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'Frontline: Policing The Police 2020'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Race, policing and the struggle to hold departments accountable. In the wake of George Floyd's killing, New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb examines prospects for reform, and returns to the case of one troubled department he first visited in 2016.

DVD Verdict: Against the backdrop of a pandemic that is disproportionately killing Black people, the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police in 2020 sparked a push for racial justice and calls for change.

FRONTLINE and New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb examine the realities of race and policing in America, asking the question: Can policing be done differently — and is there the will to make the change?

The film explores the story of Newark, New Jersey, which has been undergoing an experiment in police reform for several years. In many cities across America this summer, police met both protesters and members of the media with force.

But things remained relatively calm in Newark — whose police force was ordered to reform by the Department of Justice in 2016 after a federal investigation found a pattern of civil rights abuses, the brunt of which was borne by Black and Latino residents.

Policing the Police 2020 traces how the reform effort has played out in Newark — where prior to federal intervention, approximately 75 percent of stops by officers were found to have no documented legal justification — and how President Trump's Department of Justice has largely abandoned federal efforts to compel systemic change in police departments.

“Since the 1967 riots that erupted after the beating of a black cab driver by two white police officers, the Newark Police Department has been haunted by allegations of discriminatory policing, excessive use of force, and a severe lack of accountability,” voices New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb, a historian at Columbia Journalism School who has written about issues of race and policing for The New Yorker for years.

After a three-year investigation, the DOJ found systemic civil rights abuses by the Newark police, noting that approximately 75 percent of stops by officers had no legal justification.

The DOJ also found cases where police used excessive force against residents, stole their belongings, and arrested people for criticizing or questioning their actions — and, as aforementioned, it ordered Newark to reform.

With gripping, on-the-ground access, 'Frontline: Policing The Police' gives viewers a raw and complex look at the challenge of changing how cops operate in a place like Newark: a poor city plagued by violent crime, where the victims and the perpetrators are usually black, and the police force itself is largely black and Latino.

The film is supported by Chasing the Dream, a public media initiative from The WNET Group in New York that examines poverty, justice and economic opportunity in America. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.