Hey everyone. These are all good questions and the behind the scenes are rarely revealed....until now.
I worked with the show for 9 years as a sound guy and I keep the guide here.
First, the crew in each car is a camera operator, who sits in the front passenger seat if it's a one person cruiser (if it's a two person patrol car, he sits in the back seat, on the right side). The second person is a sound mixer who always sits in the back. Since I did sound, I'd sometimes bring a pillow from the hotel and sleep back there until we'd get a call.
Second, the camera crew is not made up of law enforcement personnel. They are all professional camera and sound freelancers, many of the camera guys come out of news gathering so they are skilled in capturing things as they happen.
Third, yes, the suspects and others do see the cameras and almost always say something about it. The officer usually will tell them to not worry about the camera, they better worry about why the officer is there. Also, remember these episodes are edited down to 7 1/2 minutes each so most of their reactions to the crew would be cut out, since we are supposed to be flies on the wall anyway.
All the crews are quickly trained in rules of the show and they pick up very quickly the rules of the road. It only takes a few nights to learn what you can and shouldn't do while working on the show. They will take a new camera operator and pair him with an experienced sound guy who will show him the ropes. But yes, it's still a dangerous job because police work is dangerous and injuries do occur on occasion.
If you have any other questions about the show, feel free to ask. You may have to PM me to let me know they're in the forum as I don't normally check it.
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