James Mangold Uses His Film ‘Cop Land’ to Call Out Police Officers Not Living in Neighborhoods They Protect

“It makes me think about why they wanted me to avoid shining a light on this issue,” director says of studio changes made to 1997 movie

Cop Land

In thinking about the protests that have continued across the country over the death of George Floyd, director James Mangold reflected back on his 1997 film “Cop Land” and criticized cops who don’t live in the cities and neighborhoods they protect.

Mangold’s “Cop Land” stars Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta and is about a New Jersey Sheriff who discovers that his town, populated by a number of New York City police officers, is a front for corruption and other mob connections. In a Twitter thread from Sunday, Mangold said he was forced by the Weinsteins at Miramax to change his film because they claimed the premise of cops no longer living in the five boroughs of New York was “impossible.”

“They said it was impossible because of a residency requirement insisting NYPD live in the place they protected. Of course, I knew cops got around this cause I grew up in a suburban white town of almost all city first responders,” Mangold said. “I went along cause it was my 1st big movie & the change didn’t really diminish a larger core message of urban police forces turned into organized crime. But now it makes me think about why they wanted me to avoid shining a light on this issue.”

This problem isn’t just unique to New York. A FiveThirtyEight data analysis from 2014 showed that in two-thirds of the largest police forces across the U.S., police commute to work and the precincts they serve from another community. And not all states have a requirement that cops live in the areas they police.

Mangold said this is a problem because cops are not protecting their own community and they end up “devaluing” the lives of the people who do live there in the hopes of containing the spread of crime to their own neighborhoods.

“It’s not easy being a good cop. God knows we need good cops. So it’s easy to talk someone into abandoning / de-emphasizing residency rules. ‘Why shouldn’t a good cop be able to live where he wants?’ goes the argument. Well, because commuting cops bring a different attitude,” he said. “Commuting cops are 9-5 soldiers in a land that is not their own. They do not have vested interest in embracing the place they patrol, rather, their interest in in “containing” it. This produces quiet pernicious and systemic racism.”

Mangold also shared a clip from early on in his film in which a corrupt cop plants a gun at a crime scene and then gets into a fight with a black paramedic who catches him in the act.

Check out the whole thread here.