For a lot of the final two years, Sean Larkin has labored six days every week — 4 days within the gang unit of the Tulsa, Okla., police division, the place he’s an officer, and two days in New York City to movie episodes of “Live PD,” a dwell actuality TV present about policing.
On Sundays, he traveled. For a lot of the autumn and winter, he’d exit to Los Angeles to see a brand new girlfriend, the singer and songwriter Lana Del Rey. He escorted her to the Grammys. He joined her on tour. But typically she got here to Tulsa, too.
Mr. Larkin, 46, who goes by Sticks, didn’t plan for this bizarre life. He likes easy issues: CrossFit, mountain biking.
He grew up the son of lively responsibility army mother and father, and he attributes his curiosity in regulation enforcement to his structured house life and to life within the Bay Area through the late ’80s and early ’90s. “That’s when criminal street gangs manifested into what they turned into,” he mentioned.
He moved to Oklahoma for school, the place he spent two years at Rogers State University after which transferred to Langston University for evening lessons, whereas he labored full-time through the day.
“I planned on just going to get a degree and then go back to the West Coast and being a cop, because I was a West Coast kid,” Mr. Larkin mentioned. But after he did an internship with the Tulsa Police Department, in 1997, he obtained employed instantly.
Nearly 10 years later, “Live PD” premiered on A&E in 2016, and the Tulsa Police Department was certainly one of six police departments that signed on.
From the beginning, Mr. Larkin was one of many officers whom the cameras adopted on rounds and within the area. Now he’s within the studio, serving to to host the present with Dan Abrams (of broadcast information fame), analyzing the footage on “Live PD” very like a sportscaster.
‘Feels Like Entertainment With Purpose’
“Live PD” cuts between footage of cops across the nation as they make site visitors stops (suspected D.U.I.s, busted taillights), reply to calls (home disputes, gunshots) and go on excessive velocity chases (on foot, by automobile).
It’s all delivered to the viewer live-ish. There’s a delay, in case one thing unusually ugly occurs.
The mission of the “Live PD” is to supply “transparency of policing in America,” mentioned Elaine Frontain Bryant, the manager vp and head of programming for A&E. “It feels like entertainment with purpose,” she mentioned.
The actuality introduced just isn’t a fabricated competitors, however that doesn’t imply there aren’t winners and losers. Especially if you happen to’re one of many folks featured on the present who would reasonably not be. It’s not unusual to listen to folks say they don’t wish to be filmed, curse out the digicam operator or defend their faces.
There’s no cutaway when these items occurs. The present will get by with exhibiting a few of the worst moments of individuals’s lives with out their consent as a result of it’s dwell, based on an A&E spokeswoman. “‘Live PD’ follows news gathering standards like any news organization — your local nightly news show or newspaper — would in covering a story,” she wrote in an electronic mail.
There is a disclaimer earlier than the present: “Not all outcomes are known or final. All suspects are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.” But the viewers by no means finds out what occurs to those that are arrested.
Ms. Frontain Bryant says the present is about what’s taking place within the second.
When requested whether or not it’s honest to document individuals who won’t wish to be recorded of their interactions with police, she mentioned she may see why some folks is likely to be upset.
“Would it suck if I was being pulled over and a camera was there? It would,” Ms. Frontain Bryant mentioned. But, she famous: “They’re being pulled over for something.”
There are some folks on the present who appear completely satisfied, or at the least OK, about getting their 15 seconds of fame this manner. They discover the cameras and ask “Is this ‘Live PD’?” or wave and say “Hi Mom!”
Mom very effectively could also be watching. According to Nielsen knowledge, “Live PD” averaged practically 2.four million viewers final season, which was its third. It airs for 3 hours, each Friday and Saturday evening.
It’s so in demand that now there’s much more. There’s “Live PD Presents: PD Cam,” which Mr. Larkin hosts, and “Live PD Presents: Women on Patrol” and “Live PD: Roll Call” and “Live Rescue.” There’s “Live PD: Wanted” and “Live PD: Police Patrol” and “Alaska PD.” And there’s “America’s Top Dog” — which options “top K9 cops and civilian dogs alongside their handlers as they compete nose-to-nose,” based on the present’s web site.
Mr. Larkin helps determine what viewers see. If a disturbance in Tallahassee will get a bit boring, he’ll minimize to an deserted automobile in Richland County, S.C., or a knife battle between brothers in Lawrence, Ind.
‘Taking Pictures and Answering Questions’
You can attempt to get Mr. Larkin to inform you how he met Del Rey, however he received’t. (They crossed paths by means of work in New York and “just kind of hit it off from day one,” he mentioned.)
