By Ryan Devereaux, The Intercept

ON A SUNNY AFTERNOON last summer, Craig Atkinson, a New York City-based filmmaker, stood in a front yard in South Carolina surrounded by several heavily armed police officers.

The officers, members of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department tactical team, were descending on a modest one-story house looking for drugs and guns. The team smashed through the windows of the home with iron pikes, then stormed the front door with rifles raised.

Inside, they found a terrified family of four, including an infant. As the family members were pulled outside, Atkinson’s camera captured a scene that plays out with startling regularity in cities and towns across the country, one of many included in his new documentary, “Do Not Resist,” an examination of police militarization in the United States.

The police begin rooting through the trash. “Where the fuck is the weed?” one officer asks, as the team ransacks a car parked in the driveway. “Boy that was sweet,” another says, commenting on the speed of the raid. One officer finds a backpack, which yields a bit of marijuana — it’s not enough to roll a joint, but it’s something.

The officer in charge questions the owner of the backpack, a young African-American man. In a conversation captured on Atkinson’s microphone, the young man, a local community college student, tells the officer he runs a small landscaping business.

Knowing he’s being taken into custody, with his hands cuffed in front of him, he asks the officer for a favor: Can he remove the $876 in his pocket set aside for new lawn-care equipment and give it to one of his employees to go to the hardware store?

Instead of handing the cash to the arrestee’s co-worker, the tactical team seizes the money.

“I never one time said you’re a bad person,” the officer tells the young man before he’s led off. “I just have a job to do, and you happen to be in the middle of it.”

The pernicious practice of civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement to grab cash or property during the course of raids, then requires people to prove the assets were not related to criminal activity in order to get them back — and allows police to keep the assets if they fail to do so — has been well documented.

What’s less common is to see one of those interactions play out on camera. Capturing those kinds of moments is what “Do Not Resist” is all about.

Atkinson’s directorial debut has already taken home this year’s prize for best documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival and is currently making the rounds in select cities around the country. Radley Balko, author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces,” has called the film “terrifying,” “powerful,” and “important.”

Based on substantial on-the-ground reporting, “Do Not Resist” is both unsettling to watch and necessary to see. The film begins in Ferguson, Missouri, on a rainy night of protest in August 2014 that erupted into a melee of tear gas and screaming. It then quickly moves to a seminar with Dave Grossman, a law enforcement guru who gives trainings on lethal force and the application of a warrior mentality in the name of the law.

“The policeman is the man of the city,” Grossman begins, before explaining that cops he’s spoken to routinely describe their first on-the-job kill as a prelude to the best sex of their lives. “Both partners are very invested in some very intense sex,” Grossman says. “There’s not a whole lot of perks that come with this job. You find one, relax and enjoy it.”

Grossman believes that a violent reckoning between law enforcement and critics of police militarization is fast approaching. “We are at war,” Grossman tells the crowd, “and you are the front-line troops in this war.”

The language reflects a theme that runs throughout “Do Not Resist.”

Atkinson began the project three years ago in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. The images of armored cars and commando cops in the streets resonated for him on a personal level. Atkinson’s father spent 29 years as a police officer outside Detroit — 13 of them on a SWAT team, where he held the rank of commander. Atkinson and his brother would take part in their dad’s training, playing the part of hostages when they were little and mock shooters when they were big enough to handle weapons.

Watching the footage from Boston, it was obvious to Atkinson that something profound had shifted since his dad’s days on the force. He set out to create a film that would capture that shift. The “Do Not Resist” crew attended expos and trade shows, community meetings and federal hearings, training seminars and SWAT contests. All told, the team traveled to 19 states, went on roughly 20 police ride-a-longs, observed half a dozen raids, and interacted with hundreds of police officers.

The hope was to be on-hand for an incident in which a SWAT team’s use of heavy weapons would be unquestionably warranted. “I thought the whole time I would be able to show something that would kind of reflect the entire scope of what a SWAT officer might go through sometimes, where you actually do need the equipment,” Atkinson explained.

