YouTube video

Editor’s note: This video was recorded prior to Ray Liotta’s passing.

Police Accountability Report show hosts Taya Graham and Stephen Janis kick off the holidays with a spoilers-free review of the exceptional film Cop Land. Taya and Stephen take a tour behind the scenes of police culture and explore how difficult it really is for individual officers to hold other police accountable for their crimes. Decades later, Cop Land remains one of the most revealing and honest movies about the current state of policing in America. As copaganda only becomes more pervasive, this blast from the past is a breath of fresh air  that offers a more realistic look at the commonplace corruption and impunity rife in police departments around the country.

Studio: Taya Graham, Stephen Janis
Post-Production: Taya Graham, Stephen Janis


Taya Graham: Hello. My name is Taya Graham, and welcome to the Police Accountability Report. As I always make clear, this show has a single purpose: holding the politically powerful institution of policing accountable. And to do so, we don’t just focus on the bad behavior of individual cops. Instead, we examine the system that makes bad policing possible. And today we’re going to do so by striking back at one of the key enablers of bad policing: Copaganda. That’s right. The movies and popular culture that tout police as underpaid heroes who dutifully enforce the law, which is sometimes true, but sometimes is not.

Well we’re going to do so by using a piece of popular culture that has long been forgotten but actually might be the best antidote to copaganda we have ever seen. It’s a movie called Cop Land, and we’re going to break down how this story of police corruption and mayhem is actually the most accurate and telling depiction of law enforcement in the history of Hollywood.

But before we get started, I want you watching to know that if you have evidence of police misconduct, please email it to us privately at, and please like, share, and comment on our videos. You know I read your comments and that I appreciate them. And of course you can always reach out to me directly @tayasbaltimore on Facebook or Twitter. And of course there’s a Patreon donate link pinned in the comments below, and we do have some extras for our PAR family. Okay. We’ve gotten that all out of the way.

Now, as we’ve discussed before on this show, American culture is awash in what we call copaganda. Movies and TV series that paint police not just as a savior of our democracy, but literally the human dividing line between good and evil. And that type of mythos has become more extreme as policing has expanded its grip on our country. Let’s remember American taxpayers fund police to the tune of $120 billion per year, a number that continues to grow. Meanwhile, even as the funding for police has increased in 2020, homicides have shot up by 30%.

My point is that if police were really the solution to crime and violence, then all the spending we devote to it should produce better results. And that’s where copaganda comes in. Because if you can’t deliver the basic underlying premise on which the entire institution is based, then you have to use other means to keep the dollars flowing. I mean, let’s remember that many of the stories we cover on this show are illustrative of the fact that police spend far more time writing bogus tickets and making unnecessary car stops than they do investigating serious crimes. And let’s not forget that we have reported time and time again how police abuse their powers even when there are clearly enumerated laws that are supposed to limit what they can do, but often don’t.

So as the godfather of modern propaganda and advertising Edward Bernays explained, the best way to convince people to accept bad policy is to use clever techniques to appeal to their emotions and make the worst appear the better cause. And no industry has done a better job at this task for American law enforcement than our prodigious American culture industry. I mean, it’s not just how these shows portray cops; Always honest, hardworking upholders of civilization. It’s also how many darn cop shows there are. I mean, it’s almost like no story can be told about us unless it’s through the eyes of a cop. Take, for example, a show produced in our hometown in Baltimore called The Wire. The Wire is often touted as an auteur’s honest take on the intersection of poverty, politics, and policing. A riveting deep dive into the realities of a crumbling urban core.

But don’t you think it’s odd that the entire narrative of the series is told through the eyes of the police? I mean, isn’t it strange that the primary characters of the show who explore urban decay have a badge and a gun? I mean, it seems a little strange that police have become the primary narrator of our lives. But of course that’s why in this show we’re going to review a movie that actually gets policing right. A film that has been relegated to the dustbin of history, but actually depicts the true imperative of contemporary policing better than any piece of popular culture we know of. It’s called Cop Land. A movie starring Sylvester Stallone who plays a small town New Jersey sheriff in a town that is quite literally owned by the cops with a stellar cast, including Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Harvey Keitel, Michael Rapaport, and Robert Patrick. It was released in 1996 and it opened to mixed reviews and meager box office success. But like many pieces of great art it has gotten better with age and become more relevant now than ever when it first hit theaters more than 25 years ago.

That’s because the film does something many films do not, which is to reveal through expert storytelling the underlying forces that drive the problematic law enforcement-industrial complex we live with today. And the film accomplishes this goal not by proselytizing, but instead reveals these truisms through complex characters, expert acting, and a riveting narrative. And to show you exactly how this film accomplishes this and also contradicts the aforementioned copaganda, I’m joined by my reporting partner, Stephen Janis. Stephen, thank you so much for joining me. Stephen? Hold on. I think we’re having a technical problem, but you know, Stephen does spend an awful lot of time outside and some people are even concerned that we just leave him out there. So to be nice for the holiday season, just this once, I’m going to go get him.

