Terence Walker of Muncie, Indiana, is one of those suspects. Walker, 23, who was wanted for non-payment of $381 in court costs stemming from a previous charge of possession of a handgun without a permit, had the misfortune of being spotted by Muncie police as he left a gas station last week. Even worse, three of the arresting officers women's world wrestling champion Trish Stratus, former CHiPS star Erik Estrada and Jason Wee-Man Acuna were celebrities, who had received police training and joined the law-enforcement team for the TV reality show.
Stratus, Estrada and Acuna, along with La Toya Jackson and Jack Osbourne, had received standard reserve officer training, including the use of firearms. In the series, which will be in production for three more weeks in Muncie and will premiere on Jan. 10, the celebrities wear black uniforms like all the other members of the force. "They hit the streets to fight crime and give a little something back," says executive producer Tom Forman.
But as Walker describes it, his encounter with the celebrity cops left him more dazed than dazzled. Cameras started rolling as he was apprehended and arrested on a warrant and a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge. Walker was then asked to sign a release giving producers permission to show his face on air. When he complied, they handed him $150 in cash. "The only reason I took the money was the fear that they would show my face on TV anyway with or without my signing," says Walker, who is now out of jail and awaiting his day in court.
Paying suspects isn't exactly standard operating police procedure, but hey, this is reality TV. Although Walker's mother, Dorothy Woods, told Muncie's Star-Press newspaper that she felt producers were trolling low-income neighborhoods where residents are more likely to need the cash, Forman says the money is nothing more than a "gesture of goodwill" for people who have signed waivers. His crew also gives away T-shirts. "Most people said it was the most fun they'd had in a long time, " he adds.
CBS publicist Kelli Raftery confirmed that the show offered some of those arrested T-shirts or cash to sign a waiver, which is officially known as a likeness release."This release form has no effect or impact on the arrest or the bond," Raftery said in a statement. "A nominal fee in exchange for a likeness release is not typical, but is certainly not unprecedented."
In fact, Muncie Police Chief Joseph Winkle didn't have a problem with the cash-for-waiver tactic either. From the get-go he wanted the Muncie force to be part of the new reality series because he felt it was good public relations."It was a nice way to showcase our training and put Muncie on the map," says Winkle.
As for Walker's complaint, Muncie's top cop has very little sympathy. "The fact that there was a celebrity with the other officers and cameras rolling doesn't change anything," he says. "If you don't want to do the time or be on TV don't commit the crime."