Detroit Gang Squad

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Detroit Gang Squad TV Poster Image
Voyeuristic docu about elite gang-busting police force.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The series highlights the growth of youth gang violence in Detroit, Michigan. It also offers a grim look at the future of young people who live in gang-infested communities. It also suggests by omission that the city of Detroit is under seige, when the gang activity is actually limited to certain areas. Some iffy messages about the relationship between race and violence.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Police officers risk their lives in order to get guns off the streets and reduce gang violence. Gang members view gangs as their family, and are often unapologetic about the crimes they commit. Officers suggest that parents do not do enough to keep their children out of trouble for a variety of reasons, including drug addiction. Gang Squad members pray before going on major raids.


Words ranging from “Goddamn” to “f--k” are bleeped but still slightly audible. Young people are shown making gang signs.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An open bottle of alcohol, as well as drugs are shown after being confiscated from suspected gang members. Gang violence is often associated with drug trafficking and other drug-related crimes. Bags of street drugs are visible; someone is shown lighting a crack pipe. Addiction among parents is discussed.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byB.Grant7 October 22, 2014

I was aware of the Gang Squad when I was in middle school. Good idea.

I think they done a great job of showing me that gangs weren't really a good thing to get into.
Adult Written byOrbmanelson October 14, 2011

National Geographic Broadcast of Detroit Gang Squad 10-14-11

In my opinion this is a horribly racist program. It reveals that young black men who have no means to make a legal living are engaged in the sale of cannabis.... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

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?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love reality TV

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate