Last month, A&E quickly cancelled Live PD after it came to light the controversial network had contributed to the death of Javier Ambler and destroyed the evidence. Ambler, an unarmed Black man, was a postal worker and father of two.
Since then, the network’s ratings have plummeted 49 percent.
Kimberly Moore, Ambler’s sister, told CBS Austin in June that, had it not been for A&E, her brother would still be alive today. “They’re the reason it went to the length it went to,” Moore said. “They needed drama and that drama ended up taking my brother’s life.”
Ambler, who was unarmed, was dragged out of his car and tasered three times while he pled with officers, stating he had congestive heart failure and could not breathe. He died moments later.
On June 9, 2020, representatives of A&E confirmed they had destroyed footage of Ambler’s death.
The next day, A&E cancelled Live PD.
The show, like the network, had a long history of preying on the grief and tragedy of innocent people. In January 2017, Joann Johnson, a Black mother in South Carolina, learned her son Benjamin was dead at the same time as millions of other viewers, from seeing his lifeless body on Live PD. “This is probably one of many episodes [A&E is] going to profit from,” said Benjamin’s sister. “Don’t profit from someone else’s grief.”
A&E is on the wrong side of today’s war against bigotry and hate.
From the show’s beginnings, Live PD has drawn criticism for exploiting and misrepresenting people of color, for prompting police to play to the cameras, and for capitalizing on people’s misfortunes, showing suspects—often against their will—at their worst moments.
“Whatever perceived benefits its fans say the show promotes, I believe they are far outweighed by the divisiveness, bias confirmation and harm it causes in communities where the show is produced,” said Lori Decter Wright, a city councilmember in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Live PD is far from the only exploitive show aired on A&E.
A&E’s The First 48 has been criticized for glorifying violence and focusing on Black neighborhoods, which the show portrays as lawless.
“The show almost exclusively highlights some of the most impoverished neighborhoods across the nation,” wrote journalist Terrence McCoy. “Nearly every person charged with murder belongs to the same demographic: young, male, black, urban, poor and without resources to challenge a television conglomerate like A&E.”
On May 16, 2010, after First 48 videographers expressed they were seeking to capture “great footage,” Detroit police shot and killed Aiyana Jones with a submachine gun. They had raided the wrong house. Jones was sleeping on a living-room couch. She was 7 years old.
On January 3, 2019, A&E and Leah Remini’s antireligious show was linked to the murder of a 24-year-old Taiwanese Church of Scientology staff member, who was stabbed with a 10-inch kitchen knife outside of the Church’s Australasian headquarters.
Prior to the attack, the murderer spouted antireligious hate speech incited by the series. The show was abruptly cancelled shortly thereafter.
In an expression of solidarity against hate, General Motors, Geico, Georgia-Pacific, Ikea and others withdrew their advertising from the Aftermath show, which had generated more than 600 threats and acts of violence against the Church of Scientology, its parishioners, clergy and leadership, including assassination threats, acts of criminal assault, arson, bomb threats and other violence.
Now that the network has been nationally exposed and its ratings have crashed by nearly half, many wonder how A&E will remain afloat.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg for a network that has spent decades grievously exploiting the people of America,” said STAND International Director Edward Parkin. “A&E is on the wrong side of today’s war against bigotry and hate.”