There may soon be a reality show featuring the missing persons unit of the Chicago Police Department, one of the most successful of its kind in the country.
A pair of Chicago filmmakers on Tuesday won the approval of the Police and Fire Committee to go ahead with the project, which could not only restore some luster to the force, but could also wind up helping the families of cops killed in the line of duty.
An average of 20,000 missing persons are reported to Chicago police every year. About 95 percent of those cases are cleared.
"The most interesting stories are the ones that are not what people think they are in the beginning, and that's what we found, that the story of police detectives in Chicago is not what people think it is," said filmmaker Bob Schneiger.
He and his partner, Gary Sherman have been working on the project for the past four years. Sherman says the project is an outgrowth of the ABC drama "Missing Persons" he created more than a decade ago.
"The reality of what goes on in missing persons is actually more dramatic than anything that you could write dramatically. The dedication of the officers, the reality of that is just amazing," Sherman said.
There is no waiting period for missing persons cases in Chicago, which is why detectives can act quickly, like they did this week during the Michael Scott investigation.
"I know what kind of work these guys have been doing. For years and years I've been doing it," said Cmdr. Robert Hargesheimer. "So I know what the detectives do, and this is just going to showcase it a little bit."
As much as it's about good public relations, it also about economic impact. The producers estimate that about $7 million per year will flow into the city because of filming. It should also bring 30-40 jobs.
Part of the deal with the city includes a $5,000 per episode donation to the police memorial fund. The producers are planning at least 20 episodes, which could mean upwards of $100,000.
The deal still needs the approval of the full City Council. The production company, Foundfilms, is currently in negotiations with a cable channel to pick up the show. A pilot could be broadcast as early as next spring.