The Broward Public Defender's Office doesn't shy away from the spotlight. Besides being one of the more accessible public officials in the county, top man Howard Finkelstein is a well-known face on TV thanks to his "Help Me Howard" segments.
But now Finkelstein's whole office might be headed for a date with the camera. After a Mother Jones article dropped this month detailing the office's out-of-the-box approach to legal defense, a New York production company has expressed interest in doing a reality-TV show on the office. Producers are in town now discussing the possibility.
The article -- "How a Squad of Ex-Cops Fights Police Abuses" -- focused on the team of investigators Finkelstein has assembled to look into police practices. Some of those issues -- such as the "biking while black" situation -- have spelled out systemic problems with how law enforcement conducts its business in the county.
After the article dropped, producers from Every Hill Films contacted the Public Defender's Office about doing a show. According to Allen Smith, an investigator with the office featured in the national magazine piece, producers have been in town over the past few days. Finkelstein announced the talks to the rest of the office on Thursday, Smith tells New Times.
"I'm all for it," Smith says about the possibility of a show. "It'll give our office some national exposure. I liked the article because it showed we're doing something a little different than what people are doing."
Every Hill Films isn't some amateur outfit either. The producer in from New York to discuss the show -- a woman named Nicole Rittenmeyer -- won an Emmy for a 2008 9/11 documentary. (Rittenmeyer didn't pick up her cell when New Times buzzed late Thursday.)
Smith says right now the office is just talking through the idea with producers. If things are greenlit, a crew will return in the fall to shoot footage that'll be used to pitch networks on a series.
The irony here is that Broward is the home base of law-enforcement-focused reality TV. Back in the late '80s, then-Broward Sheriff Nick Navarro let camera crews tag along with BSO patrols, leadings to Cops, the granddaddy of all gritty reality TV. For two seasons in the late 2000s, TLC produced Police Women of Broward County. But problems can arise when you make popular entertainment out of the legal process -- a point the Public Defender's Office has made in court. We'll have to wait and see how Finkelstein's office's prime-time moment shakes out.