TV-MA | HBO | 1h 38m
Released in October of 2019
SUMMARY: On average police officers in academies across the United States spend 60 hours learning how to shoot a gun while spending just eight hours on mental health and communication – Ernie Stevens and Joe Smarro want to change that. Ernie and Joe: Crisis Cops provides an intimate look at the partners and best friends as they respond to mental health calls for the San Antonio Police Department’s Mental Health Unit, provide training to their fellow policemen, and navigate everyday life.
Ernie and Joe do not exclusively focus on the mental health of the communities they police, but also of the police officers. They try to break down the stigma associated with trauma that a police officer witnesses on a regular basis and advocate for first responders to regularly see a therapist. Ernie and Joe’s work has resulted in San Antonio police cadets being required to take 40 hours of crisis intervention training (C.I.T.) before graduating. The change has been profound as first responders across the nation are taking notice. Since the San Antonio Police Department’s Mental Health Unit was established in 2008 the unit has diverted over 100,000 people away from jail.
One of the highlights of documentary is when Joe and Ernie respond to a suicdal women on a bridge. The duo spend over three hours talking with her before convincing her to get help. The film shows the duo repeatedly checking up on her and, despite it not being perfect, she manges to move away from her sucidal tendencies and get a job.
The film clearly shows that all of Ernie and Joe’s interactions do not end as well, but they are giving people hope – those in uniform and out of uniform.
KEY QUOTES: “I know that I can’t fix it. I can hospitalize them , that will keep them safe for 24-48-72 hours, but that doesn’t change their life so it is hard to realize that you are only maybe the first step. Which is good, but I wish it could be more.”
BONUS: Listen to Ernie and Joe talk about the documentary on The Whole Person Revolution podcast. Highly recommended.
BONUS II: Follow Ernie & Joe on Twitter @ernieandjoe.
DID YOU KNOW?: We have more resources about policing in America.
More curated movies on policing:
At first glance LA 92 is a history lesson about the Los Angeles violence in 1992 following the Rodney King verdict, but just below the surface is a warning and a call for Americans to wake up. For hundreds of years Black people and people of color have complained about police brutality and, unfortunately, most of the time white people have ignored or dismissed the calls for help or justice. This indifference and callousness combined with other issues such as high unemployment, underfunded schools, and aggressive policing tactics has led to frustration which manifests itself in violence.Read more