Over the past two decades, Alan and Susan Raymond have produced a variety of documentaries for network, cable and public television.
In 1971, they spent eight months living with the Loud family of Santa Barbara-that experience became the critically acclaimed "An American Family" documentary series for PBS. In the late '70s, the Raymonds went to a police station in a seedy Bronx neighborhood to record the lives of real-life cops. That award-winning PBS documentary, "The Police Tapes," became the inspirationnfor NBC's popular drama "Hill St. Blues."
Their latest documentary, "Police Chiefs," airs on "P.O.V." Tuesday at 10 p.m. on KCET. "Police Chiefs" examines the lives of three very different police chiefs-Los Angeles' Daryl Gates, Anthony Bouza of Minneapolis and Lee Brown of Houston.
Alan Raymond discussed "Police Chiefs" with Susan King.
How did you and your wife come up with the idea for "Police Chiefs"?
We previously made a show called "The Police Tapes," which was done in the late '70s. That was just a profile of one precinct in New York City, which was in the South Bronx. It became extremely well-known and we won the Emmy award, the Dupont award and the Peabody award.
We have done a lot of other documentaries since, but we decided we would like to do another police documentary. We did not want to do another ride-along show, though, which we feel has been done a lot.
What we wanted to do was try to pick three of America's top cops and try to have them articulate and explain what it is they can do and can't do and why it (crime) is such a complex issue.
Gates, of course, we selected because he's the policeman's policeman. The LAPD has had a deep impact on American law enforcement. Many agencies study the LAPD and model themselves after it. Of course, he is the father of SWAT. The way we treat the SWAT team is to take it to its logical extension and ask, "Can you use SWAT teams, battering rams and helicopters almost in a quasi-militarist method or are there limits?"
Why did you pick Minneapolis as one of the cities?
Anthony Bouza, who is the Minneapolis chief, was the Bronx Borough commander in "The Police Tapes" documentary. He is a very liberal, progressive chief. We thought it would be interesting to focus on a smaller city to show that even a city most people would consider a quality-of-life town, a town of low crime, still has its problems. Bouza came in from New York as a reform chief because the Minneapolis police department was not particuarly a great department.
He was detested by his policemen. The police force in Los Angeles like and respect Gates. He's an up-through-the ranks cop. Bouza was the reverse.
It was true of Lee Brown as well. These were men who were brought in from the outside, and their mission in part was to reform departments that were in trouble. Neither of those chiefs were particularly well-liked by the police. In Minneapolis, I would say 100% of the force didn't like Bouza, partially because he was a New Yorker. There's always that bias of New Yorkers coming to a bastion of Midwestern values and being very confrontational and blunt. Bouza resigned at the end of the film. We caught him in his waning days.
What is Lee Brown's background?
He is a black chief, and just around the time we finished our documentary he moved to New York City. I think he is probably going to be the first black director of the FBI.
He is very well-respected, but he has a very radical philosophy that the police can't do anything about crime. It is much more of a community issue. He has this whole belief in going back to the cop on the beat and involving the community as almost an equal partner with the police. His views are 180 degrees away from Daryl Gates. We tried to show in the film different views without saying one view is the correct one.
Two of the three chiefs support the death penalty, Gates and Bouza, and Brown does not. We also try to raise the issue whether poverty or social circumstances are the root causes of crime or whether it's an unrelated factor. Gates comes out very strongly against that. He say there is no connection between poverty and crime. Bouza comes out very strongly and says not all poor people are criminals, but all criminals are poor people.
Gates proposes in the film to build a prison out in some remote part of the country where they would send repeat offenders who would never be allowed out or allowed to leave. Kind of a Siberian slave camp theory, but he was thinking about someplace in the desert where it would be a self-contained community.
Actually, we thought at the time it was an extreme statement, but the peculiar thing about it is I the Justice Department is contemplating building some kind of remote camps like that in North Dakota around the turn of the century, when they think the prison population will exceed a million persons.