Homicide documentary series ‘The First 48’ cleared to film in Gwinnett

A&E's show "The First 48" wants to film in Gwinnett. The provocative documentary series follows homicide detectives after a suspicious death. Police Chief Butch Ayers is all for it to publicize officers' hard work. "The First 48" shows viewers investigations, interrogations and forensics.

Attention, Gwinnett County homicide detectives: Get ready for your close-up.

Gwinnett's Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve an agreement allowing popular TV documentary series "The First 48" to film in the county. The show, has previously filmed detectives from the city of AtlantaDeKalb County, and many other jurisdictions around the country, bills itself as taking viewers "behind the scenes of real-life investigations as it follows homicide detectives in the critical first 48 hours of murder investigations."

Gwinnett County police Chief Butch Ayers was a vocal fan of allowing the A&E series to follow his homicide unit, saying it would increase morale and exposure — both important for a department that has struggled with attrition in recent years.

The department is authorized to have 783 sworn officers but is currently more than 100 officers short. It's holding a local hiring event this weekend.

A possible time frame for “The First 48” to begin filming in Gwinnett was unclear Tuesday.  The initial agreement included in county documents granted production crews from Kirkstall Road Enterprises increased access to Gwinnett detectives for up to a year.

Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash was quick to point out that the county would have 60 days to cancel the agreement if it chose to do so for any reason.

Commissioner John Heard, who made the motion to approve the agreement, said he’d hesitated about inviting the documentary series into the county but was reassured by Chief Ayers.

Gwinnett County police handled a total of 29 homicide cases in 2016 and, as of mid-July, had seen 16 so far in 2017. Ayers said his department was approached by “The First 48” because it’s high clearance rate, which is generally in the 88 to 90 percent range.

The board’s vote to approve the agreement with “The First 48” was a unanimous 4-0. District 3 Commissioner Tommy Hunter was not present for Tuesday’s meetings.

The embattled commissioner, who has appealed the decision in his lawsuit challenging the ethics board that recommended his recent public reprimand, was believed to be out of town. Half a dozen or so anti-Hunter protesters attended the meeting and spoke out during its public comment period.

The board's previous meeting had been the first since Jan. 18 — the day after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported Hunter's infamous Facebook post calling U.S. Rep. John Lewis a "racist pig" — in which no protesters attended.

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