New doc­u­men­tary shows mil­i­ta­riza­tion of US po­lice from the in­side

Malta Independent - - CINEMA - Lind­sey Bahr AP Film Writer

The doc­u­men­tary “Do Not Re­sist” pro­vides a timely look at the state of polic­ing in the United States, from the es­ca­la­tion of SWAT raids to the un­reg­u­lated tech­nol­ogy po­lice de­part­ments are us­ing.

Di­rec­tor Craig Atkin­son for over two years trav­eled around the coun­try shad­ow­ing var­i­ous po­lice de­part­ments in their ev­ery­day ac­tiv­i­ties. The film is now play­ing in lim­ited re­lease, with week­long runs launch­ing in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and Los An­ge­les on Fri­day, and ex­pand­ing through­out Oct. and Nov .

Atkin­son, the cin­e­matog­ra­pher on the doc­u­men­tary “Detropia,” was first in­trigued to pur­sue the is­sue of po­lice mil­i­ta­riza­tion after see­ing the po­lice re­sponse to the Boston Marathon bomb­ing and the mil­i­tary grade equip­ment they used. He was struck by how po­lice acted more like an “oc­cu­py­ing force,” he said.

“I was see­ing re­ports com­ing out later where peo­ple were hand­cuffed face down on their front lawn de­tained, no charges filed, no ques­tions, po­lice of­fi­cers en­ter­ing homes without search war­rants,” Atkin­son said.

It was just dif­fer­ent from what he’d known. Atkin­son has in some ways been ob­serv­ing the po­lice his en­tire life. His fa­ther was an of­fi­cer for 29 years out­side of Detroit and a SWAT mem­ber from 1989 to 2002. As a boy, Atkin­son would tag along to train­ing ex­er­cises and play hostage. When he got a lit­tle older he would play the role of armed as­sailant.

“I al­ways had a great deal of re­spect for the work he was do­ing,” Atkin­son said. “He was a very up­stand­ing of­fi­cer.”

He knew, too, in the War on Ter­ror era that po­lice, and SWAT, were get­ting a bad rap and thought it would be a good idea to go be­hind the scenes and show it as it re­ally hap­pens— “the full breadth of the SWAT ex­pe­ri­ence.”

What he found, how­ever, was not what he ex­pected. In one de­part­ment, SWAT was be­ing used for raids over 200 times a year. It was a strik­ing dif­fer­ence to the ex­pe­ri­ence of his fa­ther, who, in a sim­i­larly sized de­part­ment, did 29 search war­rants in 13 years.

“We never found an op­por­tu­nity where you see the equip­ment be­ing used in a sit­u­a­tion where you would ac­tu­ally want it used,” he said. He thinks some­thing like the Florida night­club shoot­ing was one in­stance where SWAT was in fact used ap­pro­pri­ately.

The is­sue of the mil­i­ta­riza­tion of po­lice in the United States has been vex­ing the coun­try for years, most point­edly dur­ing the po­liceshoot­ing protests in Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri, where po­lice wore riot gear and de­ployed tear gas, dogs and ar­mored ve­hi­cles, some­times point­ing as­sault ri­fles at pro­test­ers.

The ACLU has spo­ken out against it, and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, which de­fended the use of mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles dur­ing the Boston Marathon bomb­ing, sub­se­quently is­sued stricter con­trols over weapons and gear dis­trib­uted to law en­force­ment. But it re­mains a hot but­ton is­sue in the coun­try, with some pas­sion­ately de­fend­ing the ne­ces­sity of riot gear for the pro­tec­tion of of­fi­cers in dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions.

In the tense af­ter­math of a po­lice shoot­ing death in Louisiana, for in­stance, Gov. John Bel Ed­wards said a Ba­ton Rouge po­lice of­fi­cer had teeth knocked out with a rock thrown by a pro­tester. He said if of­fi­cers don’t use riot gear, “you have no de­fense against that sort of thing.”

For his part, Atkin­son started film­ing about a year be­fore the events in Fer­gu­son. Once that hap­pened, he knew his footage would be times­tamped around that, and there be­came an ur­gency to fin­ish.

He chose to present the footage in a verite style. Thus, we hear only from those ei­ther in­volved in polic­ing or pub­lic events like con­gres­sional hear­ings or com­mu­nity meet­ings.

Peo­ple en­cour­aged him to in­clude his fa­ther’s story (he didn’t) or a “voice of god” nar­ra­tion to guide the au­di­ence (also ab­sent). Atkin­son says his per­sonal in­ter­jec­tions are not the point.

“Ev­ery­body al­ready has an opin­ion about th­ese is­sues,” Atkin­son said. “We’re just show­ing things, we’re let­ting things un­fold.”

As the film con­tin­ues its run through­out the coun­try, he’s mainly sur­prised and “dis­heart­ened” that it re­mains rel­e­vant.

“Here we are years later and it’s as timely as it ever could be,” he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.