Stephen Janis:  Taya, thank you for… Taya? Taya? Can you hear me?

Taya Graham:        Hey, Stephen.

Stephen Janis:   Huh?

Taya Graham:        Surprise.

Stephen Janis:      What?

Taya Graham:        Just this once –

Stephen Janis:         What are you doing here?

Taya Graham:     You can come inside.

Stephen Janis:     You’re going to let me… I really feel much more comfortable being outside.

Taya Graham:         Look, there have been some requests from our kind viewers who are a little bit worried about you, and they said you should come inside, just this once for the holidays.

Stephen Janis:      All right. Great. I guess I’ll do it. Sure. Why not? I’ll see you guys later.

Taya Graham:     Come on in.

Stephen Janis:    Okay. Oh, we’re going –

Taya Graham:        Come on over.

Stephen Janis:        Okay. You want me to sit here?

Taya Graham:          Right here.

Stephen Janis:          All right. This is just weird. I’m sorry. I’m just not used to being inside.

Taya Graham:         I know.

Stephen Janis:       I know it seems a little strange, but I spent the past year outside.

Taya Graham:          That’s true.

Stephen Janis:         So being inside is a little weird.

Taya Graham:         I don’t want him to get used to it. This is a one time deal.

Stephen Janis:       Okay.

Taya Graham:          So let’s set the scene for Cop Land. Sylvester Stallone is the sheriff of the small town in Garrison, New Jersey, just over the George Washington Bridge. And let’s listen to Robert De Niro, who plays Moe Tilden, talk a little bit about what Cop Land is.


Robert De Niro:      Back in the seventies, every cop wanted out of the city, but the only cops allowed to live outside New York were transit cops because the Transit Authority was also run by Jersey and Connecticut. So these guys I knew at the 3-7, they started pulling overtime at subway stations and got the city to declare them auxiliary transit cops. They bought some land in Jersey, got some cheap loans from people they knew. They made themselves a place where the shit couldn’t touch them.


Taya Graham:           So there’s this arrangement that’s alluded to but is not fully discussed. It gives us the idea that perhaps there’s something more sinister behind Cop Land, right?

Stephen Janis:        Right. Because what basically Moe Tilden tells us, or what we learn later on, is that this town was sort of bought and paid for by the mob, so that those cops that got out of New York would allow them to run drugs through that neighborhood, which I assume is in the Bronx. But nevertheless, the point is that there’s a separation between the police and the community. And not only do the police leave the community but they also use the community to finance their little suburban paradise in utopia. So it sets up a very interesting premise. We don’t know this at first, but it’s kind of alluded to that they got themselves out, they were working as transit cops. They kind of game the system but also separate themselves from the community that they were supposed to serve which is, I think, a big, big theme in American policing right now.

Taya Graham:          Absolutely. Now, one of the things that is so extraordinary about this movie is how many times police officers actually commit crimes during this movie. So we have our sheriff, our hero, Freddy Heflin, who, one of the first acts we see him do is, he’s in a bar playing pinball. He runs out of quarters, so he breaks into a parking meter to help himself, right?


Sylvester Stallone: [Sound of coins falling] Shit. Dammit. [Coins clinking together]


Stephen Janis:  Yeah, no, it’s an extraordinary sort of casual event. Ray Liotta, who’s one of his friends, is watching him and kind of chuckling, when really he’s committing misconduct in office clearly. Clearly you can’t, as a cop, just help yourself to a parking meter, but it kind of sets the tone for the movie because he says, you know what? There’s different rules for us. If I need quarters for my pinball machine, I’ll just go into a parking meter. I think it’s a really important, it’s subtle, it’s small. But at the same time, it speaks volumes about how Cop Land is run and how laws are one for cops and one for everybody else.

Taya Graham:      Okay. So a big scene that moves the movie forward is when Michael Rapaport, who plays the character Super Boy, is driving along – And he may have actually been intoxicated during this drive, but we don’t know for certain – But he is driving along and he ends up in a hit and run situation with two other gentlemen in a car. He ends up shooting those two unarmed young men. Let’s take a quick look at what happens.


Michael Rapaport:     [Music playing on radio][car crashing, tires screeching] Oh fuck.

Radio Announcer:  …Angels today. Chili Davis had two run homers from either side…

Michael Rapaport:     Hey! Pull over. NYPD, pull over. Hey, you hear me? Pull over. [tires screeching, car crashing] Fuck, shit. [gunshots] Fuck, cocksucker. [tires screeching, car crashing]


Taya Graham:   All right. So Stephen, what’s happening here and why is it so important?

