The Oakland Police Department in California has had scandal after scandal, and had been under a decade of federal oversight as a result when filming started in fall 2014 for “The Force.” The new documentary film by Peter Nicks will screen on Saturday during the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in downtown Durham.
“The Force” begins with scenes from Oakland PD’s policy academy, and words of more experienced law enforcement explaining to them how “one police officer can affect the credibility of a department.”
As filming progresses over the next two years, more scandals arrive and the chief resigns. Through it all, “The Force” records interactions between police and the public, police and each other, and the public with fellow concerned community members. The film shows press conferences and officer body camera footage as well as conversations about training between officers, and trainers telling the new officers that they are required to report misconduct of other officers.
Even as “The Force” shows the Oakland Police Department to appear to work for reform, news breaks about more than just one police officer’s conduct affecting the credibility of the department. The film shows audiences the work of daily law enforcement being done even as scandals unfold.
Viewers of “The Force” can take a look at how Oakland has dealt with — or hasn’t dealt with — scandals, department culture and mistrust of police. It also shows how that community’s activists, protestors and leaders respond. There are lessons any city or town can learn, whether training, culture, civilian response or even use of body cameras.
“The Force” ends with a new chief and a civilian review board, in place just months ago. Documentaries about law enforcement are needed now, as the story of America’s cities are still being written. It is important to watch.