‘Sound of the Police’ uses history to tell story of Black people and law enforcement

A new ABC Studios documentary is exploring the relationship between Black Americans and the police. The directors of Sound of the Police say they leaned heavily on the history of policing in this country as a main focus.

During a conversation with ABC Audio, Stanley Nelson and Valerie Scoon explained the importance of telling the story using a historical context and what they hoped to achieve. 

“In doing the interviews, that’s one of the things that the people kept saying,” Nelson said. “You … have to start with there’s a difference in the way policing is looked at for white America and the way white America’s policed, and the way policing is looked at by African Americans and the way African Americans are policed.”

They say part of that history they considered is law enforcement’s display of violence on Black people, dating back to slavery and as shown in current cases of police brutality. 

“Maybe my tendency was a little bit in the beginning to shy away from it,” Scoon said. “Stanley rightly pointed out that if we didn’t show it, show how it occurred in a systemic way and over the centuries, that people might dismiss it as a few bad apples.”

Incorporating the knowledge of many accredited historians, Nelson and Scoon aimed to showcase the often fraught relationship between Black Americans and police, doing so in a way that encourages hope and open dialogue. 

“Hopefully [the film sparks] an interest in looking at the history of law enforcement and Black community with the idea of improving the relationship,” Scoon said.

Nelson said he hopes viewers gain a “heightened awareness of where we’ve been” and “a real understanding that change needs to happen and that change can happen. 

Sound of the Police is available for streaming on Hulu. 

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