A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this gritty documentary about gangs and gang violence among Detroit’s youth population features frequent scenes with guns and video footage of people getting shot and wounded. Police officers handcuff and arrest people frequently. Strong language ("Goddamn," "f--k") is bleeped. Alcohol and drugs are visible when confiscated during searches. Some scenes show crack-filled baggies and at least once, a crack pipe appears being lit. The show also sends some questionable messages about the city of Detroit and about the relationship between race and gang violence.
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What's the story?
DETROIT GANG SQUAD is a documentary that looks at an elite Detroit, Michigan police unit as it investigates gang-related crimes throughout the city. Cameras follow as gang intelligence officers, known by their code names like “GQ,” “Sandman,” and “Batman”, attempt to collect information that will eventually lead to the arrest and conviction of violent gang members. Meanwhile, while they patrol the streets, they often act as mentors to young kids, who often face a difficult home life as well as pressures from their peers to look to violence for validation. It’s a difficult and dangerous job, but the squad is committed to getting as many guns off the street as they can while trying to infiltrate the city’s various gangs, as well as to returning from their job every day in one piece.
Is it any good?
The National Geographic documentary, which is narrated by Brett Beyer, offers an inside look into what goes into investigating and ultimately arresting and incarcerating violent gang criminals. It showcases the various intelligence collection techniques, including interviews with incarcerated gang members, and frequent searches of local residents for guns, drugs, and other illicit items. Although its focus is primarily on Squad activities, it also offers some interesting details about the differences in gang cultures across the country, as well as some reasons for the rise of violent gang-related crimes.
Unfortunately, what it also inadvertently succeeds in doing is creating a sense that the entire city of Detroit is under siege because it fails to indicate that much of the city’s gang activity takes place in specific areas. The fact that all the gang members questioned throughout the program are African American also sends a troubling message about the relationship between race and violence. Also, the show operates exclusively from the Squad's perspective, ignoring residents real-life complaints against the police unit, which has been accused of brutality by members of the community. Despite this, the overall documentary offers a voyeuristic and informative glimpse into how Michigan law enforcement officers combat gang violence and help to create a safer city.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the reasons young people join gangs. What is it that gangs offer the people who join them? Why is violence such a big part of today’s gang culture? Why do some teens believe that they must be violent as a way of fitting into a group or to feel important? Does the media contribute to this message? If so, how?
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