Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Fallen: Remembering Police Officers Killed in the Line of Duty

We ask an awful lot from police officers. By its nature, their job is to respond. That means when they are called to a scene, violence has already started or the threat is imminent. We expect them to resolve the situation peacefully and then continue to respond to many more calls just like them during the duration of their shift. Despite all this stress and strain, we make it clear we will not tolerate any mistakes. When was the last time you were perfect at your job? As if their work was not difficult enough, anti-cop hate crimes are on the rise. Every fifty-three hours, a peace officer is fatally killed in this country, increasingly because they were deliberately targeted.

Mindful of the statistics, Soledad police officer Thomas Marchese set out to make a documentary on his off-hours that would tell the human stories of murdered police officers, but he became part of his film in a way he always feared. Fortunately, Marchese lived to tell his story as well as that of fellow officers in Fallen (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

In 2009, four Lakewood, WA police officers were ambushed and executed while filling out paperwork in a coffee shop across the street from the station. One of the largest man-hunts in law enforcement history was mobilized to capture the killer, whose friends and family were actively helping him elude capture. Two years later, three officers were murdered in the Augusta metro area, on both sides of the Georgia-South Carolina border, in just a few months’ time. These incidents sound extreme, but they are increasingly commonplace. At the time, the Lakeland murders was the most lethal attack on law enforcement carried out by a single killer, but it has since been eclipsed by the 2016 Dallas shooting.

Marchese chronicles the incidents themselves, as well as the lingering pain shared by the fallen officers’ loved ones and fellow officers. He makes it clear how much damage their murders have done to their families, police units, and wider communities. Yet, MTV News insists Blue Lives don’t matter.

Watching Fallen will make you very angry that so many cops make the ultimate sacrifice so frequently, but the media and popular culture just does not care. However, Marchese wisely manages to minimize hot button political issues, but for many extremists, the mere act of humanizing police officers is sinister political act in itself.

There are devastating moments in Fallen, in which survivors’ raw pain is expressed in visceral, heart-rending terms. Marchese certainly does right by the fallen officers whose lives and deaths he documents, as well as his wider fraternity of Blue. There is no question this film serves as a timely wake-up call, inviting us to really examine the demands we place on police officers and the kind of violent rhetoric we have been collectively engaging in as a nation. Very highly recommended, Fallen opens this Friday (9/8) in Los Angeles at the Arena Cinema and there will be a special New York Q&A screening Friday night at the AMC Empire. In addition, it launches day-and-date on VOD platforms, including iTunes, but it should not be confused with the teen paranormal romance of the same title, which also releases on the same day.