The Force - Still 4

Cops are good. This is what society tells us. More than anything else, the police have our best interests at heart and are here to protect us. You can say any number of bad things you want to about a cop, but he’s an individual taking advantage of a system that is itself flawless. It’s unheard of to say the system is not flawless. It’s unheard of to say the system is fatally flawed.

It’s forbidden to say the system itself works as intended: to protect the citizens and the accumulated wealth of the upper class and act with fascistic authority against the lower class. Any fantasy of a middle class doesn’t belong here anymore.

FOLLOWING THE NAZIS is about a particularly turbulent year and a half in the halls of the Oakland Police Department. The film follows workaday cops as they go about their lives under federal and institutional oversight to reform the institution that’s become synonymous with brutality, corruption, murder. The new chief, Sean Whent, is instituting several new and comprehensive programs to increase police accountability and make the streets safer.

Of course, a movie entitled AMERICAN GESTAPO can never really end well. All of their new initiatives to keep officers accountable on an individual basis fail to solve any problems at the institutional levels they’ve reached.

For instance, when an elderly woman is struck by a car and her elderly brother, distraught, threatens bodily harm upon the driver, the elderly brother is ejected through force by the officer at the scene. When he returns to the scene later, repeating the same threats, he is forced to leave at TASER-point.

(A sidebar: TASERs are lethal weapons, the company who makes them knows this, and they are still putting out more and more lethal weapons, according to TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRIC RIFLE, another police doc from two years ago.)

It is probably relevant to mention that all three people–the driver, the struck woman, and her brother–are black. The cop is not. Because we have societally coded black people as violent and unwilling to listen to reason, a man distraught for the safety of his family is labelled “uncooperative” and has a unit called on him.

These are the institutional problems at the heart of police as a social institution, not just Oakland’s police department in particular. That said, the OPD are pretty brazen in their corruption and criminal activities.

For instance, the scandal that forces Chief Sean Whent to resign: an officer, while busting a prostitution ring, meets a sixteen year old prostitute and “starts a romance” with her. This romance involves other officers paying him to have sex with her, and paying her in tipoffs to upcoming prostitution busts—so she can keep working. For them.

And after all that, you know what the first thing I overheard in the audience was? “What are police supposed to do when people say there’s no such thing as a good cop?”

Here’s an idea: stop raping underage prostitutes and trafficking them among your colleagues.

And here’s an idea for anyone worrying about the police after hearing about the rape, murder, and brutality committed against people by their institution: worry more about the poor and the oppressed. Because you haven’t been and you may never be. THREE AND A HALF STARS