Tonight, PBS’s Independent Lens premieres the documentary Charm City which profiles the police, citizens, community leaders and city officials who are collaborating to end Baltimore’s rising tide of gun violence.
The broadcast airs four years after the death of Freddie Gray on April 19, 2015.
In our exclusive clip, we see and hear officer Monique Brown talk about her challenging upbringing in Baltimore and how that affects how she deals with the people in the community.
Major Monique Brown is a 16 year veteran of the police force, who was promoted to major not long ago. This mother and grandmother is working overtime to restore the image of police officers with the citizens she serves and with the officers that she mentors. She witnessed how gun violence has directly impacted her own family and how drugs and despair took her mother away from her.
Charm City was filmed by award-winning director Marilyn Ness, who shared the details of this documentary at the most recent Television Critics Association.
Appearing on the PBS panel with her was Major Monique Brown and vice chair of Baltimore city council’s public safety committee, Brandon M. Scott. Scott began his career as a site program specialist for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Maryland.
When asked by TV critics what reasons inspired her to enter the police force, Major Brown said, “Helping people has been probably the best joy, absolutely, for joining. So even in getting benefits, of course pay, that attracts us to any job. But it was a way of helping. Like, how could I help?”
Growing up in the community that I did, which is similar to a lot that you see in the film, we had some tensions that was, of course, between police community, and what I wanted to do was kind of bridge that gap. And I felt as though our voice wasn’t being heard from a community standpoint, and, hey, we can police and of course we need to arrest the ones who was committing crimes and things like that, but there’s a way that we could do that.
So to be a part of some of the change that I felt as though we needed, I thought I could better serve by becoming a part of the change…not just being on the outside, throwing the stones, and complaining and say, hey, everything about this in policing is a problem, but to come inside and to be a part of fixing the problem.
Major Brown also shared what her circumstances were when she joined the police force.
She said, “I joined rather late as far as age. My kids were about seven and nine. I was working at Johns Hopkins Hospital.”
As for how working with the police changed her life:
It has been a phenomenal journey…To deal with crime and to deal with violence, that’s a thing that, being trained, I’ve been conditioned to I can handle that all day. But when it’s a deeper dive into who you are personally when everyone around you sees something else that’s different in you, you feel like, hey, I’m going I’m trying to do everything I can to make sure that we change our city around and we wrap around our kids. But when you have others who see, hey, this is something that is bigger than you just doing your job, it’s very humbling to accept that.
What is Charm City about?
Filmed over a violent three-year period, Charm City profiles a group of police, citizens, community leaders and government officials who, are trying to unravel the spiral of gun-violence fueled crime that Baltimore is and has been in the grip of.
From the producers of Charm City:
On the streets of Baltimore, shooting is rampant, the murder rate is approaching an all-time high and distrust of the police is at a fever pitch. With nerves frayed and neighborhoods in distress, dedicated community leaders, compassionate law enforcement officers and a progressive young city councilman try to stem the epidemic of violence. Filmed during the lead up to, and aftermath of, Freddie Gray’s death in police custody, Charm City is a powerful cinema vérité portrait of those surviving in, and fighting for, the vibrant city they call1 home.
Charm City captures the realities of Baltimore by focusing on real-life cops, community organizers and politicians who are trying to save lives in the city that The Wire defined as urban decay,” said Lois Vossen, Independent Lens executive producer.
Marilyn spent three years capturing life in one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods to reveal three sides of the same story: the law enforcement officers who patrol the streets, the residents trying to survive those streets and make them safe for others, and politicians working with both groups. Although the issue of gun violence continues to dominate news cycles, Charm City offers brief flashes of hope that remind us that positive change is possible.
Who is featured in Charm City?
Mr. C, Alex, and the Rose Street Community Center
In the heart of Baltimore’s Eastern District, made famous by The Wire you can find the Rose Street Community Center. Clayton “Mr. C” Guyton, its founder and patriarch, is described as the “beating heart of Rose Street.”
Empathy, listening skills and humanity helps him and his team keep square-blocks free of homicides for long stretches of time, defying the city numbers. “But when Mr. C is hospitalized, Rose Street sees a sudden uptick in violence, and the fragility of the peace Mr. C keeps is in jeopardy.”
Alex Long is part of Mr. C’s group and comes from a prison family which thrust him into foster care by the time he was eight. “And though Alex formalizes his role as a neighborhood peacekeeper by joining Safe Streets — the Baltimore equivalent of Chicago’s better-known Interrupters — this can’t protect him from the violence engulfing Baltimore.”
Captain Monique Brown
This 16-year police veteran is a mother and grandmother who is a rising star in the department, she is working tirelessly to encourage people she serves and protects to have a vested interest in their safety and educate folks who need a sympathetic ear that there’s always a better way to live their lives other than resort to guns and drugs.
Officer Eric Winston
Baltimore native officer Eric Winston began patrolling the Southern District after the unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray in police custody.
Officer John Gregorio
Officer John Gregorio has served in the Southern District with distinction, winning multiple commendations including the Officer of the Year Award for his six years of service. Officer Gregorio left his life in the suburbs to work in Baltimore.
Councilman Brandon Scott
The youngest City Council member ever elected in Baltimore, Brandon Scott grew up in a dangerous part of Baltimore. Charm City films him for the three most violent years in recent Baltimore history, his mantra is “Violence is a public health issue and it is not for the police alone to solve.” He is described as a “bridge-builder and innovator,”
Charm City premieres on Independent Lens, Monday, April 22, 2019, on PBS and pbs.org