Stephen Janis:     Well, this is really the conflict that sets up everything that cascades from it. And when Super Boy’s car is hit, he thinks that these young men are shooting at him, but all they have is a tire iron. So then the scene that evolves on the bridge is really, really illustrative, because after he shoots and kills these guys it’s like the sort of mechanisms of policing all jump into action. And you have the union rep, both union reps are on the bridge, including Harvey Keitel. Who immediately says, oh, I’ve got a gun in the trunk and we’ll plant the gun. One of the cop friends of Super Boy plants the gun and then all chaos breaks out.

So what’s interesting is you see how police protect themselves. First of all, you can’t just shoot someone running away from you. Even if they hit your car, get their license plate. But he shoots them. After he kills them, then they go into another coverup. Rather than investigating this properly they literally start a cascade coverup where, as you know, Super Boy jumps off the bridge.

Taya Graham:       Now, what I thought was really interesting is that when Super Boy finds out that he has killed two young men, the first thing he says is, they’re going to take my shield.


Michael Rapaport: [crosstalk] Take my fucking shield away from me.

Speaker 1:           Hey, put it down, chico.

Speaker 2:               Chico this, motherfucker. What?

Speaker 1:          Frankie, don’t be starting anything.

Speaker 2:            What the fuck you going to do? [crosstalk].

Speaker 1:            [crosstalk] Oh my God. Oh my God, Leo. Jesus. He jumped, oh my God. Jumped. He jumped. Shine a light down there.


Taya Graham:      Why do you think that is so important? I think this says so much that his first thought was not for the young men, but for his badge, his gun, and his authority.

Stephen Janis:        Well, it’s like the shield is like a barrier, right? It’s literally a shield. It’s like a social shield. It says, I’m not going to be… I can’t be part of the regular population where I have to follow the rules of everybody else. I can’t just be a normal citizen of this city. I’ve got my shield. And I think that’s really great that you brought that up, because it’s a very interesting word. He didn’t say, I’m going to lose my job, or I’m going to go to jail. I’m going to lose my shield. And I think that’s a metaphor, an effective metaphor, for what it means to be a cop in Cop Land and in New York in this movie.

Taya Graham:        So one of the things that we promised at the beginning of this is that we were going to talk about how copaganda works and the strange way that crime, or what our idea of crime is, is normalized and set by law enforcement officers. Stephen, maybe you can talk a little bit about this effect.

Stephen Janis:       Well, one of the things really interesting is that when you start getting into the movie, and you see Super Boy jump, and you see Sylvester Stallone break into the parking meter, and you see the gun pulled out and planted, and you see crime after crime, after crime. And you start realizing that in this world of policing that’s just the way things are. They’re not cognizant. It’s not like someone says, oh, don’t plant that gun. That’s a crime. Or someone says, hey, Freddy, Heflin, stop taking the quarters. And of course, Sylvester Stallone’s character gets into an accident just shortly after that. And he’s trying to come up with excuses. He said, what did you tell the people down at the station what happened? And let’s just watch that for a second, because it’s very revealing.


Sylvester Stallone: What’d you tell Lenny about the accident?

Speaker 3:             Chasing the speeder.

Sylvester Stallone: What?

Speaker 3:          Sheriff was chasing the speeder.

Sylvester Stallone: [scoffs]


Stephen Janis:    So of course even this sort of everyday sheriff is in on this… Freddy Heflin or Sylvester Stallone’s character is not immune to this sort of feeling of… He didn’t say, you know what, that’s not true. I wasn’t chasing a speeder. I was a little intoxicated and hit a deer. He’s like, oh, okay. And I think it’s really interesting because when we talk about policing this country and the scene we talk about being one set of laws for police and one set of laws for the rest of us. I think this sort of tells you, or shows, gives you a sense of how that culture develops and how it becomes sort of calcified in policing. Yeah.

Taya Graham:      Now one thing that I thought was also interesting, and this is when the plan is that Super Boy allegedly jumps off this bridge. When you mentioned how one of the officers ran to immediately plant a gun in order to make Super Boy’s assailants look dangerous and as if they deserved to be shot. There was an EMT there, and the EMT stood up to the police officers and said, you’re planting that gun. You can’t do this. And the EMT does something amazing. Let’s watch.


Speaker 3:       We got it.

Speaker 4:       Yo, yo, yo, yo. What the fuck are you doing, man?

Speaker 3:            I found their piece.

Speaker 4:            Found their piece?

Speaker 5:             Oh Jesus.

Speaker 4:          That wasn’t in there.

Speaker 3:              What do you mean it wasn’t in there? It was underneath the floor mat.

Speaker 4:                Bullshit, man. You can’t do that.

