One of the many important details we learn in Stephen Maing’s essential documentary “Crime + Punishment” is that the New York City Police Department has become a model for many other police departments across the United States. The NYPD is the largest police organization in America, so the precedents it sets are seen by other municipalities as expertise that should be followed. Perhaps the more controversial item on the NYPD agenda is a “broken windows” policy that allows officers to stop and frisk people that “fit the description” of a suspect under investigation. Several studies indicated that most of the people who were stopped were disproportionately Black or Latinx. This appeared to be the rule rather than the exception, or rather, “a feature, not a bug” in a system that relied on a specific number of summonses and arrests every month. Considering this particular environment is being replicated by other law enforcement departments, Maing’s film becomes crucial to the discussion on quotas and the toll they take on the populace and the police.
It’s rather amazing how much access Maing gets to the NYPD. In footage shot between 2014 and 2017, he captures two academy commencement exercises,