Chief Dotson Welcomes ‘First 48’ to St. Louis; Others Don’t

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For almost 13 years, the TV series “The First 48” has tagged along with real police detectives through the gritty, bloody process of investigating homicides, often from the initial call through an arrest. Beginning in January, the crew from cable TV’s A&E Network will bring its cameras — and some past controversy — to St. Louis, reports the Post-Dispatch. The upside, Police Chief Sam Dotson believes, is to humanize officers and generate better cooperation to help break the “don’t snitch” urban code. The downside, some say, is an emphasis on a city’s violent underbelly and concerns about complicating prosecutions. Those are calculated risks that Dotson says he is willing to take. “This isn’t a startup,” Dotson said. “They’ve been doing this for a decade, so I have a high degree of confidence in them.”

More than 20 cities have participated, including Miami, Minneapolis, Dallas, Kansas City and Tulsa, Okla. Videographers are expected to start shadowing the St. Louis homicide squad in mid-January, with plans to air the first episode six to eight months later. Producers have been after St. Louis for years, but Dotson said he balked out of concern that it wouldn’t be good for the city’s image. He said recently that a conversation with the New Orleans police chief at a conference changed his mind. “He told me it actually helped people feel comfortable talking to detectives, and sometimes, people would ask for them by name,” Dotson said. “People recognized them and felt like they had a connection to them by watching the show.

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