'NYPD 24-7' provokes firefighters, annoys brass

Saturday, July 10, 2004

NEW YORK -- A gritty documentary series about police that has filled the usual time slot for "NYPD Blue" has some viewers seeing red.

After only three episodes, the ABC News series "NYPD 24-7" has infuriated a firefighters union and annoyed New York Police Department officials. Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg has panned one policeman's performance.

Publicly, police officials have taken no position on the show, which was distilled from 16 months of footage shot by film crews who shadowed detectives and other officers with the nation's largest police department as they investigated murders and fought urban crime.

But one high-ranking commander said Thursday that the brass has been "less than thrilled" with the bleep-happy series, which shows detectives cursing and smoking cigars while investigating a stabbing (where no one died).

Firefighters have focused their ire on a former Emergency Service Unit lieutenant, Venton "Vic" Hollifield.

With the cameras rolling at the scene of a car crash two years ago, the now-retired Hollifield referred to firefighters there as "amateurs." Once the show aired, the union paid more than $100,000 for full-page ads in newspapers alleging the comment "demeaned, slandered and belittled" firefighters before a national audience, and demanded an apology from police commissioner Raymond Kelly for sanctioning the show.

'Regrettable' commentsA spokesman for Kelly, Paul Browne, called Hollifield's comments "regrettable." But he added that the department had no say in what ABC aired -- as evidenced by Hollifield while he made a traffic stop of a suspected drunken driver.

As recounted on the show's Web site, the officer flouted guidelines by making the motorist get out of the car, then locking his keys inside and telling him to catch a cab home. The encounter ultimately ended with officers having to wrestle the enraged suspect to the ground and arrest him.

At city hall, Bloomberg called Hollifield's comments about firefighters "wrong," and suggested Hollifield -- not Kelly -- needed to apologize.

Hollifield hasn't.

Nor has ABC, which considers the show a commercial and critical success. The show had 6.9 million viewers last week, No. 27 in Nielsen Media Research's prime-time rankings.

Only two other ABC shows did better.

The series' point "was to go in and explore a closed culture, the NYPD police culture, and see life as it happens," said producer Terrence Wrong. "If you have faith in your institution, you have no problem with that."

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