Sunday, October 2, 2022

REVIEW: 'East New York' - Regina Haywood Is Determined to Reform the Way Policing Works in Her Community in 'Pilot'

CBS' East New York - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

Regina Haywood is the newly promoted boss of the 74th Precinct in East New York - a working-class neighborhood on the edge of Brooklyn in the midst of social upheaval and the early seeds of gentrification. With family ties to the area, Haywood is determined to deploy creative methods to protect her beloved community with the help of her officers and detectives. But first, she has the daunting task of getting them on board, as some are skeptical of her promotion, and others resist the changes she is desperate to make.

"Pilot" was written by William Finkelstein & Mike Flynn and directed by Mike Robin

Regina Haywood doesn't have the luxury of time. She's been given command of a police precinct. She obtained the job she wanted. She has climbed her way up the system. She has big ideas for how to improve it. And now, she has to implement those ideas right away to prove their value. She can't wait for people to trust her. She must command the precinct with authority. Her leadership is what matters now. She's not going to wait for people to believe her ideas come from a genuine, knowledgeable place. She needs to prove to her own bosses that she is making a difference in handling the crime in her neighborhood. Those statistics will determine whether she gets to keep the job. Reform needs to happen within the police department now. It's fascinating for a broadcast network to produce a police procedural focused intently on reforming the profession. It serves as an acknowledgement for the many systemic problems throughout the institution. One person can't fix everything either. There are levels to the police. Haywood doesn't even get to celebrate being the boss because she still has a chain of command she must follow. This is the authority she wanted. She has it now. In order to function though, the creative team can't truly delve into how heinous and corrupt the profession can be. It still has to overwhelmingly serve a format the viewer has seen play out for decades. As such, the storytelling doesn't immediately come across as a major reinvention of the wheel. It follows a central case. Haywood is involved every step of the way even though she wouldn't be the main figure handling the investigation. That is the responsibility of the detectives. Killian and Morales carry that burden. However, the story is introduced through Haywood responding to a shooting on the street. She has a personal connection to the case. As such, she wants it done right. She also needs it done quickly. Her leadership may rest entirely on how she responds. People think she failed because she didn't take a shot at the suspect when he was running away. She made the right call. She knows the damage that could come if she doesn't have a clear opportunity. When that possibility presents itself again, she has no trouble making that decision. She's right back to acting the same even though she has just killed a man. He put her in an impossible situation. She did what had to be done. That's the cynical nature of the job. It doesn't immediately convey the human emotions that carry through the people on the force. Instead, it's merely going through the motions of reform without having to ultimately deal with the consequences.

The policies Haywood hopes to implement seem overly modest too. She informs the patrol officers not to spend resources punishing low-level traffic offenses. She also wants her officers to actually live in the community. They need to be a part of the fabric of the streets they patrol every day. They need to have a stake in the prosperity of this place. It can't just be a job where they clock in and clock out without having to deal with the repercussions of policing. Quinlan leaps at the chance to move into a housing unit. The rest of the precinct is skeptical because that building houses a lot of the crime they deal with. It will be difficult to change hearts and minds. People already know what they think about cops. That mentality has been imbedded in their brains for a long time. Haywood hopes to combat that perception. It can't simply be something solved in the span of one episode. Quinlan knows how to respond one way to criminals. That's not what she's asked to do when she isn't working. She makes one connection in the building. That mostly showcases how sincere and appreciative he is at the effort being made. He's still incredibly skeptical. But he acknowledges the attempt at doing things differently. Elsewhere, Killian and his wife buy a restaurant. They do so because it's seen as taking the next step in their careers. She has big ideas about how to reinvent the place. Morales doesn't see those changes as reflecting the interests of the community. This neighborhood is ripe for gentrification. That's seen in the real estate mogul who has big plans for the expansion of the city. And so, he must be corrupt. He has the connections to avoid punishment for his crimes. At the end of the day, it was all too blatant for him to get away with it forever. When people have the ability to investigate, the results speak for themselves. The neighborhood is improved because the resources are being spent in the appropriate way. It still comes across as a typical procedural. One where Haywood has to continually prove herself. She has to do so with the people in charge as well as with the people working for her. Killian is upset when she shuts down an interrogation because a suspect wants a lawyer. That's the law. That should be common knowledge. It's not because the police are eager to push the boundaries. They want to see what they can get away with. They have massive protections. Haywood serves as accountability. She is the oversight necessary to keep everyone in line. But again, that's too much of a burden to place on one person. Mostly, the people who make up this world just seem content to do things the way they have always been done. That's true both onscreen and behind it. It can't just be lip service to these profound ideas. The storytelling needs to produce the merits to back it up. Everything is too tentative to lead with much confidence everyone involved has the requisite determination to combat the corruption of the institution and the value of some basic reforms. That shift in thinking just isn't apparent in the broad strokes. It's still too much of the same in the hopes of still appealing to the same audience on CBS who sits through a lot of these procedurals without having to think too hard about their real-world implications.