From Alex Gronke related to his pitch: OPD Blues. Also published at The Oakbook Magazine.
Right around the time last year that people with an interest in Oakland’s national reputation were weighing the pros and cons of having an HBO series about an aging pimp filmed in the city, producers for a cable television program called Gang Wars slipped into town to document what they called “Baby Iraq” in two installments.
Rough cuts of the documentaries are circulating around City Hall. While the programs follow the exploits of the Oakland Police Department’s anti-gang unit the producers spent an equal amount of time with gang members, self-styled or otherwise. The producers obviously had the cooperation of OPD, although it’s far from certain the police will think the final product was a fair exchange for the access.
The police are depicted as massively out-gunned and outnumbered by Oakland’s criminal street gangs. The police do confront heavy firepower, and an ever-replenishing supply of new recruits to gangs, but Gang Wars: Oakland was unclear about actual numbers. At one point the narrator said there were 40,000 gang members in Oakland, although previously he said the city counted 10,000 gang bangers. It’s a rough cut, complete with uncensored language, so maybe those facts will be sorted out later.
In keeping with the traditions of the sensationalistic cable television documentary, Gang Wars: Oakland spends more time looking for drama and storylines than questions or answers. Oakland is a place that “some call Baby Iraq,” and that’s all there is to understand. Everything else is just the interplay between OPD and the thugs.