“Do Not Resist”: the militarization of civilian police departments

On Monday night, at a late hour (11:00 PM), giving me time to rewatch Shaun in a compelling episode of “The Good Doctor”, PBS POV aired the 2016 documentary “Do Not Resist”, by Craig Atkinson, concerning the gradual militarization of local police departments, despite the Posse Comitatus rule.

The film’s beginning and end shows up close the energetic and sometimes violent demonstrations in Ferguson MO, the second segment after prosecutors said that white police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the shooting of Michael Brown.  In the film’s middle, there is a live enactment of major police action in the rural black community in Richland County, S.C.

A major centerpiece of the film shows James Comey lecturing a meeting of the International Federation of Police Officers in Orlando, FL.   At one point he says, “Violence is your tool, master it.” Dave Grossman also speaks, and police officers are expected to read his books on the psychology of violence.

Grossman at one point says that parents have to comfort their kids that monsters in the closet aren’t real. (This came up in the “Slender Man” trial, which ABC recently covered on 20-20, “Out of the Woods”).  But “We’ve all lied. Monsters are real.”   Rand Paul and Claire McCaskill also speak.

There is examination of the weapons police departments get.  Why do they need bayonets?  I remember “Fix bayonets” in drill and ceremony in my own Army Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, S.C.

And there are plenty of peaceful demonstration scenes.  “Hands up, don’t shoot”.

There is also a sequence where a female police officer drives a patrol car in Marina Del Ray CA and show how facial recognition works.  There was mention of the concept of pre-crime profiling, with mothers being told that their male sons had a 50% chance of becoming criminals. The film “Minority Report” (2002) comes to mind, but was not explicitly mentioned; but “Terminator” was named. “I’ll be back.”

After the 72 minute film, the director, who is quite handsome, did a brief QA.

Then PBS showed two short films:

One is “A Conversation with My Black Son” (5 min) by Geeta Gambhir and Blair Foster. The parents warn their small child not to question police officers when approached and indicate the color of his skin will matter.

The second is “Mother’s Day”,  7 min., going to visit mom in a Corona CA prison.

Name: Do Not Resist
Director, writer:  Craig Atkinson
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  2018/2/12 PBS POV
Length:  72
Rating:  NA
Companies:  PBS POV, Passion River Films
Link:  official PBS
Stars:  4/5   ****_

(Posted: Tuesday, February 13, 2017 at 12:30 PM EST)

“Newtown”: documentary focuses on the families affected by the mass shooting

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Name: Newtown
Director, writer:  Kim A. Snyder
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Fathom event at Regal Ballston Common (from NYC) 2016/11/02
Length 80
Rating NA
Companies: PBS Independent Lens, Abamorama
Link: official;   PBS aired 2017/4/3

Tonight, “Newtown” was screened by Fathom events, with a panel discussion from New York by Chris Cuomo afterward. The entire event was called “Newtown: A Conversation”.

The film, directed by Kim A. Snyder and produced by Maria Cuomo Cole, focuses on the families of the children and teachers and staff shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 by Adam Lanza.

The film spends little time on tracing Lanza’s actions or background, although it shows the inside of the house after his mother’s body was found. It does trace the way parents gradually found out what was happening to their own kids throughout that day, and then traces five families afterward.  At the end, one of the dads takes up skydiving in a closing shot for the film.

The film includes some testimony about assault weapons and the tendency of bullets to tumble, something I remember from my own Army service.  Some homeowners (as in a case in Oklahoma in March 2017) might be able to defend themselves from a huge home invasion if they own them.  Gun control admittedly may put more weapons in the hands of criminals (as in Europe with terrorists) and leave average people more vulnerable to very determined attacks.  But gun control will prevent some domestic crime and rampages such as this one.  Different policy choices put different people at risk.

At one point, a father says that Lanza was not excessively bullied.  There is coverage of the effects on siblings of the victims.

The film uses background music from up to 13 composers, supervised by Fil Eisler.

Hollywood Life has an article here.

Cuomo moderated with his usual analytic style.  One of the panel members was a black female police chief from Orlando who had responded to the Pulse attack.  The panel was overwhelming in its refutation of the NRA’s idea that a “good guy with a gun” can always stop a very determined enemy attacker.  Cuomo suggested that what is needed is not so much new policy as closing loopholes and enforcing existing policy.  I think that gun control (as usually proposed) typically does reduce most domestic crime (and suicide) but it might make the public more vulnerable to some kinds of terrorist attacks.

On the day of Newtown, I made a bit of a pilgrimage to a high school where I had substitute taught to see a performance (which was not cancelled).

(Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016 at 11:15 PM EDT)