A phrase often heard over the past few years across the United States of America, in the wake of a summer of civil unrest and public outcry, is “defund the police.” It is a phrase loaded with connotations and undoubtedly capable of evoking intense emotions, one way or the other. With public confidence in local police departments across the country at seemingly all-time lows, The Thin Black Line, by director Jim Klock, is a documentary that captures the thoughts and feelings of black police officers who protect and serve.
We all saw it on television, heard it discussed over a podcast, or witnessed it blasted across social media networks; 2020 was a rough year in the U.S. of A. on several fronts. In the midst of a global pandemic, there was a series of highly publicized deaths of black citizens at the hands of police. In the past, some incidents may have slipped under the radar, but such was not the case in 2020 with the abundant access to cameras on people’s cell phones and ease of sharing via the internet. Public opinion of police in the United States has been on rocky soil for several decades, but all these events exasperated negative public sentiment. This has put those who serve in police departments across the country in a precarious position.
“…provides the staff with an opportunity to share their personal feelings on police life…”
The Thin Black Line puts the Stafford County police department on center stage and provides the staff with an opportunity to share their personal feelings on police life and the state of public opinion. Stafford County, Virginia, is home to over 150,000 citizens with a police department that employs just under 300 members. Of the 200-something individuals on staff, only a handful are black. Among those is Captain Lee Peters. He has a history of police service in his family and is outspoken in his views of the police’s role in the community. Peters, along with other black members, plead their case and reflect on a variety of topics through personal testimonies, ultimately advocating for the importance of police in their community.
We are only a few years removed from the events of 2020 and the civil unrest that led to a lack of confidence in police departments across the “home of the free.” Things have changed a bit since then, but not by much. There is still a cloud of distrust hanging over the police. One thing that rings true through those interviewed in this documentary is that we must remember that cops are humans and deserve just as much respect as anyone else, regardless of our personal feelings.
The Thin Black Line rightly gives black officers of Stafford County the chance to express their unfiltered views. Those views are not always the same, nor are they always popular. The general consensus of all those interviewed was a pushback against the “defund the police” movement. When you hear the passion of the officers interviewed, it is hard not to feel empathy for them and their families, no matter what side of the fence you take on the subject.
"…hard not to feel empathy..."