The videos open with a montage straight out of the television show CSI: Cops chase down suspects, try on SWAT gear, shoot at targets, and throw suspects in jail, all set to a thumping drumbeat. But rather than open with awful puns from David Caruso, each episode then starts with a monologue from former Fort Lauderdale Police Public Information Officers Petula Burks and Deanna Greenlaw.
But the series wasn't made for TV at all. In 2013 and 2014, Fort Lauderdale Police spent thousands on "Officer of the Month" videos, complete with helicopter footage, professional-quality dramatic narration, arrest reenactments, and special effects, including CGI smoke and grainy camera footage.
One video, for example, depicts an officer chasing a sprinting suspect through a back alley. Another, meanwhile, shows a would-be robber barking at a hapless victim as the civilian begs for his family's safety.
The videos have been posted to YouTube and are, frankly, next-level insane, which begs the question: How much did these things cost?
New Times asked Fort Lauderdale Police on December 31 what the rationale behind the series was but did not receive an answer, even after following up again in January and February. Attempts to contact Burks, who has since left the department, were unsuccessful.
Despite multiple records requests, police were unable to provide New Times with any documentation to show how much the department paid for 2013's video series. A representative for LC Studios, the company that handled the videos that year, declined to speak to New Times.
In 2014, the series appeared to take a nose-dive in terms of production value. Gone were the standup monologues and fancy special effects, replaced instead with footage pulled from TV newsreels (though the reenactments remained).
Through a records request, New Times obtained the invoices for 2014's videos. That year, police spent roughly $6,000 on a year's worth of footage.
When reached by phone, 2014's videographer, Tyler Council, of Oakland Park's Froze-N-Time Productions, said he believed police used the series internally, to give the officers some sort of reward for their work. Most of the actors in his series, he said, were his friends, but he declined to elaborate further, citing the fact that he did not want to upset any potential clients.
A source close to the situation, however, told New Times that 2014's set of videos cost "substantially less" than 2013's.
Though the videos are fairly innocuous, Fort Lauderdale currently spends around $95 million each year on its police force, and the department is currently asking the city for more than $100,000 for gear upgrades.
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.