An excellent look at revamping a troubled urban police department.
"The Force" is Peter Nicks second film in a trilogy of films in which he investigates the interaction between community and institution; the institutions that effect our daily lives, e.g., health, security, and education. In his first film, "The Waiting Room", Nicks portrayed a day and night in an Oakland hospital emergency room. In "The Force", Nicks and his team go inside the Oakland Police Department, investigating just how it is working to comply with a decade+ old federal oversight ruling, which was instigated after years of abuse and corruption.
The Oakland Police Department has made national headlines in recent years, yet it is not so dissimilar to other urban police departments, which is why "The Force" works as a documentary about the connection between community and it's protectors across the whole of the country. At the opening, when the new recruits gather to say a Christian prayer, I was skeptical. Would this be a love story to the police force? But once I settled in, this documentary proved it was attempting to show the facts, for good or ill. While I do believe that Nicks allowed the OPD to display their good side, he did not let them hide their dirt either. When emotions run high, it is difficult to stand back and show both sides fairly, but I think Nicks did just that.
In the Q&A following the film, Nicks explained that "The Force" had wrapped filming and even editing when the news broke that the OPD was involved in an underage prostitution scandal involving multiple officers and a massive cover-up. With little money and time, the entire crew decided to go back and film some more. They had to re-cut the film to include this latest information, which probably impacted the final film a bit for the worse, but added a twist that was absolutely necessary to the narrative. 13 years later, and the OPD is still fighting it's demons.
Like "The Waiting Room", I cannot recommend this film enough. It is a brilliant documentary. Because of the last minute changes, I think it got a bit muddled, but even so, it still managed to produce a stunning look at the relationship between police and community in an urban environment, in a time when we are struggling to find justice and peace. Not to mention, that today with Jeff Sessions vowing to remove these federal oversights, how relevant this movie becomes as we see first hand the importance such oversights have in protecting our most vulnerable people.
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