New Orleans police could again be stars of the small screen — and potentially get a little help doing their jobs — if talks with a Los Angeles production company pan out.
Representatives from television production giant ITV America met this week with Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson to discuss filming an upcoming crime series with the help of the New Orleans Police Department.
The deal, if approved, would mark a return by the NOPD to the world of reality television, following the city’s cancellation of contracts with two true-crime A&E series in 2016.
The president of ITV’s crime programming division, Kathryn Vaughan, told the City Council on Thursday that it “would be an honor” to film in the city.
“It’s a big endeavor to take on what we have proposed to them, and they have a lot to think about,” Vaughan told the council about the proposed arrangement. “Fingers crossed, we’d love to be able to come and work in New Orleans.”
Vaughan was the creative force behind the TNT and later Oxygen series “Cold Justice,” a show that sends top investigators to help local law enforcement solve long-dormant homicide cases.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the proposed New Orleans show would send an outside expert in to help the NOPD, or simply film officers as they work.
ITV is also the company behind other true-crime shows like A&E’s "Marcia Clark Investigates The First 48" and Discovery’s "Killing Fields."
Vaughan’s meeting with the mayor came just ahead of the CrimeCon Convention, an event for true-crime fans being held at the Hilton Riverside Hotel from Friday through Sunday. The stars of "Cold Justice" are presenting at the convention.
But Cantrell’s spokesman said it’s too early to tell where the conversations will end up — a statement that production company officials echoed Friday.
“The administration has had some preliminary conversations with the producers about this project,” Beau Tidwell said. “It’s in the very early stages and nothing has been determined at this point.”
The NOPD has been filmed before. The A&E series "The First 48" followed local cops for seven episodes during its 15th season.
That deal and a similar partnership with A&E’s "Nightwatch" were lauded at the time by police advocates for boosting the profiles of local law enforcement and helping them earn the trust of the community.
But the shows have also created headaches. After "The First 48" chronicled the NOPD's investigation into Shawn Peterson, who police said killed his estranged girlfriend Christine George, their son Leonard George and her daughter Trisa George in Gentilly in 2013, Peterson's attorneys asked the production company for any unaired footage.
The company, Kirkstall Road Enterprises, swore in court that no extra tape existed. Later, Peterson's attorneys found footage of an interview with a friend of Christine George. They accused the producers of lying in court and wanted Criminal District Court Judge Laurie White to hold a company official in contempt.
White refused. But she minced no words about her feelings on the NOPD's involvement in the series.
"I wish that the city would never contract with 'The First 48,' and I hope in the future they would think through that,” White said in court, according to The Times-Picayune. "It causes the court great concern to have to deal with the additional problems."
The city and NOPD ended their partnerships with A&E less than a year later, with a spokesman saying at the time that the NOPD wanted to focus solely on crimefighting.
Such shows can be helpful for law enforcement because they can jog the memories of potential witnesses or informants who earlier may have been reluctant to come forward, said Joe Giacalone, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor and retired New York Police Department sergeant who once commanded a squad of cold-case detectives.
"Maybe it was fear, or they were worried about their kids, but their circumstances change, their kids move away, it's been eating away at them, and they've just been waiting to be asked to come forward," Giacalone said.
Welcoming the camera crews isn't without its risks, especially if police mistakes — such as mishandled evidence — are caught on clips that defense attorneys can then use in court.
"But I think the pros far outweigh the cons," Giacalone said. "Any media on these old cases is a good thing."
Staff writer Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this report.