Speaker 1:             – Come on. Shut the fuck up.

Speaker 3:            Do what? It was underneath the fucking floor mat. [crosstalk].

Michael Rapaport:  Take my fucking shield away from me.

Speaker 1:             Hey, put it down. Put it down, chico.

Speaker 2:             Chico this, motherfucker.

Speaker 1:              What?

Speaker 3:             Frankie, don’t be starting anything.

Speaker 2:         What the fuck you going to do?

Speaker ?:              Kiss my ass.


Taya Graham:     Now, when I saw this scene, I couldn’t help but think about all the times that I read about EMTs being pressured. For example, in Colorado, EMTs have been pressured to administer ketamine to suspects, perhaps against their own better medical judgment. They’ve been influenced by the police to do so. And there have been other instances where I know EMTs have been asked to turn their heads and not see what’s going on. What did that scene say to you?

Stephen Janis:         Well, that scene said to me that that’s not a normal EMT because I mean it was… But it also, I think, demonstrated that there was a tension, existing tension. You had two African American young men, you had an African American EMT. He was very conscious of what was going on and he wasn’t going to stand for it. And I think he was very frustrated by what he saw as a corrupt police force sticking up for itself. And I think that frustration boiled over pretty early. And I think it was a very interesting scene to say that this type of corruption affects the community. Right away, we see the community represented there saying, hey, what are you doing? And I think that’s a very important scene because you’re so in this insular Cop Land world, like I said, everything’s upside down. But in this case, we saw the community pushing back.

Taya Graham:      So now we know for certain that Super Boy did not jump off the bridge, and it is part of an elaborate coverup being created by these cops. And this is where the crimes that these officers commit really begins to accelerate. And there’s a scene with one of my favorite actors, Robert De Niro, and he’s playing an internal affairs officer, an officer who is tasked with investigating the wrongdoings of other cops. There’s an interesting scene where he approaches Freddy Heflin, the Sylvester Stallone character, and explains to him why they have to investigate.


Robert De Niro:  My jurisdiction ends, in a sense, at the George Washington Bridge. About half the men I watch live beyond that bridge where no one’s watching.

Sylvester Stallone: I’m watching.

Robert De Niro:     I can see that. You got a crime right here of about what?

Sylvester Stallone:  Lowest in northern New Jersey.

Speaker 5:       Yeah. You got Hoboken and Jersey City over here. Newark.

Sylvester Stallone: Well, we try to do a good job with what we have.

Robert De Niro:         With a staff of three? No, sheriff. What you got here is a town that scares the shit out of certain people.

Sylvester Stallone: Lieutenant, I told you, I’m watching. I mean, if you look around you see none of these people are wearing silk shirts. Their pools are above ground. You know? You know, you raise your family somewhere decent, I guess that’s a crime now.

Robert De Niro:    We buried a suit today. That doesn’t bother you?

Sylvester Stallone: He jumped off the GWB.

Robert De Niro:     Yeah, but his body never hit the water. That doesn’t bother you? What does? That I investigate cops? Being a man who always pined to be a cop?

Sylvester Stallone: I am a cop.

Robert De Niro:  Pined to be NYPD. Three, four saps in 10 years. Appeals of hearing tests. Right? You may be law enforcement, and so am I, but you are not a cop. Now I may watch cops, but tell me if I’m wrong. Every day, out these windows so do you. You watch cops too. And since we are both law enforcement, we share a duty. Do we not? If there is a stink, we must investigate. We must gather evidence because evidence makes us see the truth. Is this a stink of a criminal act or is it a turd in a bag? Babitch isn’t dead. You know that and I know that. Ray got him off that bridge alive before he could talk. But he wasn’t so lucky the last time when the shit hit the fan with Tunny. That boy he took care of later.

Robert De Niro:       But now what? What does Ray do now? That’s the $64,000 question. And that’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m here, sheriff. Because you’re on the inside. And besides the church traffic and the cats in the trees and all that other bullshit, okay. There isn’t much here for you to do to keep your mind busy. But I look at you, sheriff and I see a man who’s waiting for something to do. And here I am. Here I am saying, sheriff, I got something for you to do.


Stephen Janis:   Taya, I love this scene because, I think, it’s where the rubber meets the road, where Sylvester Stallone has to make this weird decision. To actually enforce the law, he has to betray law enforcement in some ways is what Robert De Niro… And then Robert De Niro kind of says, you got nothing going on in your life. You might as well do something exceptional with it. Here I am. I think no other actor could pull that off. But I think what’s extremely important about this is the fact that Sylvester Stallone’s choice is A, do I stick with my law enforcement friends, or B, do I betray them by actually investigating a crime which has become a citywide thing. Yeah. And so how do you feel about Robert De Niro’s performance there?

