By John Ruberry

Early in Episode One of Flint Town, an eight-entry Netflix series that debuted this month, we discover a murder victim lying in the snow. And we see snowflakes resting unmelted on his hand–the only warmth he will offer can only come from memories from his loved ones.

Such is life and death in Flint.

Few cities of its size in the United State–probably none–have endured as much devastation as Flint has in the last thirty years. The population of  Flint, which was once Michigan’s second largest city, peaked in 1960 at just under 200,000. But the wide scale exodus began in the 1980s when General Motors–it was founded in Flint–began its rapid downsizing of operations in what is still called “the Vehicle City.”

Now fewer than 100,000 reside in Flint–with 40 percent of them living below the poverty line.

Flint is Detroit’s smaller cousin–sharing most of the same problems. But Flint’s water crisis–lead poisoning spawned by switching the city’s water supply from Detroit’s Lake Huron facilities to that of the Flint River–added a tragic dimension to its suffering.

“It used to be cars were made in Flint, and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico,” Donald Trump remarks at a campaign appearance shown here. “Now the cars are made in Mexico and you can’t drink the water in Flint.”

Flint Town is a project of directors Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper, and Jessica Dimmock. It takes a surprising choice of its focus, the under-resourced Flint Police.

“The police officers on the Flint Police Department and underpaid and understaffed, wearing five or six hats, [and] using primitive equipment,” Police Chief Timothy Johnson tells the city council in the final episode. Earlier in the series the dashboard on a Flint police car shows the odometer at 105,000 miles. The man who sits in the cubicle next to mine in my real job, a retired cop from a Chicago suburb about the same size as Flint, says that the cruisers on his force were surplussed at about 50,000 miles.

We see Devon Bernritter, a captain, lament that he was compelled to send three officers on foot patrols because no police cars were available for them. Cops are sent on calls by themselves in Flint in many situations that in other jurisdictions, because of perceived danger, two officers are sent.

Johnson utilizes the same type of resourcefulness that Soviet citizens used when facing problems with inadequate or missing equipment. Volunteers are hired to assist his officers, although unlike everywhere else these aides are armed, including a warm-hearted 65-year-old retiree whose trainer bends over backwards so he pass his marksmanship test. Guns seized in crimes are typically destroyed by most police departments. In Flint they are auctioned off.

Election Day comes to Flint Town. While not ignored, the presidential race–where the white cops favor Trump and the African American ones back Hillary Clinton–takes a back seat to a vote to extend a millage, a property tax, to provide what is of course badly needed funding for law enforcement. In the past those monies were spent, despite promises to voters, elsewhere.

Flint has a well-deserved reputation for corruption and incompetence. The latter point was something not even Michael Moore in his Roger and Me documentary could ignore. While its elections are non-partisan, Democrats dominate Flint politics.

“I always wondered why this city was in the position it was and now I see why, it’s at the top,” Chief Johnson boldly tells the city council in a budget hearing.

Blogger last autumn in Michigan

Yet the rank-and-file Flint cops deeply care about the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect, despite toiling in the atmosphere of the cold-blooding killings in 2016, assassinations really, of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Is the love returned? For the most part, no.

Flint Town is rated TV-MA for graphic violence and foul language. While Netflix is promoting this batch of shows as Season One, there has been no announcement that a second season is coming. I’d like to see another helping.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

The number of police officers killed or injured in the line of duty soared last year, the FBI reported.

Not surprisingly, the findings, which were announced last week, got little coverage in the media.

Sixty-six officers died from “felonious” assaults, an increase from 45 in 2015 and the second-highest total in the past decade.

Additionally, 57,180 officers were assaulted in the line of duty, with nearly 30 percent of those officers being injured in the incidents. There were 50,212 assaults against law enforcement listed in the 2015 FBI report.

Of the 66 officers who were killed in criminal incidents:

  • The average age was 40 years old, with an average of 13 years of law enforcement experience.
  • Sixty-four of the officers feloniously killed were men, and two were women.
  • Nearly all of the officers were killed by firearms—62 out of 66. Of the 62 officers killed by firearms, 51 were wearing body armor at the time they were killed.
  • Four officers were killed intentionally with vehicles.
  • The most common categories of circumstance surrounding officers’ line-of-duty deaths were ambushes (17), followed by answering disturbance calls (13), and investigating suspicious people or circumstances (nine). (For more information on these incidents, see the summaries section of the report.)

The largest number of fatalities occurred in the South with 30, including the highest number in Georgia, which recorded seven.

Unfortunately, the trend seems to be continuing this year. See https://www.odmp.org/

Some researchers have disputed the Ferguson effect—the argument that police officers are less inclined to fight crime because of the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. I disagree with that analysis given the overall increase in crime in the past two years.

Nevertheless, it appears that another impact of Ferguson needs investigation. Given the increase in attacks against police, it is possible that people have become more emboldened in confronting cops violently as a result of Ferguson.

The news media tend to focus on the deaths of civilians rather than police officers. The Washington Post, for example, has been tracking such deaths but doesn’t include any mention of cops killed in the line of duty.

 It’s worth noting that 17 African-Americans, who were “unarmed,” were killed in confrontations with police in 2016, according to DaPost’s calculations and definition of unarmed.

When you dig into the facts of the cases, “unarmed” seems rather poorly applied:

–Dyzhawn L. Perkins, an unarmed 19-year-old black man, was shot on Feb. 13, 2016, in a house in Arvonia, Virginia. Buckingham County sheriff’s deputies were investigating reports of an assault. Perkins crashed through a window and attempted to attack the deputies.

–Vernell Bing, an unarmed 22-year-old black man, was shot on May 22, 2016, on a street in Jacksonville, Florida. Bing led a police officer on a pursuit and then crashed into the officer’s patrol car. Police said that Bing ignored commands to stay inside the vehicle.

Any loss of life is tragic, but it appears that the news media are more concerned with so-called “unarmed individuals” than police officers.