Instead, the filmmaker repeatedly found himself watching police with military-grade weaponry executing dubious search warrants. The frequency of the raids was particularly shocking, with one of the officers in the film claiming his team does 200 such operations a year. By comparison, Atkinson notes, his father performed a total of 29 search warrant raids over his entire 13 years in SWAT — according to some estimates, SWAT teams now carry out between 50,000 to 80,000 raids across the country annually.

“The search warrants, we’re told, are always used for massive drug dealers and kingpins, and then we run in these homes and we never found anything,” Atkinson said.

Beyond the day-to-day breaking down of doors, “Do Not Resist” explores the growing role of private surveillance companies in local policing, and law enforcement’s thirst for technology that can predict crimes before they happen.

An analyst inspects video feeds of a wide-scale aerial surveillance system being utilized by local police departments. Photo: VANISH Films

The film highlights Persistence Surveillance Systems, a company offering low-cost aerial surveillance honed in Fallujah to domestic law enforcement. “We’re not out to watch the whole world, just all the world that’s got crime,” Ross McNutt, the president of the company, insists.

“That’s the next wave in the militarization of police,” Atkinson told The Intercept in an interview. “What we found was a whole slew of retired military officers now in the private sector now selling the exact same surveillance technology that they just got back from Iraq and Afghanistan with to local law enforcement for small money on the dollar.”

The intent of “Do Not Resist,” Atkinson said, is to provide a glimpse inside the realities of American policing, challenge the policing-for-profit model that has caused departments in economically depressed communities to treat their citizens as walking ATM machines, call out a warrior culture that divides law enforcement from the public they’re sworn to serve, and flag the dangers of war-zone technologies being applied domestically.

For the most part, the reaction from law enforcement has been positive, Atkinson said.

“I’ve had a lot of law enforcement really respond well to the film and say that it reflects these issues that a lot of them have been working on themselves,” he said.

As for his father, Atkinson said, watching the film stirs up uncomfortable feelings.

“His major reaction was just disappointment in seeing how far the mission creep had actually gone,” he said. “It’s obviously disappointing to see something that you were dedicating your life to so completely, evolve into something that you would never want to be a part of.”



Article originally found on The Intercept: https://theintercept.com/2016/10/12/do-not-resist-the-police-militarization-documentary-everyone-should-see/


3 Responses

  1. I have to point out the obvious similarities and patterns that i am witness to and for GOD’S sake wont somebody else in this world who has a voice or a position of stature,or connected or some access to a significant sized bullhorn,microphone,radio,news,information telecast use your voice for something relevant ,we don’t need any more acess hollywoods or ryan seacrusts ,i want info,unfiltered ! not info-tainment where i end up neither informed of tained ,i feel more tainted & violated that someone wasted my time ,i’ll kick the kardashians in the ass if i ever see one.If solely for self preservation ,because none of us want to shut the door at the sight of ” warrior cops” raiding your neighbors menacingly glaring at you with guns and only after shutting the door still quietly sighing” Whew, I’m glad they didn’t come for me.” Without unity, we all get picked off as the intended targets OF A POLICY that is not arbitrary but social control ,like young african american men in good ol’USA or sovereign arab countries who still have independence.’ Divide & conquer is so good at destroying ,that the same ones who now are terrorizing their own have been perfecting it with sucess on 70% percent of the globe! at least point out the fact that this is the form of social controls and anti-personell techniques devised in that torture laborotory once revered as the Holy Land.Thats real, and check me if i’m wrong thats why i’m talking about the info thing because we dont really have it in the us.because it took me years to finally figure out what was really going on in Syria ” guess what ,same thing #1. no fly zone,while we systematically pick off your defences #2. regime change( of all the arrogant s.o.b.’s -did any body ask the syrian people what they want? they did! and didn’t care) #3 .sanctions to cripple your economy( defences) impoverish your nation , casualties deemed collateral damage and neither last nor least #4,the dismantling of formerly sovereign independent debt free nation into a fractured land suddenly flush with weapons and sects,clans,tribes,”local thugs” all selling their nations wealth and resources for pennies on the dollar to fund their now imperative arms race, THANK GOD for Vladimer Putin, and check out the faked BBC chemical weapons attack false flag news story aired live replete with zombie actors and the daughter of free syrian army’s general posing as the head nurse! To surmise,THE ZIONIST POLICY OF CONTROL OF THE WORLDS RESOURCES was enabled by massive military infrastructure and destabilisation efforts through paramilitary training and state terror ( el salvador,columbia,uganda ,u name it, now a full blown weapons industry which sells us secretas and missiles to china” thanks america” is fulfilling the whole trifecta after convincing the world to hate 2 billion people not even including Arabic people yet, now they train the worlds police to give up their freedoms and bow down , thats what dont resist means,” think i’m lying.. check me … israel trains almost every police force and now they all use their tactics… which is as Palestinian people are witness ” subhuman ,and the true terror of the world robbing you of you liberties you so cherished but so willingly gave up,like a slave” whoever said” those who give up their freedom for security,deserve neither” .was spot on,Ben Franklin ,i believe. by the way NYPD has a branch in occupied territory of palestine ,working with israeli regime that caused 911.! you heard me, i didn’t hesitate.Once again check me if I’m wrong isn’t this obscene ,thats what i’m saying ,everybody knows about this pink elephant and A mericanns don’t,can’t, are afraid to say something about the fact that the USA is no longer free and israel did 911 ,and we went to war and died or lost limbs in Iraq,afghanistan, YEMEN, somalia, MIDEAST FOR THEIR PURPOSES,AND NEEDS so they can shoot at women ,kids ,and bomb apartments,schools,and steal families houses on occupied land.Zionists are thieves and you are their slaves ,get it now! and that cop in the film ” grossman ,he’s just a usefull idiot an enemy of the people who gets monetary rewards for the detriment of humanity” he was a collobarator during the concentration camp times,we all know the type. .nobody else can get away with the sh@#@$t they pull,Noone!..You Must check out Christopher Bollynns excellent expose ” find out who did 911 and you end the wars” ridiculously enough we’re still fighting wars for them. check me ,see if i’m lying. i’ll wait for you.

