Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cops on camera: a TV networks beams crime tips to the precinct house.(Law Enforcement Television Network's "Roll Call").

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"Today a report from an undercover narcotics officer in Florida on how crack cocaine is made," announces the pretty blond co-anchor. "And verbal judo on the traffic stop: how you can defuse a volatile situation," intones her handsome male partner over a videotape clip of a police officer approaching a car. To the beat of trendy theme music, the camera pans the posh living-room stage set -- complete with sofas, coffee table and potted plants -- before zooming in again on the two radiant hosts.

Pull over, Good Morning, America. Hands up, Today. Here comes Roll Call with Debra Maffett and Tom Park -- the centerpiece of LETN, the Law Enforcement Television Network, a novel, $6.5 million, 24-hour broadcast service by Westcott Communications of suburban Dallas. LETN is beamed exclusively to law-enforcement agencies via coded satellite signals. Its mission: to provide police with the latest law-enforcement techniques and training, along with the most up-to-date crime news from around the country. Explains network President Billy Prince, a former Dallas police chief: "There's a terrible lack of knowledge among police. Information is changing so fast that it's impossible to keep up by sending men to a boring seminar. We offer cost-effective bits and pieces."

In addition to its melange of news and features, the glitzy, hour-long Roll Call airs a regular segment on the FBI's Most Wanted List that, with the aid of computer graphics, profiles suspects in various disguises -- beards, glasses and hairpieces. "We provide officers with important information when they need it -- before they hit the streets," says co-anchor Maffett, 1983's Miss America. The network also serves up half-hour instruction programs with names like Street Beat, Command Update and Alert, Alive & Well. Relying on 50 experts nationwide, the shows dish out training information on everything from shooting techniques and handcuffing methods to weight-control strategies. A twelve-member news staff, with the support of a CBS feed, punctuates the broadcast day with regular five-minute bursts about the latest mayhem on the crime-and-disaster front.

LETN's audience, which so far includes 725 police agencies in 48 states, gives the network solid reviews. "It's sharpening us all up and eliminating some schooling," says Captain Randy Stienstra of the Mount Dora, Fla., police department. Ten states have certified LETN as a vehicle for earning in-service training credits for promotion. The network's original programming totals two hours each day and is replayed continuously, allowing cops to wedge in their viewing during off-hours. The story line is unabashedly pro-police. "We make no apologies for it," says news director Larry Estepa. "Police are getting beaten over the head enough."

The network began airing in May and has yet to make it into the black. LETN depends solely on monthly subscriber fees that range from $288 to $588. Immediate shortfalls can be bridged by relying on Chairman Carl Westcott's other brainchild, the profitable Automotive Satellite Television Network, which beams the latest sales techniques to 4,000 car dealers. LETN is betting on a long, successful run and, like any other network, hawking its new fall shows. Trumpets an LETN program guide: "Coming in cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Drug Crackdown, a new weekly program with DEA instructors, field-action footage, investigative insights, survival tips and management strategies." The show premieres this week. Stay tuned.

CAPTION: Police tactics: Maffett on her TV beat "Cost-effective bits and pieces."

Source Citation
Sanders, Alain L. "Cops on camera: a TV networks beams crime tips to the precinct house." Time 13 Nov. 1989: 77. Academic OneFile. Web. 3 Jan. 2010. .

Gale Document Number:A8092143

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