Shocking Secrets Behind US Police Exposed in Explosive ‘Power’ Review – You Won’t Believe It!

The motto “to protect and to serve,” popularized by the Los Angeles Police Department and a staple of police dramas, has been instrumental in crafting a nationwide perception of police as a community’s gallant protectors. After watching “Strong Island” director Yance Ford’s latest documentary, “Power,” one might suggest an alternative, more somber tagline: “to control and to suppress.” This film offers a scathing critique of the factors that have shaped American policing as we know it today.

The question of who is protected versus who is controlled should not be surprising to anyone with even a cursory understanding of our societal disparities and access to footage of violent police encounters. What really leaves a lasting, unsettling impression from this Academy Award-nominated director’s comprehensive investigation into the path that led to overt militarization, stop-and-frisk policies, assault on protestors, and the murder of George Floyd, is the bigger picture: the extent to which police departments’ operations have evolved from the worst tendencies of a growing nation towards those who were not property-owning white individuals.

One of Ford’s interviewees, Minneapolis police Inspector Charlie Adams, highlights the lineage tracing back from today’s police stopping and ID-checking Black individuals to the slave patrols of the pre-Civil War South. (Adams is himself Black.) Other commentators, including Professor Nikhil Pal Singh and Sociologist Julian Go, discuss other roots of policing: frontier militias that displaced Indigenous populations to make way for white settlement. As cities expanded and industry demanded workers, municipal forces monitored immigrants and quashed strikes. The evolution of policing was shaped by these prevailing capitalistic forces, rather than any utopian vision of self-governance or universal security.

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This historical context merely sets the stage for Ford’s exploration, which reveals policing’s colonial roots, the legitimization of police violence, and how even a moment of genuine political recognition of civil unrest and Black resistance could be manipulated to reinforce authority. The well-known Kerner Commission Report of 1968 accurately identified poverty, failed policies, and racism as significant issues. Still, the only response the government took was to increase the police force. Post 9/11, the solution was to further expand the police force, complete with military-style weaponry.

The historical footage in “Power” is expertly curated. One of Ford’s most impactful montages juxtaposes every president from Nixon to Biden defending law enforcement, a stretch of over 50 years from “law and order” to “fund the police.” The film also includes revealing snippets from old newsreels depicting police brutality and a clip from a badge-celebrating pre-Code melodrama titled “The Beast of the City.” A particularly interesting piece of cop-propaganda from the archives is a 1970 documentary called “The Police Film” narrated by Ben Gazzara, whose authoritative voiceover emphasizes the importance of maintaining societal order, accompanied by visuals of ants overcoming a threat to their colony.

The individuals interviewed in the documentary provide a wealth of insights. They form an impressive lineup, shedding light upon light on American policing and its ominous growth despite repeated demands for significant, long-overdue reform. Among the scholars is a Queens resident of Indian descent who grew up during the era of stop-and-frisk policies. His poignant account of the gradual erosion of self-esteem resulting from being a constant target of forceful demonstrations is deeply moving.

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As the film progresses, Ford approaches the level of influence that Ava DuVernay’s “13th” had as a sobering lesson in social history detailing an unchecked societal problem. In fact, the documentary’s numerous intriguing themes presented under categories like “Social Control,” “Counter Insurgency,” and “Violence Work” (with Ford himself providing intermittent voice-over commentary or an off-camera cue), almost demand a more detailed examination. “Power” could have easily been a docuseries, but even at less than 90 minutes, it delivers a series of hard truths and even harder questions.

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