  2. It is definitely a criminal act for any body to hide or make a law to hide any recording of a crime committed by any law enforcement official in any State in America.

    I would like to add the following for your wake up call:

    The alarming increase of UNARMED people in the streets being shot and killed by ‘supposedly’ protective law enforcement officers in America is definitely being noticed by the general public to the point where the general public’s TRUST in law enforcement officers naturally will DECLINE and is DECLINING. And so with an increase in the use of unmarked police cars, along with the militarization of the police, and DHS surveillance cameras placed on every street corner of America, the general public’s TRUST in the ‘supposedly’ protective law enforcement officers will surely continue to DECLINE further.

    It certainly looks like a slow, but sure, build-up of a Police State in America, in this our country, in this our ‘supposed’ Land of the Free! The question is, “Why are so many police departments morphing into something that looks and acts more like a ‘military force’ department instead of the normal police department that we used to have? AND why are so many police departments becoming more and more inhumane and totally machine-like, with the obvious attitude ‘shoot first, cover up, and maybe … ask later’ toward the American populace?” The answer is, the Department of Homeland Security is in charge of making all national policies for all police departments to follow when dealing with the American public at large anywhere, anytime.

    Yes, these DHS national policies for all police departments in our Nation are directly and indirectly taken from the book describing Hitler’s ‘homeland security’ policies prior to and during WWII. Search this out for yourselves, and be extremely appalled. I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually all Americans of EVERY COLOR would be required to have a ‘legal’ road pass to get from point A to point B, greatly restricting one’s freedom to move anywhere (just like in the movie ‘Roots’). Example: “Yes massa, I is got muh road pass right heeya”.

    Why is the DHS making, sanctioning, and pushing these egregiously inhumane and unconscionable policies for police departments across America? With enough police departments complying with such DHS policies to the letter, the ‘powers-that-were’, who are above DHS, are hoping to cause sufficient public chaos and anarchy in America so that Martial Law can be put into force nation-wide. After Martial Law is instated, we will surely have FEMA camps for the majority of the American populace – not a pretty picture. Just like in WWII Germany, the DHS policies here in America are being effected ever-so-slowly upon the general public, so that if and when enough people wake up and realize the frightening facts, it will be too late for them to group together and fight back!! Distract, divide, and conquer is the evil agenda by the ‘powers-that-were’ right here, right here in the ‘good-ol-USA’.

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