Political Film Society - Newsletter #161 - March 3, 2003

March 3, 2003


FOR 2002
Members of the Political Film Society have voted for to recognize outstanding achievements in raising political consciousness among feature films for 2002 to the following in four categories of awards:

DEMOCRACY Y Tu Mamá También (Alfonso Cuarón, director)
EXPOSÉ Antwone Fisher (Denzel Washington, director)
HUMAN RIGHTS Ararat (Atom Egoyan, director)
PEACE The Quiet American (Phillip Noyce, director).

Sometimes described as a paramilitary organization, the Los Angeles Police Department has several geographic divisions and often establishes special units in which officers are given autonomous authority apart from other police, developing their own headquarters, jargon, logos, radio frequencies, rituals, and slogans, with no direct supervision. LAPD also pioneered "scientific policing," in which officers are evaluated by the number of arrests that they make. From the 1980s, the densely populated Rampart Division, located halfway between Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles, began to bulge at the seams with recent immigrants from Central America. Within the Rampart Division, which had the highest crime rate in the city, the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) team was established to crack down on some 403 gangs of Hispanics selling drugs and collecting protection money. Evidence of police misconduct was overlooked in light of the gigantic task of fighting crime.


Dark Blue, directed by Ron Shelton, begins with the March 3, 1991, videotaped beating of Rodney King, and the story ends April 29, 1992, when the City of Angels is ablaze. There is yet another set of bookends--an action plot in which Sergeant Eldon Perry (played by Kurt Russell), a member of the film's so-called Special Investigations Squad (a stand-in for CRASH), first participates in and finally exposes the sleaze. How is the LAPD screwed up, according to the fictional story, which is a vast exposé based on fact? Arrests have been made on flimsy or manufactured evidence just for the sake of arrests, often because potential witnesses, living in mortal fear, have refused to testify. Some presumed suspects have been killed or severely beaten to get them to confess or to divulge evidence. Evidence, in turn, has been tampered with due to internal politics within LAPD. The intrigue and power struggle within LAPD is the specific focus of Dark Blue, a film with plenty of action and violence. As Sergeant Perry drives to the Police Academy to accept his promotion to Police Lieutenant, the LA riots break out. After fighting through South-Central traffic, he takes the microphone to denounce not only police misconduct but also the plot of a police chief aspirant to kill him because he has evidence of the latter's massive bribery and corruption. Perry, thus, is a transparent stand-in for Rafael Perez, who copped a plea in 1999 to expose others in CRASH. As a result, the LA police chief (who gave no orders on what to do as the riots broke out because he asked not to be bothered while at a Brentwood gala reception) resigned, LAPD disbanded all anti-gang units, fired five officers and disciplined thirty others, and three were convicted of felonies. Victims, meanwhile, brought civil suits for harassment, false convictions, and wrongful death. More than 100 convictions of civilians have been reversed, and LAPD has been sued for millions of dollars in damages in more than 200 separate cases. Filmviewers graphically see the interplay between ambition, corruption, and misconduct, and they will easily infer LAPD's role as an underlying cause of much behavior during the LA riots. The Political Film Society has nominated Dark Blue for an award as best film exposé of 2003. MH