Taya Graham:     Okay. First off Robert De Niro’s performance was, as usual, exceptional. But I think what was really interesting is the way that it was set up as if it was going to be a betrayal. If Freddy Heflin helps him investigate these cops, who are committing a crime, it’s somehow a betrayal. It’s somehow a betrayal of their oath, it’s somehow a betrayal of the blue brotherhood. And that’s what I found really interesting, because I thought the task of a law enforcement officer is to enforce laws wherever they’re broken and wherever that is found. So I thought that had a… It was a really interesting conundrum.

Stephen Janis:   That’s a really great point. He says their pools are all above ground. They don’t wear silk shirts. I guess it’s a crime to raise your family someplace nice. That is so manipulative. That’s perfect copaganda.

Taya Graham:   So I think the way that the police officers in this movie perceive internal affairs is really interesting. There’s a moment where the character played by Harvey Keitel, Ray Donlan, says this.


Harvey Keitel:       Hey, Moe.

Robert De Niro:  Hey, Ray. Sorry to hear about your nephew.

Harvey Keitel:       Yeah, he was a good kid. We were up all night with him. I know you need to talk to me. I’ll come in next week sometime. How’s that? Jackie here is coming in early for you tomorrow.

Robert De Niro:      Right, Jackie. Moe Tilden.

Speaker 6:              Hey.

Robert De Niro:       Moe Tilden.

Harvey Keitel:       [inaudible] Moe here was my classmate at the academy back in the day. Before he fell in love with this redhead at IA and transferred.

Robert De Niro:   Is that how it went, Ray?

Harvey Keitel:         So what brings you to our fair city? Checking up on us?

Robert De Niro:     I heard it was a way of life out here. Thought I’d check it out for myself.

Harvey Keitel:        What are we, like the Amish now?

Robert De Niro:    See you tomorrow.

Harvey Keitel:     Fucking rat.


Taya Graham:         So I think the scene says a lot about how police do not like to have anyone looking over their shoulder.

Stephen Janis:      And how difficult it is to look over their shoulders. Because you’ve got veteran cops with a long history calling him a rat. I mean, he’s just doing his job, but no one likes to be investigated, but all the inner relationships to the police are made clear in this movie. Moe Tilden knows Harvey Keitel’s character from way back. It shows you sort of how entangled they are, how difficult it is to have an agency investigate itself. I think it’s pretty clear.

Taya Graham:          So one thing I think the movie got really on target here was the way the police were able to feed a narrative to the media, and the media swallowed it whole and gave it out to the public. Let’s take a listen, and keep in mind, we know that Super Boy is alive. We know these other officers are committing crimes, but listen to what the public is being fed.


Speaker 7:      It was the system that drove Murray “Super Boy” Babitch off that bridge. Murray Babitch was a hero cop. He deserved a fair hearing, but he knew this would not happen. Not in this city.

Speaker 8:      Activists Johns met the parents of the slain teens calling for a human blockade on the bridge tomorrow.

Speaker 9:           A drunk cop jumps off a bridge but does not embrace the murder of two Black children.

Speaker 8:           Attending the Yankee game, Mayor Ferelli responded to reports of cops attempting to plant evidence on the bridge.

Speaker 10:        We are looking into it. There may have been some irregularity on the bridge, but as I say, [crosstalk] we are looking into it. No more comments, please. I’m here to enjoy the ball game with my wife. Thank you very much.


Stephen Janis:  Yeah, Taya, I love the way that they’re all kind of sitting in the bar kind of chuckling, right? I mean, they’ve got this kid who supposedly jumped off a bridge, an entire investigation of the city and they’re all sitting in the bar, it’s kind of like, whoa, look what we did?

Taya Graham:   Right? They’re in the bar.

Stephen Janis:      Hugging, they’re kind of on top of each other.

Taya Graham:           They’re literally celebrating while they’ve essentially fooled the entire city.

Stephen Janis:    You make a really good point. We don’t notice any reporters driving out to Garrison, New Jersey, looking around for Super Boy. Everyone kind of, the mainstream media kind of swallows the narrative. And that is a really important point. Because if one reporter kind of drives out to Garrison and said, is he really dead?

Taya Graham:   If one reporter had shown up to that bar to interview any of the officers about him, they might have actually seen Super Boy was alive.

Stephen Janis:    But instead, as you point out, the narrative is a hero cop takes his life because he thinks the justice system is unfair to cops. That’s an extraordinary narrative.

Taya Graham:    And it’s an amazing twist that the public was swallowing whole except for a few community leaders that we see in the movie.

Stephen Janis:       Yep. Great point.

