In one arresting scene in Do Not Resist, Craig Atkinson’s new documentary about the culture of American policing, Dave Grossman, a man who conducts police training seminars, reportedly tells a group of officers that the best sex of their lives is waiting for them in the moments after they kill someone.
“Both partners are very invested in some very intense sex,” Grossman insists, according to The Washington Post. “There’s not a whole lot of perks that come with this job. You find one, relax and enjoy it.”
The endorsement of murder as a means of improving one’s sex life is meant to shock you when you hear it, but Do Not Resist is aiming to tell a story about how that kind of thinking permeates certain segments of police culture. As the film’s trailer shows, the subjects of the film feel that “officer” and “warrior” are interchangeable identities that they shift between in their everyday interactions with the public.
“I wanted to show how ubiquitous [Grossman’s] philosophy is and how it has been adopted throughout law enforcement,” Atkinson told the Guardian. “I don’t think they should be incentivizing law enforcement to commit violence. This is a rape and pillage philosophy versus a protect and serve philosophy.”
Do Not Resist takes the images of police officers decked out in combat gear as they roll down residential streets in tanks that we’ve all seen and digs into the industry dedicated to making those pictures possible. While the idea of police officers equipped with heavy-duty gear meant for war zones might shock and disturb some, Do Not Resist stresses the idea that they’re increasingly becoming part of the way that some departments feel law enforcement should be.
Just to pick one example: in recent years, there’s been a marked uptick in instances of police districts deploying SWAT teams for relatively routine policing. According to the ACLU, upwards of 60% of SWAT raids carried out between 2011-2012 were for drug-related issues. The vast majority of the search warrants associated with the raids are for small amounts of drugs. What’s more, the ACLU found that officers outfitted with militarized combat gear were almost 15 times more likely to use weapons like flashbangs during their raids.
Even in those moments where tear gas isn’t being lobbed into crowds and AR-15s aren’t actually being fired at people, there’s an atmosphere created when you see an armored vehicle designed to move through literal war ones casually driving down the street. As the Post pointed out, Do Not Resist is at its most damning in those moments that it shows how freely various police districts give the documentary’s crew access to record them.
They don’t see just how jarring, out of place, and imposing their highly-weaponized presence might come across to civilians.
Ultimately, Do Not Resist chooses not to focus on moments of explicit police brutality, in favor of shining a spotlight on how some police are responding to critiques of their work. Rather than pushing for the strengthened community bonds and relationships that are mentioned so often in political forums, these officers cling to the guns they have and dream of carrying bigger, deadlier ones in the future.