Peace Officer


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Peace Officer
"Peace Officer is an interesting film because of its balance."

Where do you stand on the US gun debate? Asked straight out, most people will instinctively pick a side, and it's partly this polarisation of debate that has made it so difficult to find practical solutions to the day to day issues involved. One of those issues concerns police use of firearms and resultant deaths of civilians. Are the police too trigger-happy? Are they too militarised? Do they target particular groups? Again, most people will pick a side, but William 'Dub' Lawrence has seen both.

Dub is a retired sheriff who bears the distinction of having founded the first SWAT team in Utah - the one that caught Ted Bundy. He is also a man who witnessed his son being shot to death by police officers after a stand off. In light of his professional expertise, he was shocked to see that situation escalate as it did. He spent the next four years collecting evidence and investigating the incident, and in the process came across a number of other incidents where the police might have behaved unlawfully, which he agreed to investigate in the same way.

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Peace officer - named for what Dub thinks every police officer should first and foremost strive to be - is an interesting film because of its balance. Dub doesn't always conclude that the police were in the wrong and he's sympathetic to the challenges they face. Time is given for advocates of more aggressive policing to share their views, though they don't always express them very clearly. The film explores the reasons why things have developed in this direction, looking at things like that law allowing leftover military hardware to be donated to police forces. At the heart of it all is Dub's concern that violence begets violence and that rather than promoting peace the current approach is causing escalation.

Dub's combination of professionalism, admitted obsession and general likeability make him an excellent focal point for a film of this sort. His twinkling blue eyes and wide grin provide a good counterpoint to the grim subject matter. Though he may be losing hope, it seems he had a lot to begin with, and his passion for his country and for the rule of law come across clearly. The only difficulty is that viewers who lack equivalent expertise will have to rely on his assessments of much of the evidence presented, as secondary confirmation is scant. We are presented with police helmet camera videos, however, so we can assess those for ourselves. We also hear the testimony of people caught up in police raids, including a family whose home was invaded by mistake.

A welcome addition to the debate which seems interested in genuine discussion, Peace Officer makes for intriguing viewing.

Reviewed on: 17 Feb 2016
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The man who established Utah's first SWAT team investigates the death of his son-in-law at the hands of another SWAT team, unwilling to accept the official ruling.

Director: Brad Barber, Scott Christopherson

Starring: William Lawrence

Year: 2015

Runtime: 109 minutes

Country: US


Glasgow 2016

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