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.



×

STORY

In many ways, Middle Men seeks to expose the contributing elements that played a role in the unarmed deaths of five New York victims set against the greater backdrop of modern day policing policies embedded in discrimination. One discriminatory policy emphasized is termed ‘Broken Windows’. This policy was prevalent in the choice to pursue now deceased Eric Garner and showed some assemblage in Nicholas Heyward Jr.’s 1994 case when the 14 year old child was killed in a dark stairwell of Gowanus projects. The Broken Windows approach is an offshoot of Post-civil war laws that would target black members of the community.

Cohorts of these operations are driven by ‘Compstat’ an operational management system driven by performance measures. Compstat also closely resembles metrics used by the military for planning and strategy.  This model is known to the public as quota driven policing and unravels as justifiable targeting that creates a point of penetration for bodies to enter the court system. Policing is revealed as a mentality by former officers who explain policing is mired in so much bureaucracy that they found it difficult to exhibit discretion and compassion in the communities they served.  As a result, cases involving minorities were not only mishandled in the form of wrongful and deadly aggression, but also mass targeting promoted under stop-and-frisk policies, creating further mistrust between the community and the police in communities of color.  The middle man policing mentality is depicted from various perspectives, former police officers, the public affected by police brutality, and the formally incarcerated individuals share their individual stories. These stories of the group members are intertwined with, agencies, lawyers, and educators.

To understand the concept of the middle man role law enforcement plays, we researched the evolution of policing from post slavery to the current use of ‘Compstat’, and found that whether it was because of the war on drugs or broken windows offenses, how the criminal justice system treated people of color seemed rooted in old white supremacist values of keeping ‘the people’ in line, cheap labor, and continued colonization despite whether an individual officer was actually racist. The problematic values deeply weighed in systematic policies and laws police officials are bound by and exhibited by officers of all races, nationality and genders. Policing is revealed as a mentality, a culture of ‘self’ with too much power over the public.

This excess in power has real implications and is riddled with civil rights abuses across all cultures in the United States. In the cases of the families interviewed, their nightmare did not end there. Yet through their efforts their children live on. They fight not only for the justice of their children but for future generations to come.

 

DONATE