Exploring the Roots of Militarized Urban Policing

In the late 1960s, in reaction to the American civil rights movement, the US Army-built model towns called “Riotsvilles” where military and police were trained to respond to civil disorder with increasing militancy. A new documentary, Riotsville, U.S.A., utilizes training footage and national broadcast news media to explore this facet of the civil unrest of the 1960s while highlighting the connections between militarized policing policy and current urban policing ethos and practices. Riotsville, U.S.A. is directed by Sierra Pettengill, distributed by Magnolia Pictures, and was an official selection at Sundance in 2022. 

"In addition to weaving in enough context and history concerning discrimination, segregation, urban renewal, and the roots of "the urban problem," Pettengill connects these militarized strategies to the growing war in Vietnam, from the development of "anti-riot" assault vehicles (i.e., tanks) to the widespread use of tear gas — once condemned and banned as inhumane even in wartime — to control urban crowds," writes DUSP's Ezra Glenn in his Planning Magazine review of the film. "Equally noteworthy is the film's attention to another weapon in the arsenal of control, the computer, foreshadowing today's controversial practicing of surveillance, racial profiling, and algorithm-oriented policing."

Read Glenn's full review

Learn more about the film, watch a trailer, and stream the full film