Business Insider — Like many in the US, filmmaker Craig Atkinson was glued to the news coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. But Atkinson was unsettled by what he saw during the manhunt for the bombers.
“I was shocked by the way that the police were approaching the community,” Atkinson told Business Insider, recalling SWAT teams searching homes without warrants. “It was like fear had got the best of us.”
Atkinson’s father was a police officer in Oak Park, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit, for 29 years and became a member of its SWAT team when it was formed in 1989. His memories as a child are filled with playing the hostage as his dad’s SWAT team conducted training drills and, when he got to his teens, playing an armed assailant.
With a unique eye to the evolution of SWAT over his life, Atkinson saw in the Boston Marathon bombing a disturbing reality in the militarization of the police in the US.
“It was such a departure from the way that I felt my dad’s SWAT team approached the community,” he said.
So Atkinson decided to investigate it in his directorial feature debut, “Do Not Resist.”
Atkinson teamed with producer Laura Hartrick to make a gripping documentary (which won the best documentary grand jury award at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival) that examines how police departments across the US are using government grants to beef up with military equipment to fight terrorism. But for small towns that do not face the same kind of threats as Boston or New York, the equipment is used mostly by SWAT teams to serve search warrants and assist in crowd control.
Starting in 2013, Atkinson traveled the country to investigate the militarization phenomenon. He visited a SWAT competition in Florida; got a ride-along on a new MRAP, a vehicle designed to withstand IEDs, that the police department of Wisconsin’s Juneau County (murders in 2014, zero) just received; and sat in on a city-council meeting in Concord, New Hampshire, (murders since 2004: two) for the approval of a BearCat, or ballistic engineered armored response counter attack truck, for its police department. Click here for more www.businessinsidercom