Activist filmmaker, Rochelle White provides audiences with an in-depth feature length social justice impact documentary film shot in an interview intensive format using 24 mm to 50 mm lenses. The NYPD, Gwen Carr, Kadi Diallo, William Bell, retired officers, Matt Fogg, Daniel Model, and Baron Marquis take center stage as the primary characters in the film. These individuals share testimonies representing both sides of the law, providing an unbiased account for the viewers.
Middle Men paints a clear picture of policing in the context of race, targeting, mass incarceration, and democracy, while exploring the complexities of working as a police officer (a middle man) in this day and age. White explores the idea that” middle men” may unconsciously be contributing to mass incarceration and racism out of a need to meet quotas under the Compstat policing model. In the film, White delves into the multifaceted topic of policing, placing a particular emphasis on Compstat, a model currently being used by the NYPD, more commonly known as the mecca of considered to be the mecca of policing, the NYPD.
Using documentary style activism, White provides valuable insight for her audience. The eye opening dialogue that takes place throughout the film is highlighted by commentary that allows the viewer to gain a better understanding of what the politics of policing entails and how it relates to race, police brutality, stop and frisk, mass incarceration and the business of policing. The discourse provided by a diverse group of individuals including retired police officers, lawyers, and professors is an exchange of ideas aimed to enlighten and inspire audiences to educate themselves and work together to demand reform.
While educating the audience, White intertwines interviews from Gwen Carr (mother of the late Eric Garner), Kadi Diallo (mother of the late Amadou Diallo), William Bell (father of the late Sean Bell) and Nicholas Heyward, (father of the late Nicholas Heyward) to tell their stories of what it is like to lose a love one due to the negligence of those put in place to protect and to serve, and how they are coping with the fact that none of their children’s’ killers have been brought to justice.
In an attempt to initiate change, Middle Men takes an in-depth look at all of the factors that fuel this system, including the media’s infatuation with showcasing and perpetuating racial stereotypes.
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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 Rudolpoh 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