Law and Order Documentary Cover

Reviewed by Craig C., Senior Materials Handler

Law and Order, a documentary directed by Frederick Wiseman, is available to stream with Kanopy.

SafetyWith protests about police violence continuing nationwide and calls for defunding and reform, it’s instructive to watch the 1969 documentary Law and Order. Filmed on the streets and in the precincts of Kansas City, Missouri’s police department, Frederick Wiseman’s film follows rank-and-file patrolmen as they respond to reports of domestic violence, theft, public drunkenness, a hit and run with a stolen car, vagrancy, prostitution, creating a public disturbance, an abandoned child, truancy, and a custody dispute.

In a few cases, the arresting officers use force that could be considered excessive, including putting a woman in a choke hold and telling her “Go on, resist.” There’s also a discussion of terminology to use with the public at a morning roll call which doesn’t quite sink in for one of the officers who feels singled out. The moment that sticks out most, though, is the casual discussion between two patrolmen in their cars about using tear gas during the recent protests. One even regrets not being able to throw his, an astonishing confession considering they’re both well aware they’re being filmed. In light of what we’re seeing now thanks to the proliferation of cell phone cameras, it’s clear the more some things change, the more they stay the same.

This is review is part of the Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship.