Migrant families desperate to flee gang violence and an administration determined to stop illegal immigration are adding up to a crisis on the border
The media spotlight on Flint, Mich., during its water crisis largely dimmed after visiting presidential candidates delivered their promises to residents and departed. The new Netflix documentary series Flint Town renews attention for the beleaguered city, focusing not on the water crisis, but on police-community relations.
The current episodes span 2014 to late 2016. (Oddly, several segments are pieced together achronologically.) Comparisons to the classic (and still running) reality show Cops are inevitable, as Flint Town cameras ride along on patrols. From behind the wheel and in staged interviews, Flint police officers express concern with the city’s crime, racial tensions, and poverty. Strained relations between the understaffed police force (in the 10 prior years having dropped from 300 to 100 personnel) and the community lead some officers to admit to fears of patrolling alone.
Flint’s residents are experiencing these tensions, too, yet interviews with them are infrequent and brief. News anchors too often pontificate in TV footage and glib interviews. (Stylized video effects, such as spent shell casings spinning through the air in slow motion, also add little.)
Flint Town concentrates on the police, and some do have interesting stories: Brian Willingham, an officer for almost 20 years, doubles as a pastor for two area churches. The show also tracks Dion Reed and his mother, Maria, as they go through police academy training together and earn their way onto the force.
Glimpses into local politics prove much more fascinating than clips from Bernie Sanders’ and Hillary Clinton’s stops in Flint. The show covers the election of a new mayor, Karen Weaver, who replaces the police chief with a hard-nosed commander, Tim Johnson. Johnson forms a go-getting anti-crime unit, prays over his squad in Episode 7, and chides the City Council for slashing police funding.
Expletives and scenes with recently slain victims make Flint Town unsuitable for younger viewers. But Christians should consider tuning in to find ways to pray for and serve Flint—and towns like it.