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‘Cops’ crews wrapping up filming in Wichita

Bryan Collins, right, a cameraman for “Cops,” interviews Wichita police Officer Vincent Reel before heading out on patrol with him from his Patrol South substation Tuesday night. (Dec. 9, 2014)
Bryan Collins, right, a cameraman for “Cops,” interviews Wichita police Officer Vincent Reel before heading out on patrol with him from his Patrol South substation Tuesday night. (Dec. 9, 2014) The Wichita Eagle

The man had no intention of being caught.

After leading Wichita police officers on a car chase, he fled the vehicle and attempted to escape on foot.

“He tries to go across a creek, our cop Tases the guy, he’s soaking wet, he’s drug back to the (patrol) car” and then he discovers the whole thing has been captured on film by a crew from the television show “Cops,” Matt Stannard, a cameraman for the series, said Tuesday.

“You just made my night,” he tells Stannard. “This is great!”

Three camera crews from the long-running television series “Cops” spent several weeks in Wichita this autumn collecting footage for episode segments. Filming wraps up at the end of this week.

“Our experience was great,” producer Zach Ragsdale said of the third time “Cops” has filmed in Wichita.

Riding night shifts with officers in different parts of the city, crews were able to generate enough compelling footage for 12 segments, he said. Episodes typically feature segments from three different cities.

The first “Cops” episode featuring Wichita officers aired on Saturday. The next will air on Jan. 17. New episodes of the show air at 7 p.m. Saturdays on Spike TV.

Cops

While “Cops” is promoted as a reality show, Ragsdale said he considers it a documentary.

“We film what happens,” he said. “We don’t add to it. It’s not scripted. We film just what’s there. It gives people an unfiltered view of what of happens and how dangerous it is for them.”

One “Cops” film crew came to Wichita from Omaha, where a crew member was killed in a shootout between officers and a robbery suspect.

“It’s tragic to lose a friend and co-worker,” Ragsdale said. “It definitely made it more real for us. ... It definitely hit home for us.”

Recognizing the importance of getting the film crew “back in the saddle,” Officer Kevin McKenna said he considered it “an honor to bring them back to work and get them back in the routine again.”

“It was a very, very good experience,” said McKenna, whose father was a Wichita police officer for 23 years and whose brother also is an officer. “I really enjoyed it a lot.

“I definitely wanted to make sure they were all right,” he said of the film crew. “There were some calls that we went to that were definitely high-intensity calls.”

On one of the first nights with a film crew, he said, there was a “robbery in progress” call at the Kwik Shop at Oliver and George Washington Boulevard. McKenna and his crew were within a half-mile when the call went out.

“I just remember the intensity in the car,” McKenna said.

Everyone in the car knew the call could be dangerous.

“You didn’t even have to say it,” McKenna said. “You could feel it.”

“Cops” photographer Bryan Collins admitted it was “tough” getting back into a patrol car after his friend and co-worker Bryce Dion was killed in Omaha in August.

“Bryce was on my mind, getting back in a car,” he said. “What keeps me feeling safe is working with good officers like Justin (Rapp) here.”

But Collins said he never feared for his life.

“When we sign up to film ‘Cops,’ we know what we’re getting ourselves into,” he said.

They wear body armor to protect themselves and receive special training from the company that films “Cops.” Ragsdale said more training is planned as soon as shooting for this season ends.

Suspects have been saying “Hands up; don’t shoot” in the wake of a Ferguson, Mo., police officer’s fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown earlier this year, Stannard said.

People featured in “Cops” footage – such as the man arrested after running through a creek and being stunned – have to sign consent forms before the footage can be used in the series. Every person captured on video signed those forms, officials said.

“It’s really amazing,” Rapp said. “Sometimes people notice” the film crew as an incident is unfolding. “Some people have no idea.”

Stannard said he hopes “Cops” can help the public better understand how police officers do their jobs.

Given the public protests after black men were shot to death by police in Ferguson and New York, Stannard said, “to be able to have a platform to show what they do on a nightly basis is really important. It’s our honor to do it.”

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @StanFinger.

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