Behind Cameras of ‘Today’s’ Tape Sting

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Times Staff Writer

The taping of Saturday night’s confrontation between Long Beach, Calif., police and a Hawthorne policeman was the result of work by a Burbank-based producer for NBC’s morning program.

Marty Ryan, executive producer of “The Today Show,” said Monday that producer Sam Hurst arranged for a pair of hidden “Today” cameras with Hawthorne Police Sgt. Don Jackson, the black officer who has alleged police abuse of minorities and who set out to illustrate those charges Saturday night.

Ryan said that Hurst had known about Jackson through a 1988 secret taping involving a police confrontation in Westwood that did not involve anyone from a news network. According to UPI, that taping was done by members of the Police Misconduct Lawyer Referral Service founded by Jackson to monitor police actions. (Hurst was reported out of his Burbank office and not available for an interview at Calendar press time.)


Jackson has been on a stress disability leave from the Hawthorne Police Department for two years, and has sued the department, claiming he was the victim of racism from fellow officers.

Ryan said that Saturday night’s incident was taped by two “Today” cameras, one a remote-controlled camera hidden in the rear of a car driven by black state corrections officer Jeff Hill.

Jackson was a passenger in that car, which, Ryan said, was followed by a van in which Hurst was riding and which had a second hidden camera.

Because Jackson held a Sunday-afternoon news conference on the previous night’s confrontation in Long Beach, Ryan said, “Today,” which planned to hold the tapes of the incident until Monday’s broadcast, made available portions of its tapes to NBC stations, including KNBC-TV in Burbank, for their local newscasts Sunday afternoon and evening.

On Monday, “Today” aired about 4 minutes of the tape and had a live interview with Jackson, freed on his own recognizance after his Saturday-night arrest and jailing for allegedly obstructing a police officer during the Long Beach confrontation.

Ryan said “Today” staffers were trying Monday to arrange for interviews with Long Beach Mayor Ernie Kell and Long Beach Police Chief Lawrence Binkley to get their comments on the incident.