Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"The Seven Five" examines NYPD corruption in Brooklyn in the 1980s

The documentary “The Seven Five” (2014), by Tiller Russell, tells the story of the most corrupt policeman in NYPD history, Michael Dowd, who turned to drug dealing in the 1980s while patrolling Brooklyn. “In 1980s Brooklyn the most dangerous gangsters were New York City cops.”

The film is often framed in 4:3 TV aspect-ratio Congressional hearings held in late 1993, an then re-enacts the story of how Dowd and others turned to crime, often starting out small, inviting others whom they stopped for payoffs.  There are interviews, and then some simulated police scenes on the streets. Dowd would finally get busted in Suffolk County.

New York City actually started booming in the Reagan years, to everyone’s surprise, despite the financial crises of the 1970s under Ford (the "drop dead" headlines).  But many neighborhoods stayed in tatters because of corruption, including Bed Stuy, which now is enjoying a renaissance.  In the 1990s, Mayor Giuliani’s “broken windows” policy would lead to reduction in crime, but would also exacerbate the problem of police racial profiling and inappropriate use of force against African Americans, as is now a national controversy. Yet police misbehavior in the 70s and 80s (going back to the time of Mafia payoffs, which actually had kept the gay bars going in the 60s) helped set all this up.

The official site is here. (Sundance Selects).

The DVD can be rented from Netflix.  Picture: Mine from Redhook area, early 2013. 

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