Film Review by Kam Williams
Constitutional Rights Documentary Examines Why America’s Cops Are Running Amok
William “Dub” Lawrence is the former sheriff of Davis County, Utah where he created and trained the state’s very first SWAT team several decades ago. However, he came to regret having ever founded that tactical unit in September of 2008 when the police were summoned by his daughter because her husband had suffered an emotional breakdown.
Brian had barricaded himself in his pickup truck where he threatened to commit suicide while holding a gun to his head. Instead of defusing the volatile situation, the SWAT team proceeded to ratchet up the tension, ultimately ending the standoff by emptying 111 rounds into the vehicle, a lethal mix of of live ammo, flash-bomb grenades, pepper balls, rubber bullets, tasers and explosive devices.
Dub partially blames himself for his son-in-law’s unnecessary death, because he’d helped enforce the commanding officer’s order that his daughter and Brian’s parents vacate the area, thereby abandoning their loved one in an hour of need. Leaving it up to the first responders proved disastrous, since they failed to follow proper protocol, going so far as to shoot Brian in the head after he was already disarmed and lying defenseless in the street.
This and other similar cases of overzealous policing on the part of SWAT teams is the subject of Peace Officer, a timely documentary co-directed by Scott Christopherson and Brad Barber. For, never before in American history have cops been so distrusted and/or disliked by such a large percentage of the citizenry.
Most notably, there’s the Black Lives Matter movement which refuses to apologize for employing such hateful chants during demonstrations as: “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em up like bacon!” and “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want ’em? Now!” Consequently, attacks on law enforcement officers have become so commonplace that they’re now being murdered at the rate of about one a week.
How do you explain such a frightening breakdown of the culture? Well, this thought-provoking expose’ blames the country’s increasingly militaristic approach to policing. Dub, who serves as the film’s narrator, laments the fact that “Most people no longer see police as protectors, but as violators of their liberty.” He also harks back to a time when a patrolman’s job description call for his primarily serving the community as a peacemaker.
Sadly, that lofty ideal is long gone, having been replaced by the self-serving, “us” vs. “them” notion as reflected by the blue wall of silence and the immunity from prosecution which “allows cops to break the law with impunity.” A recipe for civil insurrection which we’ve all been witnessing.
Thus, Peace Officer proves to be the cinematic equivalent of a canary in the coal mine, as it issues a dire warning to the government to get SWAT teams under control before either the people revolt or the U.S. turns into a Fascistic police state.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 109 minutes
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Peace Officer screening schedule
Opening on Wednesday, September 16th at the IFC Center in New York City
Opening on Friday, September 18th at the Nuart Theater in Los Angeles
Opening on Friday, September 25th in the following cities:
San Francisco – Opera Plaza
Salt Lake City, UT – Tower Theater
Opening on Friday, October 2nd in the following cities:
Pleasantville, NY – Jacob Burns Film Center
Boston, MA – Landmark Kendall Square
Columbus, OH – Gateway Film Center
New Orleans, LA – Zeitgeist Film Center
Salt Lake City, Utah – Megaplex Theaters Gateway
Washington D.C – Landmark E Street
Philadelphia, PA – Landmark Ritz at the Bourse
Opening on Friday, October 9th in the following cities:
Austin, TX – Alamo Drafthouse Lamar
Dallas, TX – The Texas Theater
Kalamazoo, MI – Alamo Drafthouse
Seattle, Washington – Sundance Cinema
Scottsdale, AZ – The Shea (Harkins Theaters)
Yonkers, NY – Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers
Santa Fe, NM – CCA Santa Fe
Opening on Friday, October 16th in the following cities:
Tacoma, WA – at the Grand Cinema
Miami, FL – at the O Cinema
Pittsfield, MA – at the Berkshire Museum
Hartford, CT – at the Real Art Ways
Opening on Friday, October 23rd in the following cities:
Boulder, Co – at the Boedecker Theater
Kansas City, MO – at the Alamo Drafthouse
Opening on Friday, October 30th at the Landmark Midtown Arts Theater, Atlanta, GA.
Opening on Friday, November 6th at the Landmark Ken Cinema, San Diego, CA
Opening on Friday, November 13th at the Landmark Chez Artiste, Denver, CO.