This crusade of a documentary is a private eye into New York’s own law enforcement.
In a battle against 31,000 officers and even more supervisors, commissioners, and city officials, 12 brave men and women (NYPD 12) came together to expose the truth behind minority targeting and systemic oppression from inside their police forces. This epic documentary sneaks inside the belly of the blue beast through the use hidden microphones, cameras and shocking private testimonials. It has taken director Stephen Maing over six years to tackle this enormous topic and finally whistleblow the very people with all the guns and power…
Maing: This is the fourth project that Ross Tuttle and I have tried to put together over the years around policing and police reform. The problem just seemed to be only getting deeper. When we saw that the city was acknowledging certain issues but nothing substantial was happening, we were confused but we knew we were on their radar.
Speaking out and going on the record pissed a lot of people off; and it was not long before officer Sunny Gonzales was removed from his post and put to foot patrol in the middle of the winter; Pedro Serrano put on the long overnight shift; and Edwin Raymond was demoted, ruining hopeful chances of being eventually promoted. Brutal consequences of humiliation and retaliation from within were endured by each officer for being against collecting “weekly collars” and all for serving the public good. But they are not simply martyrs anymore since the publicity these reports have been gaining is finally being recognized.
Felicia Gonzales, a seasoned patrol cop and an expecting mother, is so terrified in the film of the repercussions of her coming forth that:
Off. Felicia: After the press release came out on NBC, I didn’t go to work for two weeks because I was scared. We had to support ourselves.
The NYPD 12, as they’ve been named, have been toughing it alone for far too long now. But who else are they going to turn to, the police?
Sgt. Raymond: The group effort is absolutely instrumental and essential, we lean on each other. The fact that we didn’t know each other and we are having the same experiences within our respective commands, shows that this thing is truly ubiquitous.
Weaving the independent stories of police-police abuse, police-public tragedies, while showing the failures of systemic prejudice is Maing’s triumph in this film as he unlocks the sheer magnitude of the situation we are in. It is an expose as ground breaking, if not more so, than Ava Duvernay’s 13th, which deals with the for-profit incarceration conditions in the United States.
The solution is clear to Jessica Perez, the mother of the high school student who was innocently locked in Rikers Island for more than a year; that the stem of the issue is in minority targeting tactics that officers are being trained in:
Perez: Currently in [this country] we have many issues: mass incarceration, criminal justice reforms, bail reforms. But we’re forgetting one thing, that if those officers can prevent that one arrest, all those problems go away. That’s too important to forget. We won’t have our kids in jail. To take pleads because they are forced to take pleads.
Off. Diaz reminds us of the astronomical number of police in this city alone, saying that “It’s an army and they are basically designed to put people of color in jail.” Crime + Punishment reveals the exact mechanisms of racial bias and active discrimination that drive these revenue producing agents called the “boys in blue.”
This film is for those who seek the truth behind national police tragedies such as Fergusson Missouri, the Eric Garner case, and so many other frequent reports of the violation of human rights by those who were installed to protect them. As polemical as this film is, (and trust me, the revelations in this movie will change the way you see a blue uniform) director Stephen Maing simply wants to open a dialogue so that these issues don’t remain hidden.
Maing: This has been years in the making and a true collaboration between the filmmakers and these brave subjects. This is a very active issue that is unfolding tonight. We are all about trying to put this out into the world for the potential of a positive discussion.
The film screened to an full house at BAM CINEMA FEST on June 24. With a release date of August 28, the film is ready to make quite the splash that will not only motivate, but finally activate the change we desperately need. Until then: stay informed and know your rights.
“Our fathers proclaimed, by obvious madness moved,
Man’s innocent until his guilt is proven,
They would have known, had they not been confused,
He’s innocent until he is accused.” -Ogden Nash