The Force

The Force

About the Film

At a powder keg moment in American policing, The Force presents a fly-on-the-wall look deep inside the long-troubled Oakland Police Department as it struggles to confront federal demands for reform, a popular uprising following events in Ferguson, Missouri, and an explosive sex scandal.   MORE

Filmmaker Pete Nicks embedded with the department over the course of two years to follow OPD’s serial efforts to recast itself. The film spotlights the new chief, hailed as a reformer, who is brought into effect reform at the very moment the Black Lives Matter movement emerges to demand police accountability and racial justice both in Oakland and across the nation.

The Force also follows the journey of young cops in the Police Academy who are learning how to police in a new era of transparency and accountability. Out on the street, the camera gets up close as rookie and veteran officers alike face an increasingly hostile public where dueling narratives surround each use of force. Under scrutiny as never before, these officers respond to a constant flood of 911 calls, and the film reveals the wide gulf between how cops see themselves and how they are seen by the public.

Despite growing public distrust, the OPD begins garnering national attention as a model of police reform. But just as the department is on the verge of a breakthrough, the man charged with turning the department around faces the greatest challenge of his career when a scandal breaks out.

The Filmmaker

Peter Nicks is an Emmy Award-winning shooter/director known for his courageous cinema vérité style. He directed and produced The Waiting Room, which was released theatrically to critical acclaim, aired on Independent Lens, and won numerous awards including an Independent Spirit Award. Nicks, a 2015 United States Artist Fellow, is in the midst of his trilogy of timely, immersive films exploring the interconnected narratives of health care, criminal justice and education in Oakland, CA. The Force premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival where Nicks won the Award for Best Director, US Documentary. LESS

Film Credits

Directed by
Peter Nicks

Executive Producer
Jon Else

Edited by
Lawrence Lerew

Produced by
Linda Davis

Justin Melland

Peter Nicks

Written by
Linda Davis
Lawrence Lerew
Peter Nicks

Produced by
Lawrence Lerew
Peter Nicks

Executive Producer for ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer

Executive Producer for Independent Lens
Lois Vossen

Supervising Producer for ITVS
David Eisenberg

Consulting Producer for ITVS
Noland Walker

Associate Producer
Sean Havey

Additional Camera
Jon Else
Sean Havey
Mark Oltmanns

Sound Recording by
Lawrence Lerew

Additional Sound
Sean Havey
Greg Miller
Lauretta Molitor
Gabe Monts
Erik Neumann
Vanessa Rancano

Assistant Editor
Sean Havey

Production Associate
Pendarvis Harshaw

Graphic Design

Post Facility
Color A Go-Go

DI Colorist
Kent Pritchett

DI Conform Artist
Geoffrey Orthwein

Online Editor
Loren Sorensen

DI Post Producer
Kim Salyer

Screening Facility
32TEN Studios

Audio Postproduction
Berkeley Sound Artists

Rerecording Mixers
James LeBrecht
Dan Olmsted

Sound Design
James LeBrecht
Bijan Sharifi

Dialog Editor
Erik Reimers

Sound Editor
Rachel Bain

Mix Stage
Fantasy Film Center

Orlando Bagwell
David Kennedy
David Sklansky

Nate Burke
Lily Majteles
Danielle Thompson

Blyth, Lee & Associates

Additional Legal
First Amendment Project

Insurance Broker
DeWitt Stern

Transcription Services
Heather J. Larsen

Archival Materials Provided by
“**** THE POLICE,”
650youngD, YouTube
ABC News
Comedy Central
East Bay Express
East Bay Times
The Economist
KNTV, NBC Bay Area
KTOP-TV10, Oakland
KTVU Channel 2 News
dukedogg48, YouTube
dukedoggtv, YouTube
NBC News
The New York Times
“Oakland Sideshows: LA 2 THA BAY 2015,”
sideshow bob, YouTube
“Oakland Sideshow La to the Bay #LatoDaBay Weekend november 2015,”
snoops tmh, YouTube
“Police Kill Man in Oakland,” diaz1990miguel, YouTube
San Francisco Chronicle

Special Thanks
Philip Arca
Kris Bowers
Peter Burke
John Burris
Larry Butler
FX Crowley
Doug Dunderdale
Jennifer Eberhardt
James Gassel
Abby Ginzberg
Melinda Haag
Thelton Henderson
Chris Jenkins
Dan Krauss
Don Link
Phil Lorin
Ben Mulholland
Michael Munson
John Mutz
Arnold Perkins
Jeff Rosenberg
Camille Servan-Schreiber
Courtney Sexton
Jon Shenk
Daniel Stein
Ephraim Walker

Thanks to the City of Oakland and all the people who made this film possible.

Funding provided by
Ford Foundation JustFilms
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
California Humanities
Catapult Film Fund
Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program
Kapor Center for Social Impact
The Filmmaker Fund
San Francisco Film Society
Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund
Nancy Blachman and David desJardins
Threshold Foundation

The Force is a co-production of Open'hood, Inc. and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

The Force is produced by Open’hood, Inc. which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2017 Open’hood, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

How much did viewing this film change how you see the police, and your view of those who are wary of the police? Do you think reform is still possible in departments like Oakland's? What have your own experiences been with the police?


  • Sundance Film Festival
    Documentary Directing Award
  • 2017 San Francisco International Film Festival
    Golden Gate Award - Documentary Feature
Please review our comment guidelines.
How much did viewing this film change how you see the police, and your view of those who are wary of the police? Do you think reform is still possible in departments like Oakland's? What have your own experiences been with the police?