Detroit Gang Squad TV Poster Image

Detroit Gang Squad



Voyeuristic docu about elite gang-busting police force.

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable

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

Not applicable
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.

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.

Kids say

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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.

Families can talk 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

Premiere date:April 11, 2010
Cast:Brett Beyer, Todd Eby, Warren Evans
Network:National Geographic Channel
Genre:Reality TV
TV rating:TV-14

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What parents and kids say

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Parent 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. Not Coke. Not Heroin. Not Speed, but Cannabis. It further shows a cadre of full grown athletic male black police officers (essentially a sanctioned gang of thugs) armed to the teeth with shotguns, assault rifles and pistols. These officers are being used to imprison young men and women of their own race, while white people in far away (read safe) offices dispatch warrants and examine evidence to be used in the prosecution of the young black males. In this episode none of the ballistic evidence gathered against these people proved to be viable or demonstrate that there was any connection between the young men who’s home was raided and any violent crime. Yet arrests were made! The officers portrayed themselves as heros on the job to clean up the streets of America. I see them as thugs working for the white man who are now complicit in imprisoning their own young brothers and sisters in what is nothing less than a continuation of punishing people of color for being poor. They would be far better off establishing themselves as mentors which would serve to heal the community, rather and tough talking gun slinging super cops destroying lives in their community, though I doubt any of the officers live anywhere near where this footage was shown. Also the commercials which paid for this program had an especially southern white male flavor to them. This is yet another factor which demonstrates the purposefully racial structure of this programming. The demonizing of young black males by the National Geographic Channel, is not only shameful but propagandistic in its nature. The supposition that the young man arrested for the crime of murder “Looked” like the person who committed the crime is a flimsy excuse to launch an all weapons out bust on kids selling pot. If that were the case, procuring a warrant would be as simple as saying “yep he/she looks just like the kid that did the crime. No problem warrant issued! Even in this program, the officer flatly stated that he saw the owner of the house selling pot. I never saw any person selling pot, although I did see several young men enter the house. I am a white male who was raised in a black neighborhood. I know what these poor disenfranchised human beings are up against. They are daily pitted against poverty, joblessness, hunger, excessively harsh laws regarding cannabis possession and the rampant availability of fire arms. One of the officers interviewed stated that there was no way to stop the flow of weapons into Detroit. Well I highly disagree with that statement. If the white people who own the factories were made to shut down their blood for money factories, there would be no guns on the street of any town in America. America would be far better of if the officers were busting down the doors of these weapons manufactures and imprisoning the workers and owners as they are the true criminals who are producing the guns in the first place. In other words stop it at the source. If one tenth as much energy and money was put into stopping the production of guns as is put into the war on cannabis there would be no guns on the street. America is building countless prisons to house people of color. Color is not a crime!!! Orbmanelson
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
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.
What other families should know
Great role models
Parent Written bytressie24 August 22, 2010
I believe that while there is violence and there is profanity, it is a realistic view of the gang activity in Detroit, its not only an example of the dangers of drugs being exchanged and the violence it cause, it also shows how young children with no guidance are simply looking for acceptance even if its from the streets
What other families should know
Great role models