AUSTIN, Texas (KEYE) — Following the cancellation of "Live PD" by A&E amid the controversy over the in-custody death of Javier Ambler, host Dan Abrams said he wished the show had retained the footage of his death.
Ambler died in the custody of the Williamson County Sheriff's Office following a chase last year.
Answering questions on his website Law & Crime, Abrams again echoed that the "Live PD" production had a "long standing policy to only keep footage for a few weeks absent a specific legal request to retain it."
Abrams confirms Ambler's death was recorded on video, and that it never aired on the show due to A&E standards and practices not permitting the show to feature a fatality.
He also claims attorneys for the show say Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore "never asked" for the footage, "nor did anyone else in law enforcement or any other attorney make a request to them for the footage before this week, over one year later."
Abrams says the reason for the show's policy of not retaining the footage was so that it "did not become an arm of law enforcement attempting to use Live PD videos to prosecute citizens seen on the footage."
He adds that "Live PD" kept the footage for three months at WilCo's request, pending an investigation, and deleted it after WilCo told them their investigation was complete using the body cam footage that they had.
Abrams says he wishes, in retrospect, the show had kept the footage:
Given what happened, I wish the tape had been preserved and the policy should have had an exception for this sort of situation. Many of us were advocating for a change in the policy before the show was canceled.
He also says he wishes the show had aired the video "up to Javier Ambler's final moments" in an effort to show all sides of policing.
On the show's cancellation, Abrams added this final note:
I am frustrated and sad because I truly believed in the mission of the show to provide transparency in policing. I completely agree with advocates calling for more body cams on officers and more uniform rules for their use. It seems to me that the antidote to bad policing and officers is transparency and that means more body cams and more shows like Live PD. It’s important to distinguish Live PD from a show like “Cops” that just presented a highlight reel of crazy moments. Live PD was totally different — following the officers in real time, in their real environments showing the nerves, the adrenaline, the bad, the good, and often the mundane and boring. I will miss it all.
In an interview on CNN, Abrams said, "Looking back on it, do I wish Live PD would have retained (the video) yeah. Do I wish there were more exceptions to the rule that was in place? Yeah."
"It sounds to be the policy Live PD is pursuing is a policy designed to protect police departments and police officers," said Jeremi Suri, a policy and history professor at UT's LBJ school. "It sounds like they are trying to make certain that they don't keep any record that could be used against police officers and that's precisely why we need this record in this case."
Since the body camera video was made public on Monday, Ambler's family have said they discovered new details of Javier Ambler's death and have called for the deputies and Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody to be held accountable.
Suri said Ambler's family can legally seek a discovery to gather all evidence in his death and seek compensation for sustenance for the family now that an income source is gone. The details surrounding Ambler's death can also be used to help change law and police policy, said Suri.
Both Austin Police and the Travis County DA have their own investigations underway.