Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Sister Wives" vs "Police Women of Broward County"

On Sunday, TLC ran two Christmas-themed episodes of the program "Sister Wives," which follows the polygamist Brown family. The episodes were filmed four months after the Browns "came out," and were being investigated by the Lehigh County sheriff's department. It was this investigation that led to the Browns leaving Utah for Nevada, which is presumably less intolerant of polygamy, at least reality television polygamy.

Intercut with a montage of the numerous Brown children dressing their Christmas tree (at a treacherously placed cabin the middle of a forbidding area of snow-covered Utah), father Kody Brown tearfully explains that families convicted of committing the "crime" of polygamy are broken up. Third wife Christine tells us that her grandparents were jailed for polygamy, with the wives separated and children sent off to various foster families, with all contact broken off.

It was about as moving a scene as you can expect from a reality show, but imagine if the Browns lived in Broward County?

Another TLC program, "Police Women of Broward County," follows a group of tough, semiphotogenic women who work for the police force of Broward County, Florida. Here is how wikipedia describes one of the show's cast members:
* Andrea Penoyer

Andrea is the total package — a smart and spunky 26-year old with a passion for her job. She's the only woman on one of South Florida's most effective anti-crime units. Andrea and her colleagues sweep the streets, work undercover and conduct intensive drug busts. Fast on her feet, she is the runner on the team and pops out of the car to chase the bad guy and take him down. They use whatever tactical methods are necessary to make the streets safer.

During the first season Andrea was a single mother, spending all her time off working out and training with her 8-year-old son, Dominic, who's typically glued to her hip. She takes him running, boxing, to the gym and even to the gun range. She wants Dominic to be tough and pushes him to be the best — in the same way she pushes herself. Between seasons, she became engaged with a single father with four children.

Andrea is also studying for a B.A. in public administration.
You know, wikipedia, sometimes I wonder about the impartiality of your articles.

Anyway, here is a picture of Andrea "Total Package" Penoyer:


And here is the "Total Package" offering up her philosophy of law enforcement, in a trailer for the first season of the show:


(via Radley Balko's great agitator website.)

There is always a good time to use a Taser, she gloats. The one depicted in a bikini, sunbathing, claims that there is always a good time to use a Taser.

Always a good time to use a Taser:
An 18-year-old Northeast Philadelphia man died Thursday after police Tasered him twice, authorities said.

Family members identified the dead man as Patrick Johnson. He had the mental capacity of a child, family members said.

Always a good time to use a Taser:
A federal appeals court says three Seattle police officers did not employ excessive force when they repeatedly tasered a visibly pregnant woman for refusing to sign a speeding ticket.
Always a good time to use a Taser:
Deputy Chris Bieze stopped Winkfein for speeding. After he completed the paper work -- she refused to sign it. That's when things got ugly. According to the deputy, he shoved Winkfein so she would get away from the side of the highway.

The elderly woman started to tease the officer... "daring" him to use his taser on her. He warned her several times she was in danger of being tasered.

The officer eventually did use the device that delivers a shock. Winkfein wasn't hurt, but you can hear here moans of agony on the tape right after it happened.
Always a good time to use a Taser:
Police Tasered an 86-year-old disabled grandma in her bed and stepped on her oxygen hose until she couldn't breathe, after her grandson called 911 seeking medical assistance, the woman and her grandson claim in Oklahoma City Federal Court. Though the grandson said, "Don't Taze my granny!" an El Reno police officer told another cop to "Taser her!" and wrote in his police report that he did so because the old woman "took a more aggressive posture in her bed," according to the complaint.
Always a good time to use a Taser:
Police in Mobile, Alabama, used pepper spray and a Taser on a deaf, mentally disabled who they said wouldn't leave a store's bathroom.
Always a good time to use a Taser:
Donnell Williams, a Wichita man who is effectively deaf without his hearing aids, was tasered by police in his own bathroom while wearing nothing but a towel around his waist. Why were the cops in the mans bathroom? They had busted into the man's house chasing down a reported shooting, which turns out to have been a false report.
Always a good time to use a Taser:
The rate of deaths in Taser-related incidents is rising as police forces increasingly adapt the conducted energy weapons, a Raw Story analysis finds.

A 2008 report (PDF) from Amnesty International found 351 Taser-related deaths in the US between June, 2001 and August, 2008, a rate of just slightly above four deaths per month.

A database of Taser-related deaths maintained at the African-American issues blog Electronic Village counts 96 deaths related to the use of Tasers since January, 2009.
Most people think of Tasers as the "safe," "non-lethal" alternative to guns. Andrea "Total Package" Penoyer is a dangerous, misinformed authoritarian whose sense of entitlement has been amplified by the presence of cameras following and celebrating her every move.

"Police Women of Broward County" isn't the only reality program that follows corrections officers. It isn't even the only "Police Women of" series on TLC. Spinoffs include PWO Memphis, Maricopa County, and Dallas. At reason, Radley Balko lists at least eight others. In that same article, he distills the problem of law enforcement reality shows:
Cop reality shows glamorize all the wrong aspects of police work. Their trailers depict lots of gun pointing, door-busting, perp-chasing, and handcuffing. Forget the baton-twirling Officer Friendly. To the extent that the shows aid in the recruiting of new police officers, they're almost certainly pulling people attracted to the wrong parts of the job.
To keep people watching, the footage has to be sensational. Smashing in doors, Tasering, punching, pointing guns. By their very natures, these programs encourage a dangerous attitude among the people they follow.

There is always a good time to use a Taser

Let us not forget the case of seven year old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who was killed by a SWAT team in Detroit as they attempted to serve a search warrant:
At the little girl's home to execute a search warrant in a homicide investigation, they threw a flash bang — also known as a stun grenade — through the front window of the crowded apartment ... onto the couch where Aiyana was sleeping. Aiyana caught fire. As her grandmother tried to put out the flames, police entered, and a gun went off. Aiyana was shot in the neck and pronounced dead at the hospital.
This SWAT team was trying to create exciting footage for one of those cable network law enforcement reality shows:
The day before, Fieger, who once represented Dr. Jack Kevorkian, claimed he had seen videotape of the incident filmed by a reality-TV crew that had accompanied the police. He alleged that police, moreover, may have raided the wrong side of the duplex, since the 34-year-old suspect was eventually arrested in another part of the building.
(By the way, the show was A&E's "The First 48.")

So, as bad as it is that the Browns have to uproot themselves, leave their friends and schools and their entire lives and start over in another state in order to escape prosecution for committing a non-violent and victimless crime, at least they're on "Sister Wives," and not on a TLC reality program in which they have to deal with the likes of Andrea "Total Package" Penoyer. The entire family might end up Tasered.

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