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January 22, 2018

‘Crime + Punishment’ Reveals Devastating Problems With No Easy Answers (Sundance Review)

January 22, 2018
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With a population of over eight million people, New York City also boasts the biggest police force in the country. Over 36,000 men and women wield badges in the city, and though crime has gone down overall, the most impoverished communities with the highest minority populations and crime rates continually feel the weight and pressure of the police on their backs.

In Crime + Punishment, director Stephen Maing tries to get to the root of the issue by going straight to the source. The film follows twelve minority police officers who have been reprimanded for not fulfilling quotas (obtaining a certain number of summonses and arrests each month) that further disenfranchise people of color. Quotas and mandates like these were supposedly outlawed by the NYPD back in 2010. Maing opens the film in 2014 and follows these officers who have been coined the “NYPD 12” through 2017. What the police reveal and what Maing discovers should enrage us all.

To compile evidence against the police department, the NYPD 12 use hidden cameras and recording devices in their various precincts from The Bronx to Brooklyn to prove that quotas are still very much in use. As a collective, they decide to file a lawsuit against the NYPD for discriminatory practices. The bottom line is this, $900 million dollars of NYC’s budget comes directly from the police force. Since those dollars are made on the backs of brown bodies, the money is generated by whatever means necessary.

Examining all angles, Maing leaves no stone unturned. Along with the police officers who have chosen to risk everything but speaking out, he follows the young Black and Latino men who are constantly harassed and arrested. We’re also introduced to private investigator Manny Gomez, a former cop with a massive personality who is determined to be an advocate for the young people who are continually swept up into the broken judicial system.

One of Gomez’s clients is 17-year-old Pedro Hernandez and his devastated mother, Jessica Perez. Hernandez was falsely arrested for attempted murder and imprisoned on Riker’s Island—it was a scenario that rang eerily close to the tragic story of Kalief Browder. Using these various threads, Maing unravels the racism and impropriety in the police force and court system, laying it all out in the open.

Continue reading at Shadow and Act.