Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Training Day, Bad Cops and Police Media Management

Bad cops are easy to recognize in the movies. Why not so much in real life? 

Training Day has several  scenes where the media portrays - both directly and indirectly - interpretations of reality that we, the audience, are positioned to know are not true at all.

  • The first one that sticks out is how Alonzo Harris orchestrates "the story" they'd tell about what happened to Roger; we, the audience, see what really happened, but what gets "called in" is grossly different.
  • Within that same scene, when Jake Hoyt attempts to refuse to cooperate, Harris narrates what the media would say in finding him dead...of course, what he narrates is not what would have happened.
  • Then, while driving away from that situation, the trace of drugs in Hoyt's system is narrated by Harris in a way that makes Hoyt look bad...of course, we saw how he got the drugs in his system, and it's not at all how it would end up being portrayed.
  • And, finally, the actual (in the movie, anyway) story of Harris' final scene is, as we have come to well know, not the entire story at all. He's painted a hero, etc.

In light of the current state of police/community relations, it's interesting to muse as to the degree to which this type of thing is really going on. Recently I read a headline in which police say that, during a raid, a suspect used his pregnant wife as a human shield, by which she was shot to death. The cops were outside the house, shooting through walls and could they possibly provide such details for how she got hit in a hail of bullets from so far away, while police were protecting themselves from the volley of return fire coming from inside the house?

There have been too many painful incidents over the last few years in which police went on record saying one thing...and then video footage surfaced, providing visual proof that what went down was entirely different than what the police submitted as the official story. In these situations, all too often, the person killed at the hands of police is demonized in the official story, in order to support police justification in killing him...only to discover that "what the perp did" or did not do is not at all what the police described. The killing of Walter Scott is particularly keen on this - whereas the officer was going to attempt to suggest that Mr. Scott died at the spot where he struggled to disarm the police, the video evidence demonstrates that the officer shot Mr. Scott while Mr. Scott was ambling away from the officer...he calmly, coolly, in no personal danger, shot eight times (if my memory serves correct, feel free to correct me on these details), and dropped Mr. Scott some 30 feet away from him...he then picked up an item by where he stood while shooting, walked over to where Mr. Scott lay dying and, before calling for medical assistance for the dying man, he dropped - which is to say, planted - the object by his body, to corroborate his premeditated plan to suggest that the struggle occurred where Mr. Scott lay.

How many stories have we heard from the media about what happened according to police, only to find out through some other source that the officers obviously fabricated lies, tampered with evidence and a crime scene, and colluded among each other in all this activity to hide what they all obviously knew was wrong? If what they were doing was okay, they should embrace the truth as support for them.

By the end of the movie, insofar as the story has been told, we are supposed to hate everything that Alonzo Harris is and represents. Bad cops are bad for everyone - their good partners and the communities they purported to protect and serve. Few would dare attempt to foist any kind of defense of his actions. Indeed, even as he, repeatedly in the script of the movie, explains his motives to justify his methods, we the audience find that it rings horrifically hollow. No, he's just a bad guy.

It's easy to point at a fictitious character and say "he was the bad guy"; to the degree, however, that this movie uses fiction to speak to real goings-on in real life, it is, unfortunately, much harder to get public consensus that bad cops (not all cops, just the bad ones) are indeed bad guys doing bad things that cannot - and should not - be justified.

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