us that were going to be part of the filming, and those were followed up with more in depth interviews.

The incident they were interested in was from the Oct. 24, 2016, carjacking in Pasco that involved the suspect shooting at Deputy Joel Howell when he stopped the vehicle the suspect was driving. The incident resulted in a pursuit that ensued after the shooting and the suspect was later taken into custody at the Pasco trailer park. We had just issued Body Cameras to our road deputies approximately 30 days prior to the incident near Pasco.

Tom told me things would probably take place sometime in August. I received an email on Aug. 21 from Nayha Kalia, introducing herself, and that she would be part of the team coming from England to shoot the film. So we start with short phone interviews, releases for consent to film and releases for shooting at various places in Shelby County.

Then I receive an email from Nayha that the team is coming on Sunday the 26th of August. They sent me an itinerary of the schedule for the shooting that week. Not knowing what to expect, we were treated very well and the team that consisted of a producer, assistant producer and a videographer, they represented themselves in a very professional manner.

On Aug. 27 I was scheduled to be at the Hampton Inn in Sidney at 2 p.m. I arrived, was introduced to everyone and signed all of the waivers. They explained how the interview process would go and to include being instructed as to where to look into the camera. I have been interviewed and videoed many times, but this was nothing like what I’ve experienced before. I could actually see the producer in the camera; this was to keep you looking right into the camera at all times. The interview lasted about an hour and a half, and the thing I remember most was that it was extremely hot, and I was ever so glad to get out of there. Upon leaving I called the guys and told them to make sure they didn’t have their vest on because of the temperature of the room due to the lights being so hot. Deputy Howell, his wife Julie, Deputy Dave Spicer, and Deputy Frank Bleigh were all interviewed at the Hampton Inn. I believe there was only one of us that had to have their hair and makeup done prior to their interview.

On Tuesday the 28th of August they started filming at the Sheriff’s Office; this evening, in addition to the film crew they had a company with a drone, which they filmed Deputy Howell responding to the scene. For the rest of the week it was back and forth, with words being thrown out like action, take and repeats of it over and over; it was like being on a film set without any added props. They filmed Deputy Howell in his office, cruiser, the scene where it all transpired, Deputy Bleigh responding to the scene and day shoots along with night shoots. We even did some filming at the range. The best part was letting them shoot some weapons at the range, which they don’t get the opportunity to do very often unless they’re in the States because citizens in England are not allowed to have weapons. The film crew were to be in the States for a couple of weeks and once they left us, they were headed to the Cincinnati area to film another department.

The Body Cam series looks at the day to day activities of police officers throughout the country, through the use of body camera footage. Body Cam provides insight into the various dangerous situations that law enforcement officers must wade their way through, and how quickly a seemingly innocuous situation can escalate into a crisis. An average day can include anything from a domestic dispute that turns into a hostage crisis to an full-on shoot-out with an armed fugitive. The network calls the show “the ultimate ride-along” for those who are curious about the dangers of police work.

Each episode tells multiple stories and includes body camera and dashcam footage, dispatch and radio transmissions with additional officers on scene and interviews with responding officers who provide context to their decisions and an understanding of the aftershocks of the drama. The show also features emotional interviews with those who lived through the events.

The premiere episode focuses on a domestic dispute call that turns into a violent shoot-out, leaving an officer fighting for his life, and another incident in which a rookie is forced to pull his weapon on a busy highway when a pedestrian unexpectedly pulls a knife.

I asked about letting the “press” know about the project and I was met with a big “no,” followed by, we will let you know when you can let the preverbal cat out of the bag. We were told the show probably wouldn’t air until sometime after the first of the year in 2019, but just as fast as the filming occurred, the show is set to air earlier than expected. We were notified on Oct. 26, 2018, that the trailer for the show was released on the 19th of October. Body Cam will be a 10-part series with the premiere at 10 p.m. on Nov. 27 on Investigation Discovery. We still don’t know when our episode will air, but you can bet we will be tuned in at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays from here on out.

As law enforcement officers, we often tend to diminish the severity of the actions taken against us, until you’re asked to be involved in something like this, which then brings out all of the emotions. I believe each one of us that witnessed the incident will forever have our lives changed due to the actions of that October night.

By James R. Frye

Guest columnist

The writer is the chief deputy of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

The writer is the chief deputy of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.