Precinct Seven Five

Meet the dirtiest cop in NYC history. Michael Dowd stole money and dealt drugs while patrolling the streets of 80s Brooklyn.

One of the factors that make ‘Precinct Seven Five‘ so compelling is the honest candour of its contributors, who seemingly hold nothing back in detailing the level of their crimes as we’re dropped into the midst of a police corruption scandal in 1980s New York. Listening to these former police officers talk about their past discrepancies, even laughing and joking about it, is galling to an outsider and an abrupt introduction to how corruption was deeply ingrained in the New York police force of the time. Perhaps what is more surprising is how the ringleader, Michael Dowd, comes across more like an ordinary guy that spotted an opportunity to exploit the system, than someone truly evil.

The film focuses most of its attention on the aforementioned Michael Dowd, an officer who started out relatively small by stealing money from crime scenes before his behaviour escalated to the extent that he was running the drug business as much as the ‘traditional’ criminals were. The documentary opens on his testimony in the early 90s, where he casually and openly states details of every event he was involved in without incriminating any other officers. In the present day, interviews with Dowd, fellow officers and a couple of people involved on the other side of the law start to build a picture of the systemic level of corruption within the police force, and a culture that brazenly encouraged illegal behaviour.

Corrupt policeman helping criminals has been a key feature of countless Hollywood movies since they began, and ‘Precinct Seven Five’ succeeds by driving straight to the heart of the real life events with a narrative that plays out with as much intensity as a good thriller. The film works as entertainment, but also as a morality tale on how corrupt systems can tempt seemingly ordinary people to do bad things. It isn’t too hard to believe that in any other line of work, Michael Dowd would have been a regular, decent citizen, but given the opportunity, he and many others were tempted into behaviour they were hired to fight against. A documentary well worth your time.

Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Tiller Russell

Starring: Michael Dowd, Ken Eurell and Walter Yurkiw

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