Police lip-sync challenges shed positive light on law enforcement in 2018, but taxpayer organization argues costs were too high

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Law enforcement lip-sync challenge videos took the internet by storm in 2018, bringing out creativity and shining a positive light on police officers, but one taxpayer organization is calling them a waste of money.

"What an absurd waste of taxpayer dollars," said David Wolfe, legislative director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

The videos were done in different styles by different departments. Actor Erik Estrada of "CHiPs" fame took the lead in a Hollywood-style Lip Sync Challenge for the California Highway Patrol that spanned musical genres from rap to punk to oldies to country -- all with California themes.

Estrada volunteered his time, but the CHP used 185 hours of work time from 98 officers and spent a total of about $10,000 in salary and benefits to record and edit their six-minute video, according to information in public records requests.

"Officers in uniform, on the clock, taxpayer dollars spent on this. And CHP can say all they want about this being for outreach and other things that are good for the general public, but their job is to protect the public safety of Californians up and down the state and if you're doing a lip-sync challenge, I don't care about the outreach, you're not doing that," Wolfe said.

However, the videos have been touted by many law enforcement agencies as positive recruiting tools and a form of public relations outreach that has boosted morale, and it's worked locally.

For example, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office says after its video posted, 700 people applied in one week for correctional officer positions. When they recruited before the lip-sync challenge, it took two weeks to get 500 applicants.

"It reaches hundreds and probably thousands of people we normally wouldn't reach, not only in Fresno County but statewide and in fact, nationwide," said Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims. The Sheriff's Office spent about $5,500 on their video.

Despite the general positivity that came from other department's videos, the Fresno Police Department chose not to partake.

"Quite frankly, discussing it with our staff, I made the decision I didn't think it was appropriate for us to do," Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said, who added he sees value in the challenge but decided against it.

The Madera County Sheriff's Office spent $550 on their video, and after 600,000 views they feel it was well worth the money, especially after it boosted their engagement with younger people who connect online.

"Especially when it first started circulating we would get approached a lot in the community, like 'oh, we saw the video' or 'oh, I recognize you from the video' and that was really cool for our deputies to see," Kayla Serratto of the Madera County Sheriff's Office said.
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