Previously on Shots Fired, “Hour One: Pilot”
When instances of police brutality occur and they are truly investigated, often the incident turns out to be part of a pattern. In Ferguson, the Department of Justice found that the local police department were using over-policing and fines to supplement the city’s income. Whether it’s over-policing, targeting certain communities, or just plain old-corruption, it’s usually never an anomaly. That’s what seems to be happening on Shots Fired. While this may have started as just a simple officer-involved shooting, the corruption goes much deeper.
Hour Two sets up all the competing interests in this story. The video of Officer Beck that was released has pit him against his fellow officers except for his partner. Preston is being invited to the governor’s fundraisers where her wealthy constituents are unveiling the new prison they’re building. The governor is also trying to quell the activism of Pastor Janae by appealing to an older pastor who deals in respectability politics. It’s a direct parallel to the break between the Black Lives Matter movement and the older generation of civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Also, Ashe and Preston are working the same cases without telling each other. Luckily, by the episode’s end, they’re on the same page. They can’t investigate the current case without considering the possibility of widespread corruption in this police department.
There’s a lot of anger to go around in this episode. I’ve thought a lot about police brutality over the past three years and I think it causes a schism in the shooter. You’ve taken a life, our society knows that’s wrong, but to do so as an officer, you also have a whole team of people telling you what you’ve done is justified. Beck, as a Black officer, is dealing with that schism but also as a Black officer he’s being scapegoated. Like Officer Liang in the shooting of Akai Gurley, I have a feeling that even if Beck gets off for this shooting, his days on the force are numbered and you can tell that Beck is feeling that pressure. He ends up fighting his fellow officers and his cousin who filmed the video that was released. Turns out, his cousin was arrested and that video was taken from his confiscated phone so it was released by someone on the force.
And then there’s the personal moments. Ashe is dealing with the possible loss of her daughter because of her volatile behavior. Preston is being belittled by his brother and father because he’s chosen to be a lawyer instead of an athlete. Lieutenant Breeland (who will always be Vampire Bill to me) is progressive enough to have a daughter playing on the football team but also tell her teammate to make sure his black ass defends her. And it seems like the corner boys are afraid of the cops and the BLM goons Pastor Janae walks around with. Like Pastor Janae says, anger is not a sin but her righteous anger doesn’t mean that she can do whatever she wants.
Sidenote: The opening credits for the show are masterful. The final image of an American flag made of police tape and concrete says so much with no words at all.
There are so many threads to this story, which makes sense because this issue is so complicated. In the end, I doubt this story will be about what’s right. Ultimately, I hope this story is about what is the truth. When it comes to police killing the story is always so murky and Preston and Ashe seem intent on getting to the truth. But even if they get to the truth, there’s no guarantee that they’ll get justice. In fact, getting justice would actually make the story less believable. As more details emerge about the case and the foibles of the individuals involved, the story becomes more compelling. Is Vampire Bill a racist? Is Beck loved or loathed by his community? Is Pastor Janae self-serving or truly about her community? All of these questions cast doubt on the case and just like real-life, they overshadow the fact that someone has died.
Shots Fired S1E2
"Hour Two: Betrayal of Trust"
Shots Fired – S1E2 – “Hour Two: Betrayal of Trust” | Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Stephan James, Stephen Moyer, Tristan Mack Wilds, Jill Hennessey, Helen Hunt, Aisha Hinds