Do Not Resist

Oct 17, 2016 by Marketing on The Nickelodeon Blog

by: Laura Catherine Smith

To understand the power of Do Not Resist, a documentary on the militarization of small town police forces, we first must take a look at the director and creator of the film, Craig Atkinson. Raised in a city near Detroit, Atkinson was the son of a police and SWAT officer. He grew up with an inside perspective on the daily work and goals of a smaller city police force. When he began the Do Not Resist documentary project, his goal was to understand why and to what extent the police force had changed since his father’s days.

Atkinson’s documentary approach aims to show the everyday result of police militarization. For the past four decades, this process has included equipping smaller police departments–even those in low-crime areas–with military grade weapons such as grenades and grenade launchers, sniper rifles, armored personal carriers, and military intelligence-style information gathering techniques. Light on interviews and heavy on footage, Atkinson’s cameras capture alarming scenes that stand on their own, such as a simple marijuana possession arrest carried out with guns, smoke, and broken windows. He worked closely with police forces, looking for logic in the application of these techniques. While the final project ends up being arguably one-sided, that side has persuasion and punch. His thorough documentary techniques don’t allow us to dismiss what we see.

Here in the midlands of SC, this documentary has a particularly personal impact. I was alarmed to find the familiar landscape of Richland County after the footage from Ferguson, Missouri. While I have seen the news footage of police and riots in other cities, I don’t generally associate the masked and militant forces with the police officers I see every day. This personal hit drives home the inherent danger of turning police officers into a military force. A masked, heavily armed fighting force does not have the same compassion and role in the community as a regular police force.

Do Not Resist shows our police officers–friends, fathers, and community members–being encouraged to militarize and unite against extreme threats. But what do they do when there are no extreme threats? When there are only the regular crimes and trials of residential South Carolina? Atkinson shows that the principle of Chekhov’s gun holds true: If you introduce a gun into the story, it’s going to get used.