A Gainesville Police Department recruitment video has found itself at the center of controversy.
After an article published by The Economist raised concerns about some of the material used in the eight-and-a-half minute YouTube video, Chief Tony Jones switched the video from public to private mode Monday morning.
The video is a mix of public service and police action scenarios such as chasing suspects, making arrests, a hostage situation and weapons training. The action clips are responsible for the complaints.
Gainesville resident Nathan Collier brought The Economist article to the attention of Mayor Ed Braddy in an email.
Collier wrote that he was, “appalled and embarrassed beyond belief the City of Gainesville would recruit police officers based (sic) violence and video game style chases as versus neighborhood oriented, community relationship building skills.”
The video was made a year ago and cost $9,250 to produce, according to GDP spokesperson Ben Tobias.
Brittany King, a community organizer for Dream Defenders, said the video depicts Gainesville police as cracking down on crime and willing to use force immediately. King, 26, saw the video last year, and said it is not representative of Gainesville police. She said she thinks the video is how the police department wants to be perceived.
“I feel they want to push out an image that is more sensationalized than they actually are,” she said.
Tobias acknowledged how the video could be misconstrued.
“When we reviewed the video we definitely could see that there were parts of the video that in this day and age of policing were not appropriate for our time,” he said. Tobias said the department will work with Studio 601, a local production house, to edit the video.
However, it is not uncommon for a police department to create a short film to recruit officers.
The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office has a four-minute recruitment video that plays in the police department’s lobby, but is not available online, said Art Forgey, spokesperson for the sheriff’s office.
“It’s not gonna be a fast-paced shoot-em-up video,” Forgey said. He said their video is slow and covers all the different aspects of being an officer.
For Fred Shenkman, an emeritus professor of criminology at the University of Florida, the GPD video is far from accurate. He said the department needs to find different ways to draw people into the profession, but it is also important to be realistic.
“Those are just non-representative of what law enforcement is really about,” he said.
Shenkman said the video was lacking how officers interact with the community. He said police officers deal with the same issues as social workers.
“The most important thing the police do is interact with the public,” he said.
King shares a similar viewpoint as Shenkman. “When I see police, I see more of a civil servant more than an action hero,” King said.
But, residents like Collier are asking how GPD will change their recruiting procedures.
“What steps will the City take to reverse this dysfunctional recruiting orientation (& it’s cumulative impact over the years?) and institute a recruiting /training/retention/promotion policy properly oriented toward crises diffusion, situation de-escalation, win-win negotiation people skills,” he wrote in the email.