Sometimes you learn of a film or documentary on the news, on a facebook post or sometimes twitter. I enjoy using social media to hunt down great stories. Do Not Resist is a documentary that I found on twitter. The content deals with what is happening in the US but it’s only a matter of time before we have the same issues.
The documentary Do Not Resist gives you a birds-eye-view of what it’s like to go on police and SWAT raids. Craig Atkinson is making his directorial debut on this film. Originally a cinematographer for Detropia he was compelled to make it after watching the police response after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The police were using military vehicles to investigate the traumatic event. Craig wanted to know what other military weapons and technology they had at their arsenal.
Craig and I had a chance to talk about his documentary via phone call from the US.
“When did you start this documentary and what is the message behind it?”
“I started making this film in April of 2013 after the Boston marathon bombing response. I was very surprised at the upgraded military vehicle being used in the investigation. I wondered, what else they were using. I was no stranger to the War On Drugs era of policing and SWAT raids. My father had been a police officer for twenty-nine years and on the SWAT team for thirteen in a city bordering Detroit. I wanted to bring the cameras on the ride-alongs. I took them on SWAT raids across twenty-two states in which eleven are represented. We had the cooperation of eighteen Departments. By allowing the cameras to capture the procedures and preparation for each raid and warrant arrest, the audience is able to form their own opinions.”
Craig started filming in Ferguson, Missouri shortly after the police shooting and death of Michael Brown. The documentary offers a stunning look into the state of policing in America and glimpse into the future.
“In spending time with each department and traveling along with them on raids, what was most revealing about it all and did they ever tell you not to show any footage that might embarrass them?”
“On one such raid we were heading to, we were informed it was a drug king pins home. They said he was alone and had used surveillance equipment made for the NSA for the purpose of anti-terrorism. As it turned out, we arrived to find a twenty-two year old black college student with a wife and four month old baby. They smashed out all the windows to the home and once inside found a half joint and a few hundred dollars he had saved. They insisted it was drug money. They arrested the young man and took the money. These types of raids continue three times a day and over three hundred days per year. The police would justify every incident.”
Craig had also learned that a tech provider they spoke to was offering police departments the same IBM platform the NSA uses to collect web communications for 1000.00 a year. In the three years of filming, there was never an opportunity to use it on domestic terrorism, instead it was used on a day to day basis to serve search warrants , almost always for drugs.
In Craig Atkinson’s observation, he’d found that wealth harvesting was being committed using the advanced surveillance technology. The departments using the equipment were targeting individuals that couldn’t afford legal representation. With equipment intended to be used to form algorithms to create criminal profiles that are inaccurate and target the innocent, the problem is going to grow increasingly worse. In some cases the equipment is being used to predict criminal activity before it happens based on an individuals habits and social media behaviors.
The news crews usually leave the scene and pack it in around eleven or twelve midnight. Craig continued with the raids until 4am. The news stations were only getting part of the story and were not aware of the abusive police tactics.
In Concorde New Hampshire, the police department received a grant to purchase a quarter million dollar armored military vehicle and the community protested the decision stating it was unnecessary and would only add to the national debt. The city counsel basically rubberstamped the approval, leaving the protesters feeling demoralized.
After the documentary had been completed, it was submitted into the Tribeca Film Festival and won Best Documentary. It then went onto fifty cities for theatrical release and forty-five more festivals. Some police departments were even using it as a teaching tool to help promote better police relations within their own communities. Although Craig filmed it from a neutral point of view, many viewers asked why the departments would allow the cameras to follow them during their abusive raids. Craig would reply that the police saw nothing wrong with their procedures.
The latest and greatest tech equipment police departments are being issued to help prevent terrorism has only been used 51 times for terrorism and 8000 times for low level drug crimes.
It is Craig’s hope that this documentary can help improve police relations with the public and to demonstrate the abuse of power while shining a spotlight on technology used to rob us of our privacy by the people we trust the most.
You have a one in 20 million chance of being killed by a terrorist.