My Uncle from the Italian side of our family was NYPD, and my Cousin on the Irish side is an ex-convict. They were both complicated characters who did some good things and also did some bad things. I love them both, and as a kid I mostly saw their good sides. There were moments, however, when their bad sides came out.
If I've learned nothing else at 46 years of age, it's that life is much more complicated and messy than we give it credit for. We all struggle with the duality of human nature, and we live in a society that haphazardly attempts to label certain people "good" and other's as "bad". This is a fool's errand ofcourse, as we all have done some wonderful things as well as some things we're not so proud of.
I thought some of the reviews I read on "The Seven Five", most notably from the New York Times, were unfair in their suggestion that the documentary lacked a moral compass and that Mr. Dowd was not remorseful. I disagree, he has suffered immensely for his actions and if you listen to him on the Joe Rogan podcast, I think you will find him a man who is trying to do good after a life that was riddled with bad. We can learn a lot from him given his time as a corrupt police officer, and his 12+ years spent in Federal prison.
While watching "The Seven Five", the quote that kept playing through my head was "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". All large crimes seem to start from some simple misdeed, and that certainly was the case here. Mr. Dowd, his partner Kenny Eurell, and other officers in the documentary did not set out to become criminals. The dire circumstances that existed in East New York at the time, the testosterone of 20 something year old cops running around with unchecked power, and low salaries all played a role in their demise. None of us can say we are not influenced by money, particularly those of us who don't have much of it.
For me the documentary evoked compassion, as it's hard to watch my fellow humans create a train wreck. The suffering was immense on all sides, primarily the innocent bystanders within the drug ravaged communities of New York, as the crack epidemic ripped through New York City during the 1980s. As Mr. Dowd suggests on the Joe Rogan Podcast, "crack turned normal people into criminals".
The pain of all involved in "The Seven Five" is palpable throughout, particularly when one of their own is shot and killed by a faction of a gang the officers had been protecting. I had the sense that this was the beginning of the end for all of them, as the death of a fellow officer by the hands of criminals they technically protected, was just too much to handle for any of them. They all are visibly upset by this officer's death in the documentary, something they will obviously be haunted by for the rest of their lives.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the story was the complex and rock solid partnership between Michael Dowd and his partner Kenny Eurell. They were best friends, and trust was never an issue until the end. Mr Eurell was put into an impossible situation that I would not wish on my worst enemy. The two do not speak to this day.
"The Seven Five" is a highly relevant period piece (1980s NYC) that can help us better understand the complex role police officers play in crime riddled areas. It is naive to think that we will send young, impressionable men and women into drug and gun laden war zones after a few months at the academy and expect them to "clean the place up". The modern day American "ghetto" is a problem whose solution spans far beyond officers on the ground. It is my sincere hope that all involved in this tragic story have been able to find peace in their lives.
The documentary can be rented at Amazon here The Seven Five