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Posted: Monday, 17 June 2013 6:02AM

New Orleans cops become TV stars

The highly-acclaimed, A&E TV show 'The First 48' is following the work of the NOPD's Homicide detectives and their mission to solve murders.

The New Orleans Police Department has been chosen to star in the documentary-style series that tracks the first 48 hours after a homicide is committed.

Sergeant Nicholas Gernon, with the NOPD Homicide Section, says allowing the show to film their work is in keeping with the department's message of transparency.

"To be honest with you, it really gives the detectives an opportunity to showcase the good things that they do every day. A lot of the things that they do really aren't something that we can put out there immediately. A lot of the things that we do only come out in trial."

Gernon says the reality show will film for an entire year, following every murder call that comes in and the work the police do to solve them.

He says the producers don't wait for anything spectacular or dramatic.

"They come out on every murder. I can't tell you what they're going to do in edit, but I can tell you that they come out on every murder and they film on every murder."

The show, which is in its 14th season on A&E, gives an inside look at the work done by the detectives.

"It'll give the public an opportunity to see that the detectives do go through each step and how meticulous they are in their investigations," says Gernon. "They'll see how much work actually does go into a homicide investigation."

The first 48 hours after a homicide are believed to be the most crucial in an investigation, as the case is still fresh in terms of evidence and witnesses' memories. This is how the show got its name.

'The First 48' is spending an entire year with the NOPD's Homicide Division, and Gernon says production crews are with the police 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The show's cameras follow detectives through every stage of murder investigations...at crime scenes, through the search for evidence, during interviews with witnesses and suspects, as well as through meetings with victims' loved ones.

"What they're trying to do is show the community not only what the detectives are doing," says Gernon. "But also give the family an opportunity to show the world that this wasn't just another person...this wasn't just 'the 37th person killed in the city'. This was an actual person with a name and a family that loved him or her."
'The First 48' crews will stay with detectives for the duration. In some cases, that could mean for a period of days until an arrest is made. In other cases, it could be for several months.

New Orleans residents who happen to be near murder scenes will be asked beforehand whether they agree to be filmed. No resident will be filmed who does not want to be filmed.

What's it like for the cops to have cameras following them 24/7?

"Initially, it's a little awkward," says Gernon. "But, the detectives are kind of used to being under the microscope as it is. And there are so many people looking at what they do on a daily basis."

In its 9 years of production, 'The First 48' has worked in 20 cities, including Dallas, Birmingham, Phoenix, Cleveland and Memphis. Its producers chose to approach each city for a variety of reasons.

"New Orleans is one of the most unique cities in America," says Executive Producer Alexis Robie. "Its diversity, vibrant culture and rich history have made it a city 'The First 48' has hoped to document for years. We are excited that the time has come."

"New Orleans is also a city going through a transformation for the better." Robie says. "The NOPD is a perfect example of this. Our program will not only document the important work being done by the officers, but it will also bring more transparency to the department, which we know is a top priority of Mayor Landrieu's administration."

Episodes of 'The First 48' that feature New Orleans homicide detectives will most likely begin airing late this fall. The city's access agreement with the show has a one-year duration.

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