Heartland Film Festival 2015: Movie Review – Peace Officer (2015)

Peace Officer

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  • Documentary Feature / USA
  • Directors: Scott Christopherson, Brandon Barber

This review is part of my coverage of 2015’s Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. Click here for more of my coverage of the festival. You can find my coverage of other Indianapolis area film and TV events here.

Peace Officer is a powerful documentary examining the escalating militarization of police forces that’s been an increasing fixture in the US since the 1960s. The documentary is framed through the story of Dub Lawrence, a former sheriff in Utah whose son-in-law was shot and killed by SWAT officers following a standoff in 2008. The event spurred Dub (who established his county’s first SWAT team while he was sheriff) into an investigation of his own and eventually leading him to confront the hard truth about the state of law enforcement today.

The film uses the death of Dub’s son-in-law Brian Wood as a jumping off point to guide the viewer through the history of SWAT as a tactical option for law enforcement. Peace Officer also includes several other case studies of similar incidents in Utah over the last decade. The documentary ties all its subjects together through Dub, whose penchant for crime scene reconstruction leads him to make some startling discoveries in certain scenarios.

Peace Officer is highly effective at establishing its thesis and backing its narrative up with facts and several different perspectives. One of the crimes recounted in the film is one involving Matthew Stewart, a man who shot and killed an officer and injured others while sustaining injuries himself during a SWAT raid at his house on suspicion that he was growing marijuana. This case is heartbreaking and gives Peace Officer its strongest foothold in its demonstration of its thesis.

SWAT members who were a part of the raid on Stewart’s home are interviewed for the documentary. This, along with a prosecutor’s interview, gives the documentary an incredibly strong voice. Showing multiple perspectives of the case gives the viewer a complete picture of what happened.

In addition to the strong interviews, the filmmakers give viewers a clear image of scenes and circumstances of the raids and other altercations with SWAT units. As someone involved with the event recounts it, the camera dutifully follows the narrative through the scene of the crime. This gives the viewer a crystal clear idea of just what happened in each scenario.

The focal point of this documentary is the militarization of police within the United States. I can’t overstate how well this film tackles its subject while juggling several case studies that support it so well. Peace Officer will force you to confront one of the biggest and most tragic issues facing citizens and law enforcement alike. By dovetailing numerous case studies into its theme and incorporating conflicting perspectives into its narrative, Peace Officer is a heartfelt plea for the re-evaluation of law enforcement procedures.

Obsessive Grade – 8.5/10

Peace Officer Heartland 2015 Screenings:

  • Sunday, October 18 – 2:15pm – Traders Point
  • Tuesday, October 20 – 3:15pm – Castleton Square
  • Saturday, October 24 – 7:30pm – Castleton Square

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