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.
Police have been the Middle Men between communities of color and the
policy makers since policing began. We follow an evolution of
policing in the black community from slavery to Compstat, recognizing
political influence, wealth, and control has caused a cycle that
perpetuates mass incarceration and discrimination. Upon speaking to
former officers of the law, they revealed Compstat as a factor in the
shift of policing toward numbers and statistics behind arrests, and
laws, and deployment.
Additionally, the shift to Compstat has made a push away from
community policing with approaches that dehumanize the Black American
and poorer communities even more. With emphasis on performance goals
(quotas), low level quality of life enforcement (extension of stop
and frisk), and a major push officers to mis-classify crime numbers,
the public is less safe. Not only are protectors being influenced to
violate civil and human rights but they are not held accountable when
they become perpetrators of the law because the culture lends itself
to aggression, secrecy, and targeting.
What happens after has left families and friends devastated. Not only
were there violations by law officers but the criminal justice system
scaled against them in their pursuit for justice, so they became
activist, freedom fighters, to hold those responsible for their
children’s death accountable. Despite not receiving justice for the
untimely deaths of Eric Garner, Amadou Diallo, Nicholas Heyward Jr,,
Sean Bell, and Mohammad Bah, their work is hopeful while they pursue
justice to prevent others from suffering the same fate. Their stories
are remarkable, inspiring, and through them, you will know that their
children live on.