2017 | 93 minutes | Rated NR
Dashcam video shows a police officer approaching a vehicle as a black suspect, who is reportedly wielding a knife, opens his passenger door. The officer yells, "Don't you move or I'll shoot you," before the man climbs out of the car. The officer fires multiple shots into the suspect's body. By now, we're used to seeing videos like this—the lives of black men killed by police officers replayed on cable news and Facebook feeds. In Peter Nicks's documentary The Force, it's Oakland police cadets who rewind the video and dissect the timeline of events leading to another black man dead. Nicks secured incredible access to the department from 2014 to 2016, when it had already ticked off more than 10 years of noncompliance with a negotiated settlement agreement. As the nation turns its eyes on its police departments, Nicks offers an interior view of one adapting to the dictates of 21st-century policing. But his lens doesn't make any judgments. He leaves it up to his footage to tell the story. No interviews. No narration. We see one captain repeatedly tell officers in training that a single misdeed can ruin the reputation of the department. We see the police chief, with his public-relations team, anticipating questions from the press following a fatal police shooting. We see community members decrying slow response times, officers typing up use-of-force reports for Taser deployment, and protesters stomping through a police cruiser's windshield. Toward the end of the film, news breaks that several Oakland officers raped and trafficked a teenage girl. The police chief resigns. So do his two next replacements. The Oakland Police Department finds itself, once again, at a nadir of community trust. And we're watching it all unfold in real time.
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