Taya Graham:        So I think there’s a really important moment where the character Ray, played by Harvey Keitel who’s a union rep, essentially gets the entire investigation shut down with a single phone call. And Ray Liotta tries to explain to Sheriff Freddy why this is happening, why it was so easy for him to do it, and why it’s going to be so difficult for him to do an investigation. And I think this is one of your favorite scenes.

Stephen Janis:     Yeah. Well it’s one of my favorite lines from the scene. Because I think it sort of embodies many, many types of things. You want to watch? Let’s watch it.

Taya Graham:           Yeah. Let’s watch.


Speaker 8:            The New York Times is quoting one friend [knocking on door] of Royster as saying that the guy had an IQ of 160.

Michael Rapaport:  I need your help. They’re trying to kill me.

Ray Liotta:        Who?

Michael Rapaport:  Who? My friends tried to kill me. Ray Donlan tried to kill me.

Ray Liotta:   Shit. Holy shit. [footsteps] Speak of the devil. [running footsteps].

Speaker ?:          Ray. Forget it.

Speaker 11:           I don’t get this. This doesn’t make any sense. Why did you get Super Boy off the bridge and bring him back here to kill him?

Speaker ?:           Ray had a plan. It got very fucked up.


Stephen Janis:  I just like the way he says it.

Taya Graham:      I know, Ray Liotta’s such a great actor.

Stephen Janis:       He says, things got really fucked… Ray had a plan and it got –

Taya Graham:     Really F’d up.

Stephen Janis:      Well and the way he said it, kind of pauses. it got really –

Taya Graham:     And that little chuckle that comes out when he’s saying it, it was just perfect.

Stephen Janis: Yeah. And I think it shows the absurdity of this kind of thing that Ray had conjured this plan. Did he ever think about how, what are you going to do –

Taya Graham:       What are you going to do if he supposedly jumped off the bridge and committed suicide, what are you going to do when he’s alive?

Stephen Janis:   Right. And which brings us a scene where not only have they committed the murder of two young men, not only have they covered up the murder, but then they try to murder Super Boy.

Taya Graham:  Right.

Stephen Janis:     Let’s watch.


Michael Rapaport: I always said to my mom, Uncle Ray doesn’t like me, but…

Harvey Keitel:  I always liked you, Murray. You just sweat too much.

Speaker 12: Hey, let’s do it. Hey, Super Boy.

Michael Rapaport:  So what are we going to do now? I’m going to go meet some people. How does this work? I got all my bags packed and everything, Ray. I’m just, I’m a little buzzed. You know, maybe we could do this tomorrow or something. I’m really tired, Ray. Where’s Joey?

Harvey Keitel:     He’s working tonight, kid.

Michael Rapaport: Yeah?

Harvey Keitel:          Yeah.

Speaker 12:          Sorry it came out this way, Murray.

Michael Rapaport: It’s not that bad, Jack.

Speaker 12:             Yeah, it is, Murray. [crosstalk][sounds of drowning][motor revs][gunshots][shouting].

Speaker 13:        What is this? What are you doing? What are you doing? What the fuck is this. Ray, you said PDA was going to set him up with a new life.

Harvey Keitel:     You think I’m all that, Joey?


Stephen Janis:    I mean, come on. You’re talking about multiple counts –

Taya Graham:          How many counts of murder? So there’s a murder. There’s a conspiracy to commit murder. There is planting evidence. Then we have an attempted murder, an assault. I mean, it’s just mayhem. And I think actually, I’ve actually caused mayhem actually, that might be a crime too.

Stephen Janis:      Well, yeah. I mean, it’s extraordinary when you think about it. If these guys had lawyers, they would be spending the rest of their life. I mean, the series of crimes that are committed by the time they try to kill Super Boy, and then they’re going to just dump him in the river so that someone can find him. I mean, that’s pretty ruthless.

Taya Graham:        So this brings me to one of my favorite scenes with Ray Liotta. He is having an issue with the cops in the bar. He feels like they’re not keeping him in the loop, that they’re making these plans, and that they’re going to try to push him out. And they essentially say to Ray Liotta’s character, well, you do drugs, you steal evidence. And this is how Ray Liotta’s character responds.


Ray Liotta:      What is this, [inaudible 00:31:19]? Huh? Listen, if IA’s going to fucking hang me by the balls, it ain’t going to be over some fucking missing evidence.

Speaker 14:            Figgsy. You’ve been a cop 12 years. Six grams missing. It’s not a white size violation, babe.

Ray Liotta:          Come on.

Speaker 15:          You bought that big old house. Maybe you’re trying to get out from under.

Speaker 16:            Hey Jack.

Ray Liotta:             What the fuck’s up your ass? You can tell me you’re getting by without gravy, any of you?


Taya Graham:       So I thought that was really interesting because he says, Hey, isn’t there any, there’s nobody here that’s not getting by without some gravy. So think about it –

Stephen Janis:    He didn’t mean gravy.

