131: Alex Vitale on Rethinking True Crime


True crime documentaries are booming. But what do they tell us about criminal justice. And what did they leave out a. I'm tom powers in this is pure nonfiction. It seems every week on hearing about a new crime documentary. Serial killers unsolved mysteries prison. Confessions the gene contains a wide spectrum. And i've program my fair share at festivals. I have a soft spot for crazy caper. Stories like screwball about baseball players doping or mic millions on crooks rigging the mcdonald's monopoly game you can hear both of those filmmaking teams on past episodes and i appreciate how they bring a sense of humor to covering american greed but the stories that leave me unsettled. Are those heavy on bloodshed in short unsocial context as those stories are multiplying on streaming platforms. I worry about what. We're missing so i turned to alex vitale. He wrote the book. Be end of policing came out in two thousand eighteen and then found a new audience last year with the rising movement to define the police. I wondered what true crime looks like through his is. We've experienced up until this last year about twenty five. Thirty years of consistent declines in serious and violent crime and yet the number of real crime stories is exploding. Alex's book is just over two hundred pages and covers a lot of ground he breaks down. How america's police are forced to confront an array of crises that could be better served with different expertise areas like mental health. School safety homelessness and immigration. He's also looking at the criminalization of drugs and sex work and how bad could be treated in more productive ways. I'd recommend the book for any documentary maker or funder or distributor whose work is touching upon crime. Our conversation begins and ends with talking about the media but in between we discuss what's happening in the wider movement to define the police. I wanna start on a positive note. So i asked alex if there documentaries that he admires for how the explore criminal justice he began by bringing up a series that you can find a net flicks you know. There are some some things that have been helpful in the amplification of this kind of broad critique of the criminal justice system as it's currently constituted. I think one of my favorites is a time. The cleef browder story one of the things that was really appealing about that. And i did have some small role in that was that it showed the failures at like every step of the criminal legal system. The police prosecutors judges the court system. The jail system just systematically failed him at every step and. I think that you know when we're looking at the kind of real crime genre to me. It's divided up into these kind of two camps. One is getting into the head of a criminal or trying to solve a particular crime and then there are these others that are really exploring. These questions of justice is the system producing justice. Did we really do the right thing. Here and I

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