Director Yance Ford Tells Doc Talk Podcast U.S. Police Power Is Enormous And Unregulated: “Police Aren’t Supposed To Be In Charge Of Themselves”

What is the purpose of police in the U.S.? To ensure public safety, many people might answer. But that’s a thoroughly misleading definition in the view of Oscar-nominated filmmaker Yance Ford. In his new documentary Power, premiering on Netflix this Friday, the filmmaker argues policing in America is really about the maintenance and enforcement of a particular social order, one that privileges property-owning members of society while targeting and disadvantaging others.

Ford, who earned an Academy Award nomination for the 2017 film Strong Island, is our guest on the new episode of Deadline’s Doc Talk podcast, co-hosted by Oscar winner John Ridley and Matt Carey, Deadline’s documentary editor.

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“This film offers an analysis of police history that I’d like you to consider,” the director says at the beginning of Power. “This film requires curiosity or at least suspicion. I leave that choice up to you.”

'Power' poster
'Power' poster

Power examines how the police emerged as a public institution in the 19th century, with three central thrusts: as slave patrols in the South, to maintain the hegemony of slaveholding interests; as agents of colonial power in the Western United States to enforce land claims against Indigenous people, and as a tool to suppress labor unrest in the Northeastern U.S.

The documentary makes the case that police authority up until the present time has been deployed to keep certain groups under control and in their place – particularly African Americans who have been tagged with the racist perception that they are inherently “unruly.” The structure of policing as an institution has developed in an anti-democratic manner, investing officers with authority that, the film contends, is both vast and intimate, and essentially unregulated.

“The system of policing has largely been constructed outside of the view of the average American,” one expert says in the film, “and the rules that govern American policing have been determined in many cases by the police themselves and their lobbies.”

In the Doc Talk podcast, Ford addresses policing at the Southern border with Mexico, the police “abolition” movement, and how every major revolt against the status quo in the U.S. has been met with overwhelming force and an increase in funding for police – a policy that has been carried out by Republican and Democratic presidential administrations from LBJ onward.

Doc Talk is produced by Deadline and Nō Studios, the production company founded by Ridley, and is presented with support from National Geographic Documentary Films.

Listen to the episode above or on major podcast platforms including SpotifyiHeart and Apple.

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