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MUSE TV recently talked with the former Chief of Police in Pocomoke, Maryland Kelvin Sewell, Director and Producer Stephen Janis and Producer Taya Graham about the documentary, The Friendliest Town.

Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, calls for substantive reform of law enforcement have launched an intense national debate. But an effort by veteran African American officer to implement community policing in a small racially divided town is a cautionary tale on limits both to reforms and how racism may be the biggest obstacle to change.

That’s the subject of THE FRIENDLIEST TOWN – a full length documentary which chronicles the turmoil, conflicts, and retribution that embroiled a five-year effort to overhaul a troubled police department amid long simmering racial tensions.

The story starts in Pocomoke, a small town on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore. Here, residents
both black and white have lived quietly for decades. In 2011, the city of roughly 4,000 people which is equally split along racial lines, hired Kelvin Sewell, its first African American police chief. Sewell, a former Baltimore city homicide
investigator and narcotics officer had grown tired of the aggressive tactics used by the Baltimore Police Department…particularly those targeting black communities.

Determined to deploy a different approach to law enforcement, Sewell implemented an
intensive community policing plan. He and his officers parked their cars and walked the streets.
They got to know residents; they built relationships with people who had been subjected to
harsh police tactics and the failing war-on-drugs mindset.

Sewell’s system worked: crime plummeted. Residents both black and white became ardent
supporters of Sewell’s new paradigm of policing. It seemed all was well. Yet a conflict was
brewing that would turn the city upside down; an ongoing dispute over racial discrimination
engulfed Sewell and his officers in a battle that would not only cost them their jobs and
professional reputations, but would thrust them into an emotional legal battle that would touch
all segments of the community.

Watch the Friendliest Town now at Amazon by clicking