Synopsis




This film

revisits the lives of those killed by law enforcement, both before and after their deaths though raw, uncensored conversation with their loved ones. Their personalities, likes and dislikes make them human, more than a story, more than a statistic. Their identities imposed on the public by the criminal justice system in order to protect those that are supposed to protect and serve. Why justice in these cases was not served is discovered to have prevalence on a systematic level, one where history was defined by two casts, black and white, free and slave, us versus them. The narrator inculcates the story with descriptions of roots the criminal justice system and police officers are attached to. Motion graphics offered are short bits of animation to vividly explain complex systems and terms like, Compstat and Broken Windows to exhibit how these systems fundamentally affect communities of color.

Set against a backdrop of policing, discriminatory practices overtime have dismantled communities of color. 1 in 3 Black American males and 1 in 11 Hispanic males will go to prison in their life time. A number of factors contribute to these rates but targeting, a civil rights violation, makes these statistics a guarantee. In the era of Compstat these numbers increased from steadily and could most certainly rise if not address urgently.

‘Broken Windows’ the sister of Stop and Frisk, low offense driven policy works in hand with Compstat, a system that bases success on officer performance for arrests and summons is linked to the Staten Island, Eric Garner case. The public witnessed the worst case outcome of this approach to policing, a man losing his life for a minor crime. The issue of poverty could have better addressed the root causes for the issues but instead it was easier to demonize Garner which would also help to reconcile this department’s bottom line. Former officer Model explains the effects of this case in relation to broken windows policy, also noting the role training and Compstat played. He explains the department that birthed him never took accountability for the incident because the officer involved was a scapegoat for the bigger more prevalent issues of the system. Marquis, and Fogg both African American, share that they found it difficult to exhibit discretion and compassion in the communities of color when they were on the force, Fogg dates back to the early 1980’s, Marquis more recent.

Compstat is commonly known as quota driven, credited to Former Police Commission William Bratton in 1994. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani thereafter brought in his Broken Windows approach to policing. Compstat’s implementation was then associated with a historical crime reduction, but our film challenges this notion as film participants, motion graphics and narration carry the view through a world mired in bureaucracy, numbers, and bodies. Marquis, Model, and Bell explain policing became all about the numbers making it hard to use discretion. These first hand accounts revealed policing to be an aggressive culture that turned officers into “merely vessels for carrying numbers”. Whistleblowers publicly came forward about being told to specifically target communities of color for arrests. They too became open targets.

From post slavery, on, problematic behaviors have been exhibited through the criminal justice system and laws have been made to maintain segregation and control of the Black and Brown community. Lawyers interviewed explain the impact this has had on this group of people, noting this is not a fair society.

Documented throughout the film are Hawa Bah, Kadaitou Diallo, and Gwen Carr who unite frequently to support each other’s effort for Justice. Their stories inspire unity, courage, and examples of how to approach injustice offered to them by the American Criminal Justice system. The conclusion is filled with final thoughts that are infused with solid solutions through the efforts of these families exhibited in the film.



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Compstat & Broken Windows: A Brief History

Credited with reducing subway crime in New York City by twenty-seven percent in the mid-90s, CompStat was originally used as a transit tool, and later to track crime statistics once it was introduced by Willam Bratton in 1994 (CompStat is defined as a combination of management, philosophy, and organizational management tools used by police departments).

One year later, then Mayor Rudolph Giuliani introduced his quality of life broken windows policy to the New York City Police Department. Giuliani and Bratton then used CompStat in conjunction with the broken windows policy to promote the notion that the best way to stop bigger crimes from occurring was to target smaller quality of life crimes. While some argue that the broken windows policy was intended to keep neighborhoods clean and crime rates low, others contend that its sole purpose was to create a viable way for police officers to target black and brown folks under the guise of pursuing minor crimes like jay-walking and loose cigarette sales, in order to meet quotas set by CompStat.

Before long CompStat was being used by a number of precincts across the country and the concept of community policing was a thing of the past. This type of policing led to frequent encounters between police officers and community members in urban areas. As a result, discontent with law enforcement in these neighborhoods amplified, thereby increasing instances of police brutality, and arguably causing the civilian death of Eric Garner for the sale of loose cigarettes in Staten Island in 2014.

In Middle Men we explore the ways that CompStat continues to position police officers as “middle men,” simply meeting quotas while unknowingly contributing to a long history of racism and classism that continues to destroy families and communities across the country.

 

Written by: David Nazario