Female Wilmington police officers take spotlight in new TV series

‘Live PD Presents: Women on Patrol’ premieres 9 pm Monday on Lifetime

WILMINGTON – The women of the Wilmington Police Department would like to dispel a myth for the community.

Despite societal preconceptions, they are just as capable as the men they serve alongside of on the force. With the roles in a new reality television series, they aim to prove it.

On Monday, Lifetime will debut “Live PD Presents: Women on Patrol,” an off-shoot of A&E’s live cops program that follows real law enforcement officers as they patrol their communities. However, the new show won’t be live. Instead, it was shot over 12 weeks from March to May, producing hundreds of hours of footage with which to craft the 20-episode first season.

During the season, footage of the Port City police women will be shown alongside that of their female counterparts in Jackson, Wyoming; Tempe, Arizona; and Stockton, California.

Cpl. Leslie Irving, who has 19 years of service, said bringing camera crews along while responding to calls came with a learning experience that injected a unique and unknown element into situations already full of unknowns.

Whether the community reacted positively or negatively to the cameras was highly dependent on the area of town and the situation into which she was entering, she said.

“If we went into a confrontational call, where it was hostile, then they definitely didn’t want the cameras there and the crews would know to back off,” she said. “Then, in other places, people would yell at us, “I am going to be on ‘Live PD?’ “

While filming, Officer Casey Morales said she arrived at a situation where she needed eyewitness accounts from the assembled crowd nearby, but they scattered when they saw the cameras. For those on the other end of these calls, cameras can make a bad situation worse.

“Whenever they are calling us, they are at a low,” Morales said. “This is one of the worst, if the worst, days of their lives, so having us there in uniform is a lot. But having us there in uniform with a camera and they don’t know where that film is going is a lot to deal with when emotions are high.”

Even inside the squad car, the cameras required a learning curve. Crammed in the front seat, the crews couldn’t help but invade the personal space of the female officers — something Officer Cardiellea Barksdale wasn’t sure how to handle at first.

“I was nervous, but I was excited because I knew it probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she said. “That first night, it was a lot to get used to with the camera right beside you.”

Morales said she wanted to make sure they got the footage they needed, but it also required her to be constantly “on” for the cameras 12 hours a day.

“With the camera right in your face all day, it was a lot to take in,” she said. “It changed my mood, especially when I came home after work because it was harder to unwind. But they told us to just do our jobs and don’t change up anything. That helped ease my nerves a little bit.”

The officers said the show took particular interest in domestic and opioid cases, but they don’t know what footage will end up in the show.

No matter the case, Irving said the through line of all of their conversations was about sharing the experience of being a woman on the job. Filming crews keep the officers talking, explaining what was happening and where they were headed, and debriefed them afterwards, to give context to the audience.

“It was like a therapy session,” Irving said, laughing.

But they also asked of the officers to be candid about the challenges of being a female office out in a community that often under estimates them .

“Sometimes we get out on calls and the men will want to try to overpower us,” Morales said. “If more people watch this show, maybe they can see that we are just as mentally, emotionally and physically strong as our partners are.”

Irving envisions the show as a unique recruitment opportunity that gives unparalleled insight for the community.

“I hope more women come up because of this,” she said. “You can do this. You can be short, tall, big or small. But you have a whole squad of people who are willing to help you. You have the backup.”

Reporter Hunter Ingram can be reached at 910-343-2327 or Hunter.Ingram@StarNewsOnline.com.

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