Is role of law enforcement to maintain law and order in society or to generate revenue for a city? This is one of the many questions that will come to mind when watching Stephen Maing’s Crime + Punishment, a stunning and eye-opening tale of abuse of power at the highest level.

After the U.S. Federal Court banned the practice of quotas for arrest and summons in 2010, it was believed that the NYPD had ended this unhealthy practice. It turns out this was furthest from the truth. In fact, they NYPD just found unofficial ways of encouraging their officers to get “their numbers” up each month. They instilled the belief that it was impossible for a cop to be on patrol and not see some sort of crime, especially in areas heavily populated by minorities.

Maing’s film follows 12 Black and Latino New York City cops as they risk being ostracized and bullied by peers, and punished by their superiors who withhold promotions, to expose the truth. Through these officers and an ex-cop private eye, the film unravels an intricate web of exploitation for profit that is jaw-dropping.

While the NYPD denies these allegations, Maing effectively shows how this type of illegal harassment has major consequences on the citizens involved. Though some have had the charges dismissed in court, the arrests still appear on their records. Some face serious jail time for crimes that they did not commit, and others, take the tragic death of Eric Garner for example, can lose their life over these actions.

The chilling undercurrent of systemic racism, as it is easier to believe that minorities are inherent criminals if they are repeatedly being arrested, is why Crime + Punishment is such a necessary work. The only way to clean up police corruption is to understand and expose just how ingrained it is.

Screens:
Thursday, May 3, 6:00 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Friday, May 4, 12:45 PM, Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema
Saturday, May 5, 8:45 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

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