Yesterday afternoon I went to the documentary, "Do Not Resist." at the local Belcourt Theater here in Nashville. Radley Balko, the blogger for The Washington Post, had written about the film in his blog and he was also there with the Director (via Skype) for a a Q&A post film.
To say it was chilling would be irony as it was the first of what Nashville defines as chilly as we have 82 degree days in October and it was also the day the second Presidential debate was to occur and that would be one chilly room as well.
The farce of that is we have Trump pledging law and order, banning Muslims and other Immigrants, blaming Bill Clinton for his sexual infidelities and NAFTA while Clinton was a part of her husbands legacy in building prisons and calling youth, "super predators." Good times the 90s were. The legacy of prisons are now coming to full roost, the overcrowding that contributed to the riots in the 70s as the current book, Blood in the Water, illustrates what transpired there (great book complex read). But as in all things military in our United States we have the Riot Gear Squad there equivalent to the SWAT teams that parade down main street, as the movie illustrates.
The director, Craig Atkinson, was at Ferguson and is a son of a retired Police Officer, which likely enabled him to know what questions to ask and how to carry himself around the individuals whom he profiled. Although in the post film discussion it was actual encounters at bars at conventions where he encountered those who when formally asked declined to respond, so that alone is quite telling. And we accompany the local town SWAT team on a raid which of course finds nothing but leaves a destruction trail in its path. But more disturbing is the smug manner of the young officer and clear idiocy that also is shared by this heavily armed squad as they Google Map the designated address. So that tells you that the warrant and necessary investigation prior to obtaining the warrant was likely also a Google search. And that in turn adds another level of why we have a massive problem in America when it comes to Police violence.
In the course of the film the eerie Grossman as in Balko's article seems to represent his name perfectly as he advises and schools Police across the country, yet off camera the NYPD Officer admitted to the Director that his advice is not something they practice or encourage but then again actions speak louder than words and it appears they have not gotten the latter message or that Officer is not of influence when it comes to rank and file. But the one who stood out to me was the man at the end who has the software that is the predictive algorithm that supposedly can determine who will be a career criminal vs a one off. The manner in which he speaks about this program is disturbing to the point he believes that it could be used to determine the psychological profile of a child in the womb and what their long term prospects are with regards to criminal behavior. That is what I found most disturbing and in the course of my question about said program, Mr. Balko and Mr. Atkinson, discussed the current psychological state of Police and how little to none occurs with regards to their own rank and file as many would fail. And Mr. Balko shared his interview with a retired Officer who was compelled by the County in which he served to establish a SWAT team and when he asked for volunteers he immediately took the names of said volunteers and put them on a do not use list as anyone wanting to volunteer for said team would be the least stable candidate.
And it was there another discussion about ex military and the training that is required and the use of same military equipment by those poorly to untrained as small towns across America are now accessing much of that same equipment being returned from war zones (body parts cleaned off, sometimes as the film notes) and the cost to both maintain and in turn validate by excessive use for largely created scenarios.
Until Americans actually see and experience this type of bizarre antics I don't think we truly understand how serious this issue is with regards to militarization of American police forces. And when I came home after the film I read my New York Times and the cover story was about the legacy of U.S torture on those held as prisoners of war.
If you read the article you will read horrific stories of men who were never part of the problem with regards to terrorism and their stories are similar to the many men and women in this country whom have been prosecuted and interned for crimes that they did not commit. I truly don't see any difference between what I see, hear and know of our own Police and in turn Prison situation. The reality is that the system of Justice from the ground up to the very top, which includes our Departments of Defense and Justice, are equally as complicit if not fully cooperative with what transpires on our streets or those abroad.
And yes we have made some changes, but those seem so inconsequential when you realize how complex and insidious these problems are. I don't think any Politician alone is capable of resolving any of it.