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LA Co. Sheriffs Need a Reality Check

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At first Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was praised for deciding to allow Fox Reality to make a show about his recruits, since the deal brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in license fees as well as profits from the series. Hey, why not, right? Get the LA Co. Sheriff's Department's name out there, let America see what they're all about, maybe tempt some fence sitters to join the ranks to get in on the fun of serving, or maybe the fun of being on a reality television show, right?

Oh, Hollywood! Oh, reality television programming! How you work against the best of intentions to show the best of the worst. With two seasons of The Academy done, the bright idea is turning out to appear rather dim. According to the LA Times "after two seasons, the department's Office of Independent Review is calling on Baca to cancel The Academy, saying it subjects young recruits to on-air humiliation, invasion of their personal privacy, harassment and threats to their safety."

Hold up a minute! Does this mean reality television is a bad thing?

Apparently the Sheriffs' trainees on the show have not been relishing their 15 minutes of fame. Some of their personal lives were featured on the show, and they were being recognized on the job by viewers, sometimes when they worked in jails. To add insult to injury, the show seemed to emphasize the negative aspects of training, like the expected scenes of drill instructors screaming at the grunts for minor infractions--so Hollywood!--and "embarrassing moments when recruits were kicked out of the academy" (ouch!). There's also the slight problem of things not being as rosy as they seem in the high-gloss world of television:

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Far from the gold standard training program featured on the Fox television show, the academy was nearly decertified as a state accredited facility to train police officers earlier this year because it was so poorly run.

The show seems to be compounding these problems, and distracting the recruits, who may already be going through sub-standard training. Time for a reality check?

Not surprisingly, Baca defends the show:

"The sheriff thinks it is worthwhile because of the transparency that the show provides. It is vital for the public to see the rigors a trainee goes through to become a deputy sheriff," said Steve Whitmore, Baca's spokesman.

In fact, he's gunning for a third season.