“Cop Land” is a film that has always been warmly received by critics and film fans but never really is listed as one of the best crime thrillers of the past three decades. However, in a recent Twitter thread, director James Mangold talks about how his feature is pretty timely given the most recent issues surrounding cops, in light of the George Floyd killing, and how the idea of “commuting cops” is something that people need to discuss more.
For those not familiar with “Cop Land,” the film tells the story of a small town in New Jersey that is filled with corrupt NYPD cops. While the film doesn’t go out of its way to tackle the issues of “commuting” in the police force, as it’s focused quite heavily on the corruption at its heart, Mangold feels that his 1997 feature shows the downside of a police force that is given the job of policing a community they don’t live in, which could be a contributing factor to the issues of systemic racism and police violence.
“When cops don’t live in a place they protect, they’re not protecting their community,” explained Mangold. “The people in the city are devalued. Indeed, many commuting cops worry most about ‘containing problems’ in the city so they don’t ‘leak’ to the burbs where they live. This produces sickness.”
He continued, “It’s not easy being a good cop. God knows we need good cops. So it’s easy to talk someone into abandoning / de-emphasizing residency rules. ‘Why shouldn’t a good cop be able to live where he wants?’ goes the argument. Well, because commuting cops bring a different attitude. Commuting cops are 9-5 soldiers in a land that is not their own. They do not have vested interest in embracing the place they patrol, rather, their interest in ‘containing’ it. This produces quiet pernicious and systemic racism.”
The filmmaker goes on to say police unions and associations are the major forces behind the opposition for these laws that prevent “commuting cops.”
With the increased media coverage over the past several days on the way cops do business, particularly in light of the brutal killing of George Floyd, the idea of having cops that better represent the community they protect is something that is being discussed quite a bit.
“Cop Land” was released in 1997 and stars Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, and Ray Liotta. You can watch the trailer for the film below. And if you want to watch Mangold’s full film, it’s currently available on Hulu.