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Three years ago, when the Tsarnaev brothers set off a bomb at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and wounding two hundred and sixty-four, Craig Atkinson, a New York filmmaker, looked on with as much horror as anyone else. But he noticed something, too: the police in Boston and its suburbs sent armored cars into the streets and deployed officers dressed like Storm Troopers, who carried assault rifles and fanned out across neighborhoods as though they were in an infantry division in Afghanistan. Atkinson asked himself, when did local police forces, in their equipment and tactics, come to resemble armies of occupation?
The answer Atkinson came up with is “Do Not Resist,” a documentary film that traces the transformation of police departments across the United States into forces that often look like our Army and Marines—and all too often act like them. Watching “Do Not Resist,” which won the prize for best documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival last month, is an eye-opening experience. The film takes a series of events that might appear unrelated—the heavy-handed police response to the demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014; the use of heavily armed SWAT teams in South Carolina to carry out routine drug arrests—and shows that they are part of a pattern that has taken hold in many police departments across the country. “What we discovered is that the there had been a massive change in the tactics used by SWAT teams,” Atkinson told me. “And that happened as the federal government was giving away military equipment to police departments.”
Read more at the New Yorker
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