But it didn’t take lengthy for Del Rey to substantiate the connection, in an interview with The Los Angeles Times that was published the month after. “I didn’t know we were being photographed,” she said of their first date, a Central Park stroll that was captured by the paparazzi. “I would’ve worn something different.”
When Del Rey started dating Mr. Larkin, she was about to release the biggest and certainly most critically acclaimed album of her career. But “a lot of people are like, ‘Oh, did you even know who she was?’” Mr. Larkin said. “Like, of course I knew who she was.”
They did “boyfriend, girlfriend type of things together,” Mr. Larkin said. In L.A., they went to the beach and watched people surf. They went shopping and grabbed coffee. In Tulsa, they ran errands. They went to Target. It was “very low key,” he said.
But of course there was some glamour. “I was asked if I was nervous and not at all,” Mr. Larkin said after the Grammys, where he walked the red carpet with Del Rey. “We drive cars 120 miles per hour, and I don’t want to sound like a tough guy, but I mean, when you’re behind a known shooting suspect and he jumps out the car running, you’ve got to get out chasing.”
The Grammys, by comparison, were more tame.
“Taking pictures and answering questions. I’m not trying to sound like a bravado tough guy, just like, you know,” he said, and paused. “It was enjoyable, for sure.”
Mr. Larkin says the relationship was pretty normal. “When we were in Tulsa we hung out with my law enforcement friends and their spouses. We all Super Bowl partied together, dinners and things like that,” Mr. Larkin said. “Normal things couples do with their friends.”
Still, telling his 17- and 22-year-old children about “Dad’s new girlfriend” got the expected reaction, Mr. Larkin said: “They were kind of blown away.”
Mr. Larkin finds out about new music from his kids, which he said “helps me stay relevant. As silly as it sounds, even in my job as a police officer.”
“If you stay on top of music that some of these guys are listening to, it’s something relatable,” Mr. Larkin said of people he encounters in the course of his work. “If you stop them in a car and they’ve got whoever playing the radio, and you know who it is, you start talking to them about it, and it’s kind of an icebreaker.”
In any event, he’s not seeing any musicians at the moment. “Right now, we’re just friends,” he said of Del Rey. “We still talk and whatnot, we just have busy schedules right now.”
Start to Finish
The most viewed police footage of the past decade has been scenes of brutality against black and brown people, much of it captured on phones. Philando Castile’s death was witnessed on Facebook Live; a bystander filmed the choking death of Eric Garner.
It’s clear why police departments might want to participate in a TV show that is filmed from their vantage point. Plus, Mr. Larkin pointed out, “Live PD” could offset preconceived notions that come from entertainment, too.
“A movie like ‘Training Day’ came out, great movie, loved it. But it painted police in a bad light. ‘The Shield,’ which was a TV show that was used to be on FX, great show,” he said. “But the cops are these rogue guys who run around stealing drugs, and committing murders and things like that.”
“It makes great for TV,” Mr. Larkin said, but for people who have had bad experiences with police or in life or “just whatever reason, they see these things and they think that’s how the cops really are.”
And if some cops act illegally, Mr. Larkin doesn’t want that to be how all are perceived. “Look, that’s a different cop. Doesn’t mean that I’m that same cop.”
Del Rey, who did not respond to a request for comment for this article, described Mr. Larkin to The Los Angeles Times as “a good cop. He gets it. He sees both sides of things.”
He’s not naïve enough to think the backlash toward police from many black and brown communities comes from fiction. But Mr. Larkin sees “Live PD” as a tool, a way to let the public see what policing is like, beyond cellphone footage.
“I think that if we get the whole story and the officer was in the wrong, hey, he was in the wrong,” he said. Because it’s live, he added, the public gets to see what happened in an encounter with police from start to finish, a chance for the audience to say, “‘Well, the reason the officer did this is because we saw what the officer had to do.’”
Some U.S. cities have begun to see it differently. Several police departments have ended their cooperation with “Live PD” over concerns about bad publicity. When Bridgeport, Conn., decided not to renew its contract with the show in 2018, a spokesman for the city’s mayor told The Associated Press: “If that’s the only thing that’s being publicized nationally about our city, it can have a negative impact.”
Mr. Larkin’s own department in Tulsa pulled out of the show for two years beginning in 2017 after facing backlash from community activists before returning this season, according to the Tulsa World.
It’s been a hectic few years. Now, Mr. Larkin is on a bit of a sabbatical, taking a leave of absence from the Tulsa Police Department. He is still working on “Live PD” but wants to spend more time with his son before he goes off to college. Plus, everyone deserves a break.