We have all seen the classic film “Training Day”, (Fuqua, 2001) staring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. For those who have not seen the film, Training Day is a prime example of a film exposing police deviance. In the film, a rookie officer (Jake) has been given the opportunity to work along side a narcotics officer (Alonzo) who has a different view of justice than any normal uniform officer would. Alonzo takes Jake on patrol to show him what “real” policing is about. As the shift goes by, the rookie starts to realize how corrupt this way of justice is served. Jake soon realizes that in order to catch the criminals, you have to be the criminals. This leads on to a quote in the film where Alonzo explains to Jake that “to protect the sheep you gotta catch the wolf, and it takes a wolf to catch a wolf”. In other words, policing can not be as effective by simply following the rules. In order to receive results, bending the rules is an essential. Furthermore, this is a great example showing how Alonzo falls into the ‘dirty harry’ typology of policing. Alonzo does whatever he needs to, to get answers. This includes threatening people, bribing them, and so on. Also, Alonzo falls into the typology of a ‘cowboy’ officer. These type of police officers have no regards for following procedure, they see hierarchy as a joke, and their only goal is to catch the bad guys, no limits required. Alonzo executes this typology by killing a drug dealer and framing his death. In Alonzo’s view, “the world is a better place without him”.
It is not surprising that Jake is not comfortable with this corrupt form of policing. Jake witnesses bribes, blackmail, threats, and much more horrible things that are not custom to how we would like police to act. This form of policing is quoted to be “ugly but necessary” according to Alonzo. In order to get results, an officer must do what he or she has to do.
In addition, as the day goes by, Jake also realizes that this corrupt system of policing does poorly in working towards recidivism. In one scene of the film, Jake catches two men attempting to rape a girl. Once Jake makes his arrests, only then does he realize that sending the men to jail does nothing in Alonzo’s view. Alonzo explains to Jake that he should “let the garbage men take out the garbage”. In other words, rapists may be a major issues to the public, but they are not worth Alonzo’s corrupt policing work. Instead, they should let the typical uniform police handle these minor issues while they should focus on real crime fighting.
Furthermore, this film has various scenes that wave red flags for police corruption. These acts involve drinking and driving, smoking drugs, unauthorized police searches, theft, and much more. It is because of these deviant acts that give this film the name for a corrupt policing movie. Some, or even majority of these deviant acts can be played out into the reality of police work. For example, shady deals can often be found between ‘meat eater’ police officers, and gang members.
To add on, this film portrays many typologies of police corruption. For example, Alonzo is seen as a opportunistic thief. In other words, he would take things such as money from the scene of a crime and keep it for himself. Secondly, Alonzo associated with direct criminal activities such as murder. Another typology for police corruption associated with the film is internal pay off. This is when Alonzo paid his supervisors for various benefits.
Overall, this film puts into perspective how some of our very own police officers act. Although the reality of policing may not be as harsh as the film portrays it to be, police corruption is still present. What this film says about our police is that, police do not feel the need to follow rules at time. Having a badge gives them a sense of power that can not be taken away, after all Alonzo does say “we are the police, we can do what we want”. Having seen the film, it gets the viewers to be more aware of police wrong doing from minor things such as running through red lights when there is no emergency, to blackmailing suspects.
In addition, this film sends a message to the viewers that although the police are here to serve and protect us, corrupt police officers only care for themselves. The only goal for these officers is self satisfaction. In other words, these officers do not care to make the community a better place to live in, but instead to benefit from taking down the bad guys.
The relationship between fiction and reality in this film are very much alike. Even though this is a typical Hollywood film full of car crashes, gun shooting, and fighting, the image it creates about police deviance is very much real.
The above clip from Training day shows how one officer (Jake) is not happy with this new style of policing that is being exposed to him. On the other hand, Alonzo tries to explain to him that ‘rough justice’ is needed. (Content involves mature language).
To add onto the topic of police deviance, Elizabeth Comack in her book (Racialized policing: Aboriginal people’s encounters with the police, 2012) identifies police corruption through racialization. Comack explains how officers use race as a “primary variable in their decisions to stop and search, arrest, and charge” (Comack, 2012 pg 23). To some this may not be a big issue, but Comack sees it as a threat to our democratic society as we see it being so free when in reality it is not.
In conclusion, Training Day is a film that opens our eyes to police deviance. The officers we trust with our lives may not be the people we see them as. Whether we agree or disagree with how police go about their duties, these corrupt acts will continue to occur. After all, it takes a wolf to catch a wolf.
Comack, E. (2012) Racialized policing: Aboriginal people’s encounters with the police. Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing Co Ltd.
Donsknotts (2012) I walk a higher path son, YouTube. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onZwTLcePy4(Accessed: 28 February 2015).
Fuqua, A. (2001) training day