April 5, 2017 - 6:00 pm
6:00 champagne reception before each film and a Q&A afterwards with the filmmakers.
Guest Filmmakers: Craig Atkinson, Director and Laura Hartrick, Producer
Winner of Best Documentary at both the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival and the Denver and the 2016 Denver International Film Festival
Police departments all over the U.S. have become highly militarized with significant access to military-grade weapons and equipment. Has this exacerbated socio-economic tensions? Are the measures being used commensurate with the problems that the police are trying to mitigate? Is the public being put unnecessarily at risk?
“We noticed a trend in early 2014 of police departments being solicited by technology companies offering new tools to help alleviate dwindling operating budgets and loss of personnel. One technology provider we filmed with offered the same IBM platform the NSA uses to collect web communications to police departments, for as little as $1,000 per year. Throughout 2014 and 2015, we watched as departments throughout the county adapted the technologies without any guidelines or policy directives governing their use. At times, the companies would make the chief of police sign a nondisclosure agreement preventing them from telling their communities they even had the technologies. The mantra we would continue to hear was that the police couldn’t let terrorists know the tools they were using to intercept their plots. The problem is, in three years of filming police, there was never an opportunity to use the equipment on domestic terrorism. Instead, the military surplus equipment and surveillance technology were used on a day-to-day basis to serve search warrants, almost always for drugs.
In hindsight it’s not hard to understand how we arrived at the current state of policing in America. Since 9/11, the federal government has given police departments more than $40 billion in equipment with no stipulations on how it should be deployed or any reporting requirements. Additionally, the federal government created a loophole that allowed police departments to keep the majority of the money and property seized during search warrants to supplement their operating revenue. If a police department makes a portion of their operating revenue from ticketing citizens or seizing their assets, then police officers become de facto tax collectors. We met many officers who said they didn’t sign up for that.” (Craig Atkinson, Director)
This series is supported in part by The Michael Dively Social Justice and Diversity Endowment, the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys and Holly S. Merrill.