9 January 2017 | runamokprods
Chilling, moody documentary
A documentary with the creepy mood of a horror film, this un-narrated collection of 'on the scene' footage everywhere from the streets of Ferguson during the protests after the police killing of Michael Brown, to US Senate hearings about the selling (or giving) of high end military equipment to the police forces of small cities and even small towns. (One town got 2 armored vehicles from the US Government, even though the whole department is only one cop!).
The film looks at how the militarizing of smaller police forces, far from reducing danger, not only wastes tons of taxpayer money, but more importantly helps foster and conform an atmosphere of fear and suspicion between the police and the citizens they serve. The government gives no training in the use of the equipment, and despite the statement that the tanks and high powered automatic rifles aren't supposed to be used for riot control or the suppression of citizens, that seems to be exactly what it does get used for (since terrorism is basically a non reality in these towns, as, mostly, are murders).
There's also exploration of ever growing police surveillance of public spaces (facial recognition software meaning you really are never alone), and predictive technology that seems to be heading us right towards the 'pre-crime' dystopia of 'Minority Report' (most chilling line of the film "How do you tell a mother that her unborn child has a 50% chance of committing a murder by age 18? What is she supposed to do with that?' asks a developer of this technology. (Not to mention – what if you're wrong?!?)
Generally, the film is low on facts and figures (although there are some real jaw droppers), but that's OK. Other films have focused on the hard details. This film focuses on what having these weapons and abilities as part of day-to-day policing does to us all --not only citizens but even the police themselves. (I appreciated that the film doesn't feel 'anti-cop', and even showed empathy for officers receiving mixed signals from their superiors and the US government as to how they're supposed to do their jobs). I liked that it was clear that these trends trouble people on both the left and the right. Having an over-equipped literal 'army' watching our every move seems to trouble citizens and even politicians of many stripes.
A chilling and important film about how law enforcement has been evolving in the US, and where it could easily go in the future if we're not all very careful.