For nearly a decade, The First 48, A&E’s wildly popular reality show, has chronicled homicide detectives investigating scores of Miami murders — from Coconut Grove to Little Havana to Little Haiti.
Now, amid concerns that the cable television program glorifies violence in many of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and interferes with investigations, Miami police and the show’s producers have parted ways.
At issue is a request from Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa to have the show’s producers chip in a $10,000 donation, per new episode, to the Police Athletic League charity, which runs youth sports programs for at-risk children.
“We’re asking the show to donate monies to our P.A.L. program, to be spent in those communities where the show is being filmed,” Orosa said. The money would be used for programs in the communities’ parks and schools, the chief said.
So far, the production company has not agreed to the donation request. The show’s contract recently expired and crews have stopped accompanying detectives to crime scenes.
John Kim, The First 48’s executive producer and co-creator, still remains hopeful that a new contract can be hammered out for Miami, the “face” of the show that has now aired 242 episodes featuring more than 400 cases from around the country.
The shows leaves a colorful, if at times controversial, legacy as cameras capture the first two days of real-life murder probes, personalities of homicide detectives, heartbreaks of families and the grittiness of Miami’s streets.
The show’s first two cases were in 2004, set in Coconut Grove and Little Havana. In all, 113 Miami cases have been featured on The First 48. Among the notable ones: the 2005 kidnap-torture-murder of Miami drug dealer Jesus Discua, the 2006 crossfire slaying of 9-year-old Sherdavia Jenkins in Liberty City, and the 2010 slaying of a state corrections officer and her 2-year-old son.
“The Miami detectives in many ways are a reflection of the city itself,” said Kim. “Miami is a very colorful city and the detectives tend to be much more open and demonstrative about their jobs, about their feelings and who they are. Also, it certainly helps that the setting is beautiful and sunny. There are not many other cities that look like Miami.”
Critics complain that the show focuses too much on African American neighborhoods, depicting them as lawless. They also say that distracts detectives from solving murders, reveals police investigative techniques and causes complications when cases go to criminal court.
“I felt they were shooting intimate detective work,” said victims rights advocate Queen Brown, who has often complained to elected leaders about The First 48. “I don’t want the criminal watching the TV program and knowing how he can beat the rap. I don’t see anything beneficial in the show.”
Brown’s own son was gunned down in 2006 in Miami-Dade County in a murder that remains unsolved.
Nationwide, similar concerns have been voiced about the show over the years. The First 48 came under intense scrutiny in May 2010 after a video crew accompanied Detroit police officers on a wrong-house raid that ended with a police officer accidentally shooting and killing a 7-year-old girl sleeping on a couch.