If I had a nickel for every time in the course of reporting this week’s cover story on Live PD’s presence in Salinas that I’ve been called a cop hater or a MILPA shill, I might have enough nickels that I wouldn’t have to be writing this at all. At the very least, I could buy a spendy cup of artisan coffee lovingly crafted by a whispy-bearded man whose hair is done up in a bun. In Bali.
I mostly stopped counting the digs last week, when one Salinas officer told me another Salinas officer had commented: “I think she hates cops.” I should have stopped counting days earlier when one city official asked me how much MILPA – a collective funded in part by the California Endowment that employs many formerly incarcerated ex-gang members and is the bane of many an elected official’s existence – was paying me to represent their point of view in print.
This is what happens when you’re writing a story that, based on nothing but their own preconceived notions, some people believe isn’t a 100-percent flattering portrayal of the police. To those who exist in that mindset, I urge you to read the cover story closely, and especially look for the location where I write Live PD shows that Salinas has an ultra-professional police force (p. 18). In the 10 years that I’ve lived in my current home in Oldtown, that’s also been my experience: Salinas has an ultra-professional police force. I’ve had to call them for everything from gunfire on the next block to drunk idiots fighting on my front porch at 3am to a woman screaming like she was being murdered in the alley just after midnight to a neighbor who has some serious issues. I called them when our power tools were stolen out of the garage. I called them when my identity was stolen.
The argument has been made that programs like Live PD serve to “humanize the badge” (there’s a nonprofit that carries the name of that phrase) but I’m not sure, even as it shows humans doing their job, that it accomplishes humanizing them. I think it dehumanizes the people who may end up on the show, whether as alleged perpetrator or alleged victim of a crime. And although protecting the victim is an overarching rule for law enforcement, a recent clip did the opposite.
While the alleged victim of domestic violence had her face blurred when the segment aired, she was still identifiable through her hair, body type, clothing and the car she was in.
But some people are crazy about reality TV and now another type of reality show – an unscripted documentary series that seeks to counter the image of the modern Monterey Peninsula woman as a stiletto-wearing shrew who conspires with her friends to cover up the murder of an abusive husband. In other words: an anti-Big Little Lies with supposedly regular women doing regular women stuff. Veteran TV writer-director-producer Philippe Denham, a transplant to Monterey County, told reporters in June that the idea for Monterey Moms came to him after he watched Big Little Lies, and saw what Big Little Lies isn’t showing. He hasn’t found a network home for the show yet, but the initial cast list was announced earlier this month and he’s putting together a reel to show to potential buyers.
Almost immediately after KSBW ran a story about the then-five member cast, I received a message from a local Latino politico who wondered why there were no Latinas among them, given Monterey County’s population is 57-percent Latino.
“It’s funny how they like our country to vacation, our beer, our tequila, our labor… but in the end, they don’t like us,” he wrote.
I reached out to Denham, whose work you’ve likely seen – he’s been involved in everything fromWhale Wars to Night. Since the initial stories about the show ran, he’s added cast members, including a Latina therapist who works for a local school district.
“There’s a fine line between telling the most fascinating stories and selling a show, and I’m walking that tightrope right now,” he says. “I told myself I would take the five best stories” – no matter what their socioeconomic status, ethnic background or religious beliefs are – “and now I’m at seven.
“It’s very important to me to have a cross-section of the Peninsula,” he says.