“Peace Officer” is a very relevant and unbiased look at the militarization of the police.
After Ferguson, many issues wrong with our country were brought to light. Among them were the amount of force police were allowed to use. The striking photos of police who look more like soldiers with military vehicles and gear were surprising to many. This film, in part, tackles that. It examines the militarization of the police from several perspectives and how it has changed throughout the years by examining several incidents.
Dub Lawrence became a sheriff in Utah at a very young age in the early 70s. One of his lasting decisions since has been founding a SWAT team in his county. For the next thirty or so years he had continued to believe that the team he founded was good for the community. It wasn’t until his own son-in-law became entangled in a conflict where the SWAT team was called in and eventually killed him. Since his retirement, Lawrence has continued to investigate cases due to his great skill in the matter. In this documentary, we follow him as he investigates several instances of excess violence in SWAT raids.
Since the 1970s, there has been a 15000% increase in SWAT raids. Directors Brad Barber and Scott Christopherson do a good job of investigating this incredible surge in the use of such force. They analyze a series of government laws and acts as well as a change in the scope of what SWAT can be used for. They also do a good job of producing two very opposing arguments of those for police force and those against it. Although it would’ve been easier to just argue against the police, they do a good job of bringing up examples of when this kind of force is necessary and properly justifying some of their actions.
The film drags on at times and goes a little off topic once in a while, making the beginning portions of the film boring. It does pick up later on as Lawrence brings his perspective on other cases, finding a great deal of evidence the police left behind. You find yourself more and more interested as the film goes on. It lacks in terms of diversity of the study, as all the cases take place in Utah, but still presents a general idea of most cases. All in all, it’s an interesting documentary that provides a good look at the amount of force police use and how they should be peace officers, rather than police officers.
The film hits theaters Sept. 16.