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(This commentary was written by a Flint resident who wished to remain anonymous after reviewing his story. His identify has been verfied by Flint Beat staff.)
The City of Flint police department has run amok. I never thought I would write that about the city’s understaffed, 100-officer police outfit, but Netflix’s new tell-all documentary “Flint Town” exposes to the masses the hyper-aggressive nature of policing prevalent in the City of Flint, and does little to distinguish the department from national concerns that Black Lives Matter activists have been demonstrating about in this country.
Directors Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper and Jessica Dimmock walk the thin line of trying to create an entertaining documentary without seeming partisan. Rarely, if ever, do the directors address the systematic disenfranchisement of residents of the city, nor do they offer more than fleeting images of the lived experience of poverty. They do, however, clearly broadcast the narrative of policing being “dangerous” despite 40 years of data and a civilian and police death rate that is nearly identical, that prove the contrary (see: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/blake-fleetwood/how-dangerous-is-police-w_b_6373798.html). Despite this, Flint Town is not exactly “copaganda” nor is it a clear endorsement of Black Lives Matter.
In fact, at its best, Flint Town captures the nuanced perspectives that police officers (particularly black police officers) have about the profession. I enjoyed hearing Ofc. Watson of the C.A.T.T (Crime Area Target Team) task force talk about his skepticism of the “tough on crime” policies of Chief Johnson, who by comparison seems to be stuck on old “broken windows” zero tolerance policing tactics, even when his colleagues scramble for new answers, even when the change in crime he trumpets is neither statistically significant nor outside of the normal trends of the city.
At its worst, Flint Town is a profanity-laced Trump endorsement where white police officers, most of whom do not reside in the city, play Robocop. Officer Frost is among the most egregious; rarely does he break free of the hyper-masculine, overaggressive, and self-centered officer archetype that has come to define the cultural atmosphere of police departments across the country. His segments (with few exception) are all about him, and his ignorance surrounding the statistical connections of crime and poverty make him (and others) incredibly dangerous officers to have on the streets of this city.
Data on poverty and crime can be found by clicking here.
Flint Town shows us exactly what the city no longer needs: punitive policing that fails to address the systemic, socioeconomic causes of crime. Rather, this city must deal with its poverty. In doing so, we must remember that the least fortunate of us deserve dignity, respect, freedom of expression and due process, especially as it pertains to policing. This has not been the case under Chief Johnson. His reckless management of the Flint Police Department demonstrates that he is unfit for the job, and the documentary Flint Town is the receipt of that.