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ABQ councilors vote to oppose return of ‘COPS’

City Council President Ken Sanchez, left, and Councilor Don Harris announced a resolution asking Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston to reconsider his decision to let the TV show "COPS" film in Albuquerque. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)
City Council President Ken Sanchez, left, and Councilor Don Harris announced a resolution asking Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston to reconsider his decision to let the TV show "COPS" film in Albuquerque. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)
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Albuquerque city councilors gave Sheriff Dan Houston credit for showing up to their meeting Monday night, even though he didn’t have to.

But they didn’t have many kind words for him beyond that.

The council voted 7-2 in favor of a resolution stating strong opposition to Houston’s decision to allow the “COPS” television show to film deputies this year.

Councilor Don Harris, a co-sponsor of the resolution, raised questions about the validity of the contract Houston signed with “COPS” producers and said it was “just really bad judgment” to bring back a show that highlights crime and seedy neighborhoods.

Houston, an elected Bernalillo County official, doesn’t have to listen to the City Council. The city doesn’t control his budget or hold any similar leverage.

But Houston showed up to face the council’s questions anyway and defend his decision to allow “COPS” to return to the Albuquerque area. It will showcase the good work that deputies do every day in the community, he said.

Houston also left open the possibility that “COPS” won’t film here at all – either because the producers will decide against it on their own or because he’ll change his mind. He didn’t back down on Monday, but said he’s willing to continue the discussion.

“I’ve always been open to reconsidering,” Houston said.

The resolution was adopted on a 7-2 vote, with councilors Trudy Jones and Brad Winter in dissent. Jones said she doesn’t like the show but that it isn’t the council’s role to tell an elected county official what to do.

It has been more than a decade since “COPS” was filmed in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.

In 2001, then-Mayor Martin Chávez banned “COPS” from working with Albuquerque Police Department and Mayor Richard Berry has continued that ban, though it applies only within city limits. Sheriff’s deputies generally patrol in the unincorporated area.

Houston said his contract with the show’s producers gives him some editorial control. He said he will insist that film crews visit all parts of the county and “ensure no culture or area is profiled.”

Harris questioned Houston’s approval authority. The contract is ambiguous, Harris said, and it’s written in such a way that any legal disputes might be handled in California courts, not under New Mexico law.

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