Documentary Film ‘The Force’ Centers On Oakland Police Sex Scandal

OAKLAND (KPIX5) — A new documentary centers in on Oakland’s troubled police department.

‘The Force’ is a new documentary film that follows the Oakland Police Department over two tumultuous years starting in 2014.

Filmmaker Peter Nicks, who also directed The Waiting Room about the ER at Oakland’s Highland Hospital, embedded with police hoping to make a film about the front lines of OPD’s reform effort.

What he discovered was that under federal receivership, the Oakland Police Department had become the standard for reform.

“That was a bit of a surprise, how much of a model OPD was nationally for reform, from the body worn camera program to the reduction of officer involved shootings,” Nicks said.

But then officers were accused of engaging in sexual misconduct.

“When the scandal happened, this was an entirely different thing. This was a moral collapse,” Nicks said.

One of the casualties of the sex scandal: the chief himself, who was supposed to change the department from within.

“My gut feeling was that he was so close to satisfying the requirements of reform that when this scandal broke, he wanted it to just go away. He didn’t want that to be the focus,” Nicks said.

It brought his tenure to an ignominious close.

Civil rights attorney Jim Chanin says the film holds a mirror up to the police department, showing the good and the bad.

“…we’ve seen uses of force drop. We had two years with no shootings. We had complaints drop. We had pursuits drop by 80 percent. We’ve had crime go down. So I think there have been real successes but there’ve been real failures also,” Chanin said.

And oftentimes those failures have overshadowed those successes.

The force won a Best Director Award at the Sundance Film Festival. It premieres in San Francisco and Oakland on Friday.

More from Christin Ayers
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