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Bringing Race and the LAPD to the Forefront: Will “S.W.A.T” Execute This Carefully?

From FBI Special Agent Derek Morgan to Daniel 'Hondo' Harrelson in the S.W.A.T unit, Shemar Moore takes on another cop role in CBS' rebooted drama series 'S.W.A.T.' Photo/ TV Guide
From FBI Special Agent Derek Morgan to Daniel ‘Hondo’ Harrelson in the S.W.A.T unit, Shemar Moore takes on another cop role in CBS’ rebooted drama series ‘S.W.A.T.’ Photo/ TV Guide

By Michael Alford III

Published: November 8th, 2017

CBS has hopped on the reboot train and resurrected an old show by the name of “S.W.A.T,” which released its pilot episode last Thursday.

In this version, Emmy Award winner Shemar Moore (“Criminal Minds”) stars as Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson, a guy from a tough neighborhood in South Central, Los Angeles who worked his way up and by chance, got to lead a Special Weapons and Tactics police unit. Hondo’s way with words leads him to diffuse the most difficult of tensions among suspects and crime victims through references to his race and rough background.

In one scene, we see Hondo talking to a young black kid, telling him about a run-in he had with the cops at his age. “I didn’t do nothing wrong, but somehow I still ended up with a broken arm and my face down in the pavement.” Later in a press conference, the chief of police announces that Hondo will take over as commander of his unit. Being a person of color makes him the preferred candidate over his fellow officers in this case.

The Chief uses this to show the people in the community that the police are there to work with them, but we soon find out it doesn’t go so well. An S.W.A.T unit that is supposed to work with Hondo’s unit to find a criminal, forcefully engages the community, only raising more dissension. Hondo tries to combat that by trying to treat the community with respect and by approaching them differently.

The show touches on a lot of race and police issues. “S.W.A.T” briefly mentions the history of LA S.W.A.T. units and their effects on communities with large minority populations, but doesn’t do such a good job of going in depth with the root causes of the problem. Executive producer Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, once said during a news conference, “I always felt as though someone who understood both sides of the Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter debate would make for a fascinating character. … To marry that with an iconic title like ‘S.W.A.T.’ just seemed to be, to me, a really, really great place to start.” Creating a show that centers around such a heated topic can be dangerous if it is not executed carefully.

For the very first episode, it is quite intriguing. Of course, the actions scenes captivate the viewer as CBS crime shows should and draw them in, leaving them wanting to know what’s going to happen next. I think placing such a touchy subject that is still going on in the world as a central theme in the show may lose some viewers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s shaping up to be a great watch with its action scenes alone, but in the larger scope of things, CBS may get some blow back if they aren’t careful.

Overall, “S.W.A.T” makes an interesting watch. I believe CBS will gain a cross-section of viewers who will tune in, mostly due to the shows name (which also produced a movie adaptation) and stay for the characters and thrills. I look forward to the shows progression and how Hondo’s character will develop as he tries to rebuild trust in the community.

“S.W.A.T” airs on Thursdays at 10 p.m. on CBS.

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