Dan Abrams: The Time Is Right for ‘On Patrol: Live’

The live exploits of police officers from around the country return to television Friday (July 22) as Reelz launches On Patrol: Live, a series from the producers of the former A&E series Live PD.

As with Live PD, which was canceled by A&E in 2020 in the wake of protests against police brutality stemming from the death of George Floyd, ABC News chief legal affairs correspondent Dan Abrams will serve as executive producer and host of Reelz’s three-hour On Patrol: Live show. He‘ll be alongside former Tulsa Police Department Sgt. Sean “Sticks” Larkin and Deputy Sheriff Curtis Wilson. The series will follow the efforts of police officers on patrol across the country in real time. 

Reelz’s launch of On Patrol: Live adds to its lineup of controversial, police-themed shows such as Cops and Cops Reloaded.

Abrams, who is also founder of the Law&Crime Network and host of Dan Abrams Live on NewsNation, recently spoke to Multichannel News about his expectations for On Patrol: Live, his disappointment with A&E’s cancellation of Live PD and the current environment for unscripted, police-themed television programming. Here’s an edited version of the discussion. 

MCN: Do you think the political and social environment in the country surrounding law enforcement that helped lead to Live PD’s cancellation two years ago has changed heading into On Patrol’s launch? 

Dan Abrams: Yes, I do think the environment has changed. My perspective hasn't changed from the beginning, but I think that the perspective in the country has changed. I think that there is a recognition again about the challenges of being a police officer, and polls show that the vast majority of Americans support police in the country. I think that certainly helps a little, but I think an argument could have been made that it would have been nice if the show was on a year ago. 

MCN: How did On Patrol: Live end up on Reelz?

DA: We had been talking to a number of potential partners about a live police show, and Reelz just stepped up in a bigger way than others did. They just were more committed to the project and the fit was just better. Over the last couple of years, I've been approached by a number of networks about possibly doing a live police show, and this just ended up being by far the best fit.

MCN: How is the show similar to Live PD and how will it differ?

DA: Just like Live PD, this is a live police show that will be covering police departments in real time. It’s going to be different in the sense that we’re going to have citizen ride-alongs, which hadn’t been part of the [Live PD] show. We’re going to work with different [police] departments from those that were involved in Live PD. So it’s definitely going to be a new show, but I think the fans of Live PD are certainly going to enjoy it.

MCN: Given Live PD’s ratings success, how disappointed were you that A&E pulled the plug on the show?

DA: I was very disappointed that Live PD was pulled. I understand the decision on the part of A&E — I wasn’t angry at A&E, but I was very disappointed.

MCN: Having said that and given the uptick in crime across the country, are you approaching the production of On Patrol: Live any differently than you did Live PD?

DA: Look, I think policing is policing. I don’t think we’re gonna see sort of a fundamental difference in the amount of police activity. The people who appreciated Live PD, I think, wanted to watch the police in real time. I think that there were certainly a lot of people who supported the police and who wanted to watch the show from the police officer’s perspective, but I think there were also police critics who wanted to watch the show. There were elements on the show where things would happen and people would disagree with what the police did. I would expect that that will happen as well with this show, but I don't think there’s going to be a fundamental difference in terms of ‘policing’ that we see now rather than two years ago.

MCN: Beyond Live PD, how is Law&Crime faring in a very competitive television environment?

DA: Law&Crime is doing great. We have three arms to the business: the production arm, where we produce content for a whole host of networks; then there’s the website, lawandcrime.com; and there’s the live network, which is now available on Dish, Verizon and a number of major cable services, in addition, to all the major OTT platforms, and it’s really exploded. The business was going great, and then the [Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard defamation trial] happened, and that sort of catapulted things to a different level, especially in the YouTube world. That added a new element to things, so overall the business is thriving. ▪️

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.