Cameras roll with cop patrols
The Nelson Tasman highway patrol is roaring onto a screen near you thanks to a new reality TV show and local cameraman Fraser Heal.
The show Highway Cops, which made its debut on TV One this week, follows the real life adventures of members of the nation's highway patrols, including the officers who work on the roads of the Top of the South.
Fraser scored the job of shooting the region's highway patrol after getting a call out of the blue from the company Greenstone Television in 2010.
What followed were nine weeks of filming over the summer of 2010-2011 and Easter last year. Working 10-hours shifts Fraser filmed everything from drunken boy racers in Motueka and a serious smash in Hope to people hooning in Richmond and an armed offenders squad callout in the Teal Valley.
Using a hand-held camera and another fixed to the inside of patrol car's windscreen, he ended up shooting over 100 hours of tape on the roads from Lewis Pass to Kaikoura for the 11-episode series.
The job involved spending long amounts of time in patrol cars often with little going on worth filming.
"I ended up falling asleep in the back of the car a few times," Fraser said.
However, when things did get interesting, he had to move fast.
"As soon as the car stopped, I'd jump out to get the officers getting out," he said.
Fraser said people generally didn't have problem with him filming them.
"Most of them were good. One guy got abusive but in those situations it's good to be next to a six foot police officer with his hand on his pepper spray," he laughed.
Police officers featured on the series told The Leader the presence of a cameraman did influence people's behaviour but for the most part it was in a positive way as it helped them see the lighter side of their situation.
"A lot of them were playing up to the camera and looking forward to seeing themselves on TV. They all wanted to know when it would be on," Senior Constable Rob Hambrook said.
Constantly being on camera was also something new for the police to get their heads around.
"It's an unusual experience and you're pretty mindful of how you're going to be perceived but after a while you relax," Rob said.
Having Fraser on hand also turned out to be useful with some of the images he shot later being used as evidence in prosecutions.
Fraser said one of the things that impressed him most about the members of the Nelson Tasman Highway patrol was what he called their "sixth sense".
"It was quite incredible. Somehow they just knew if a trailer wasn't registered or the car didn't have a warrant of fitness," he said.