Taya Graham:        No, he meant being on the tape, getting money.

Stephen Janis:       Because they were talking about six ounces is not a white, six ounces of cocaine. That’s pretty expensive.

Taya Graham:       Right. And he’s saying that all of you are getting some form of cash. All of you are somehow on the tape.

Stephen Janis:       Taking it off of suspects, selling drugs, whatever. I mean…

Taya Graham:    Right. It’s amazing. And the thing is that these officers, when they say it’s gravy, that’s a euphemism that I think helps keep some distance between the impact of their crime and the crime itself. They don’t have to admit to committing crimes because they’re the good guys that chase criminals. Instead they’re like, we just get some gravy. We just take a little money off the top. We just take a little money from the bad guys. We’re not actually doing anything wrong. And I think that euphemistic way of talking and thinking is really a point of psychology that’s very, very specific and very, very, it has a strong imperative behind it.

Stephen Janis:    Well, he didn’t say, is anyone getting by without stealing. And the gravy sort of sounds like a tip or something. Something that is a –

Taya Graham:     Just a little on the top.

Stephen Janis:     We saw this in Baltimore and the police, when they would regularly take all this overtime. It was kind of like, we just deserve it. We don’t have to work it. There were lots of people, we had the gun trace task force, where they literally would say easy money. They would joke about getting overtime while they’re on vacation. But it was more, I think, entitlement. And I think that’s what you see with –

Taya Graham:      That’s the word, that’s the imperative behind it.

Stephen Janis:       What Ray Liotta is talking about. We’re entitled to this because we’re going into that horrible city. And when we go over there, we’re entitled to take whatever we want and it doesn’t matter. So I think that’s a great point, Taya.

Taya Graham:     Okay. So there is another great scene where Ray Liotta and Sheriff Freddy Heflin, Sylvester Stallone’s character, are talking, and Stallone’s character is trying, is basically saying, well, I think I’m going to have to do this. I think I’m going to have to investigate these crimes. And Ray’s character gives him some advice.


Ray Liotta:           All right, brother’s in deep shit. He’s down, he’s bleeding and you’ve got to get there, but there’s lights, right? All over the city, red lights.

Sylvester Stallone: You go through the red lights.

Ray Liotta:               Sure. You fire up the roof. You wail, you go through the red lights. But that’s slow, Freddy, fighting your way through traffic. The goal is perpetual motion. You turn the wheel when you hit a red light, right? You don’t drive down Broadway to get to Broadway.

Sylvester Stallone: But how does this apply to what you were saying?

Ray Liotta:                It applies, Freddy. It’s just as easy to tail a man walking in front of him. Now you butt heads with these friends of ours, you’re going to come at them head on. They got lives, Freddy. Families. No, you move diagonal. You jag.


Taya Graham:        So Stephen, you love this diagonal rule. Why don’t you talk a little bit about what you think this means?

Stephen Janis:        Well, I think first of all, I think it means that Ray Liotta does a lot of coke during the movie.

Taya Graham:        Oh my goodness. Whether it was Goodfellas or this movie, he plays someone on cocaine the best I’ve ever seen.

Stephen Janis:      Makes one wonder. But I think what’s interesting about this is that Ray Liotta is saying you can’t confront this power. This power is so immense and it kind of gives you a sense of how powerful cops can be when they’re corrupt. Because there’s no way to confront them head on. You would think you could say, okay, they broke the law. We’re going to go and arrest them. And he’s like, no, Freddy, if you confront these people head on, these are cops. These aren’t, these are like the worst mob or the worst gangsters you’re ever going to confront. And in our own town, we saw that with the gun trace task force, who was robbing residents and a group –

Taya Graham:      Dealing drugs and stealing overtime.

Stephen Janis:     While the Department of Justice was in town investigating the department. So I think what’s important about it, when you have a force like this, like policing or people with guns and badges, who are going to say we’re going to do what we want to do. What Ray Liotta is saying in his coke-infused haze is, hey, you can’t come at these people. You’re going to have to find a way around this to be kind of sneaky and make this happen. And that is very illustrative of the power of a badge when it’s corrupted. It’s almost omnipotent, it almost has all power.

Taya Graham:         Okay. So I hate to do this, but we are going to end the review here so that we don’t spoil the rest of the movie for you. And I hope everyone who’s watching this is inspired to go rent my favorite movie, and I’m sure it’s Stephen’s, Cop Land.

