Tonight I attended a screening of “Crime + Punishment,” Stephen Maing’s Sundance-winning doc about the NYPD’s illegal quotas system, under which officers are retaliated against if they don’t meet a certain number of summonses and arrests per month. I’ll be honest. The Tree of Life shootings already had me so down that I didn’t know if I’d make it through the night; as a Jew, a queer, a woman, and a fan of humanity-at-large, I’ve never felt more scared and sad about living under the shadow of a hate-speechifying president who proudly calls himself a nationalist. But something happened that I didn’t expect: I started to feel hope.
This film about a NYC-wide economy dependent on institutionalized racism focuses on the brave efforts of the NYPD12, a group of police whistleblowers who’ve filed a related class-action lawsuit; on the many NYC males of color, aged 14-21, who are targeted and brutalized by quotas; and on the families, activists, lawyers, and criminal investigators who support them. That these brave men and women still have the audacity to battle corruption when everything seems so relentlessly uphill reminds us that there always have been fucked-up power hierarchies, and we have no business giving up until they’re gone. In a profoundly moving Q&A at the Crosby Street Hotel screening attended by many of the doc’s key players, police sergeant Edwin Raymond spoke about how the struggles of the ancestors embolden him to fight today. “This is my turn,” he said calmly before going on to describe how he is being targeted within his department for speaking out on behalf of his community. In the face of evil, we all must serve as clear-hearted, clear-headed officers of love. Thank you, cousins from other mothers, for your example. And thank you, brilliant investigator and former cop Manuel Gomez, for providing us not only with your brilliant proposed legislative reform–go to his website for the details!–but for your delicious “lobster tail” pastries. Sweets to counter the bitterness is not just the Jewish way. It’s the way forward for us all.
Crime + Punishment is now streaming on Hulu.