The news cycle is loud, but we need to hear those who can’t shout
In Fallen, writer-director Thomas Marchese notes that 1,832 U.S. service members died in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014. During that same period, he adds, 2,181 American police officers were killed in the line of duty—on average, one every other day.
Fallen focuses on the murders of police officers in six cities from those years, including the 2009 ambush slaying of four officers in a Lakewood, Wash., coffee shop. Marchese interviews fallen officers’ colleagues, who struggle to recount the moment they learned their brothers in blue went down. Family members speak out. Marchese also takes his camera to the streets, where people voice sentiments about law enforcement ranging from appreciation to contempt. The documentary doesn’t weigh in on political controversies such as Black Lives Matter protests, but it does provide much-needed reminders.
“[People who dial 911] don’t know that the call before, the officer might have taken a man off a woman who was beating her to death,” says Sgt. Chris Chavous of the Aiken County, S.C., Sheriff’s Office. “And then he had to brush himself off and go to the next call.”
Still, policing is 90 percent “social work,” several officers agree. They act daily as “counselors” and “referees.” The other 10 percent of the job is “sheer terror.” The unrated documentary (disturbing images and a few expletives suggest at least a PG-13 equivalent) includes about 20 brief, edited clips of assaults—some certainly fatal—on officers, captured by surveillance videos. In one, an officer stands talking to a driver he’s pulled over. A man casually walks up behind the officer and, with a tomahawk-like chop, stabs him with a knife in the back.
“Every time we walk out the door to go to work,” says Marchese, who gradually reveals his own background, “we have to make peace with the fact that we might not make it back home.”