Stephen Janis:         Yeah. And one thing I want to make sure is clear and sort of takeaway, we talk about how this movie is a metaphor for American policing as a whole. And I think what’s important is that there is an underlying premise of the movie, which is that these guys got cop land, they’re in Garrison, because the mob gave them loans, low interest loans to buy houses so that they’d let them run drugs. But what that really is to talk about is a relationship between elites, economic elites, sort of profligate capitalism, and policing, and how police sort of have this special relationship with the powerful, the rich, who they really police and who they… Not really police, but really protect. And it gives them, affords them a certain social status and a certain amount of economic security that the people they police don’t have.

Taya Graham:      Right. Pensions, lifetime health benefits.

Stephen Janis:        Overtime. Yeah, it’s amazing. I mean, we have so many cops in Baltimore making $100,000 a year that only have a high school education. You couldn’t get a job like that anywhere else. And so I think that’s what makes this movie a different kind of cop movie, because it’s really exposing the relationship. It’s not hitting you over the head with it. It’s saying, think about this. So these cops escape to a suburb, they all get houses. They’re really given a land of economic opportunity and utopia that cannot be afforded to the people they left behind in the Bronx. And because they have a special relationship with mob, which I think really is the economic elite to this country, and because of that –

Taya Graham:        You could definitely call some of our uber capitalists members of a mob.

Stephen Janis:        Right. In a sense, also an original sin, right? Because from that sin of not really being a part of the community, of being economically separate, they then commit a myriad of sins. They feel empowered to set the rules for themselves and break any law they want.

Taya Graham:    And I just want you to know that if you have a favorite cop movie, please be sure to leave it in the comments for us, for us to discuss. And I might even post the list, I went through the movie and wrote down every single crime that I could find. I might post that as a little list. And if you see any crimes I missed, please let me know because I kind of love geeking out over this movie. So please feel free to do so.

So I wanted to thank you for joining us for our special end of the year PAR. We wanted to do something a little bit lighter for the holidays. And we also wanted to just say thank you to everyone that is in our PAR audience. We read your comments. We appreciate that you watch us because we know that it means that you really care about fairness in your community. We know that because we’ve read your comments, we’ve read your thoughts. And we know that the reason why police accountability matters so much to you is because you care.

Stephen Janis:  And you want to make a better community.

Taya Graham:         Absolutely.

Stephen Janis:   And that’s why we do it. We want to do it because better policing means a better community, and you can’t give power to someone without holding them accountable. And that’s why we do what we do. And we appreciate the fact that you watch our show because it gives us the ability to report on this. So it’s very important. Now, Taya, do I have to go outside?

Taya Graham:       You will.

Stephen Janis:        Okay.

Taya Graham:            You will have to go outside, but before we do, I just wanted to say, if you have any evidence of police misconduct or brutality, please feel free to email it to us privately ar Of course, you can always reach out to us on Facebook or on Twitter at Police Accountability Report. On Twitter, it’s @eyesonpolice. On Instagram, it’s @PoliceAccountabilityReport. And of course you can always message me directly @tayasbaltimore on Facebook and Twitter. And please do like and comment on this video. You know I read your comments and appreciate them, and I’ll try to answer your questions if I can. I’m Taya Graham.

Stephen Janis:      I’m Stephen Janis.

Taya Graham:        And we are the Police Accountability Report. Please be safe out there and have a great holiday.

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Host & Producer
Taya Graham is an award-winning investigative reporter who has covered U.S. politics, local government, and the criminal justice system. She is the host of TRNN's "Police Accountability Report," and producer and co-creator of the award-winning podcast "Truth and Reconciliation" on Baltimore's NPR affiliate WYPR. She has written extensively for a variety of publications including the Afro American Newspaper, the oldest black-owned publication in the country, and was a frequent contributor to Morgan State Radio at a historic HBCU. She has also produced two documentaries, including the feature-length film "The Friendliest Town." Although her reporting focuses on the criminal justice system and government accountability, she has provided on the ground coverage of presidential primaries and elections as well as local and state campaigns. Follow her on Twitter.

Host & Producer
Stephen Janis is an award winning investigative reporter turned documentary filmmaker. His first feature film, The Friendliest Town was distributed by Gravitas Ventures and won an award of distinction from The Impact Doc Film Festival, and a humanitarian award from The Indie Film Fest. He is the co-host and creator of The Police Accountability Report on The Real News Network, which has received more than 10,000,000 views on YouTube. His work as a reporter has been featured on a variety of national shows including the Netflix reboot of Unsolved Mysteries, Dead of Night on Investigation Discovery Channel, Relentless on NBC, and Sins of the City on TV One.

He has co-authored several books on policing, corruption, and the root causes of violence including Why Do We Kill: The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore and You Can’t Stop Murder: Truths about Policing in Baltimore and Beyond. He is also the co-host of the true crime podcast Land of the Unsolved. Prior to joining The Real News, Janis won three Capital Emmys for investigative series working as an investigative producer for WBFF. Follow him on Twitter.