The Investigation Discovery Channel brought its cameras here in September to follow the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's homicide detectives who work the 2-10:30 p.m. shift. The goal, in the words of executive producer Christo Doyle, was to focus on cases from crime to arrest.
"We wanted to delve deep into the actual process," he said. "What does it take to solve a case? What's the toll on the detectives? What are the twists and turns of the case?"
The result, a series called The Shift
, has been so compelling that what had been planned as a six-episode series will end up being eight - with possibly even more to come.
Each episode follows a single murder investigation by the middle shift, which clears 78 percent of its cases, compared with the national average of 61 percent. Some crimes are solved in a day; others take weeks.
In a telephone interview last week from the Discovery Channel headquarters outside Washington, D.C., Doyle said he wanted viewers to get to know the detectives - Christine Minka, Lesia Moore, Jesse Beavers, Tom Tudor, Chuck Benner and Todd Lappin, plus Sgt. Jeff Breedlove, Lt. Kevin Kelly and Deputy Chief William Benjamin - and have a fly-on-the-wall point of view to watch them do their work.
Here's what else he said.
NUVO: How was Indianapolis chosen and how long did you spend here?
Doyle: We're actually still there. We're wrapping up the first eight episodes right now and there's a good possibility we'll continue in Indianapolis. That decision is being made right now.
We chose Indianapolis for a variety of reasons. One was that we found a shift - the middle shift in the homicide department at IMPD - that had incredibly compelling characters with a very high conviction rate. In any urban environment, there are murders - it's a fact of life in big cities. The difference in Indianapolis is the team approach that the homicide detectives have and their ability to use that team approach to actually solve the murders.
NUVO: When IMPD agreed to participate, did you have to sign an agreement about what you could and could not show?
Doyle: The short answer is no. We never give anyone any editorial control. We've shown them cuts as a courtesy, but it's strictly a courtesy. IMPD is a partner; we view them as a partner. We don't want to shed any negative light on them, but we also have not really had to dance around anything. They've been incredibly open to showing us what really goes on in investigations.
What's really coming through - and it's completely natural and very obvious to our cameramen, and it will be obvious to viewers - is how dedicated these homicide detectives are. That's another thing that drew me to Indianapolis: They basically do not sleep until they've solved the crime. And that's not true everywhere. There's a level of dedication that's extraordinary in Indianapolis. What Christine Minka says is, she doesn't want anyone to think they can come to her city and murder.
NUVO: What have you seen here that's surprised you?
Doyle: What really blew me away was how consumed they are with their profession and how dedicated they are. They not only work 24/7 to solve the crimes, but they're in the courtroom for every single moment. They're completely dedicated to resolving these crimes and getting closure for the victims' families.
NUVO: How much would you say the cameras affect the situations?
Doyle: I think in the beginning, which is always the case in any observational show, the characters are more aware of the cameras. But slowly they fade into the background, and that's where they are now. They go about their daily business. We are not stopping them, we are not getting in the way. The ideal situation is, they don't even know we're there. For people who have never been on camera, it can be a little jarring, but I think within a week or two, that goes away.
NUVO: On every TV show, they solve crimes in 10 minutes. What's interesting here is that it sometimes takes these detectives days and weeks to find the right witnesses and to get people to talk. It's nice to see the truth.
Doyle: I think that's both the strength and the weakness of the show, honestly. What I really wanted to convey to people is how frustrated, how completely at a loss detectives can be throughout the process. And when that happens, it's not exactly the most compelling television, because they're literally sitting at their desk, waiting for a tip or waiting for a break in the case. But that's the way it really happens.
Investigation Discovery can be found on Bright House channel 104, Comcast 111, DirecTV 285, Dish Network 192 and AT&T U-verse in the 300 and 400 tiers. The series also is available on iTunes and Video on Demand.