TV Review – Crime + Punishment
Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
Every year in December, the Academy Awards announces its shortlist for various categories. These shortlists are a reduction of all the eligible films to a manageable group from which the nominees will be determined. There were 166 films eligible for Best Documentary Feature at the 91st Academy Awards or the 91st Oscars. The shortlist took that number down to 15. This documentary by Stephen Maing, an Emmy-winning filmmaker from Brooklyn, made that shortlist. Unfortunately, seven other films on the shortlist have gotten more buzz and more recognition at other awards organizations, so the likelihood of this film getting nominated is low, but here’s my pitch for why it should.
Maing’s film focuses on the NYPD 12. In March 2015, a group of police officers in the New York Police Department decided to file a lawsuit against the department and thus the city. The lawsuit claims the department was still demanding quotas for arrests and summons, even though such quotas were banned in 2010. Somehow, Maing became aware of these guys before they filed the lawsuit. The film opens in fact during the 2014 police graduation ceremony, so either he was already friends with one of the NYPD 12 or he was perhaps aware of someone else involved whom shall be named later in this review.
This doc is made in the tradition of several documentaries that have won over the past decade. It’s comparable to Icarus at the 90th Oscars, Citizenfour at the 87th Oscars and The Cove at the 82nd Oscars. It’s made as a kind of exposé. It’s made using undercover techniques like hidden audio equipment and even spy cameras. It underscores the difficulty and the danger of trying to get at the truth.
Maing is able to follow about half of the NYPD 12. Most of whom live and are assigned in predominantly Black and Latino areas in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem. Maing though can’t follow them like the camera crews follow the officers in the TV series COPS. This isn’t like a traditional ride-along. Maing isn’t allowed inside the precinct headquarters.
Through it all, we get insight into the pressures that the officers face. Even though the movie comments on Black Lives Matter, taking the side of the protestors, it’s also at the same time one of the most empathetic stories about police officers. It’s because we’re constantly in the shoes of police officers, every step of the way. It also provides great understanding of what cops on certain streets face.
Manny Gomez is the aforementioned someone else involved that Maing follows. Gomez is a private investigator who is involved in the lawsuit. Whereas the NYPD 12 is attacking from the inside out, Gomez is attacking from the outside in. Instead of looking at the people pushing for quotas, Gomez looks at the people who are the subject of those quotas, young Black and Latino boys who are falsely arrested or summoned.
Gomez investigates one such Latino named Pedro Hernandez who was arrested for attempted murder. In what could have been an addendum to Ava DuVernay’s 13th (2016), Gomez uncovers corruption in the criminal justice system, corruption that seems hellbent on railroading young Black and Latino men for politics, power or sheer money.
What Maing reveals here is incredible, relevant and very hard-hitting. It might seem like only a New York story, but the implications of this film is far reaching, if you take the side of the Black Lives Matter movement. It might not get the Oscar nomination, but it’s a must-see.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 52 mins.
Available on Hulu.