Trigger Point is everything a documentary could hope to be: informative, authoritative, dispassionate yet thoughtful enough to lead its audience to an inevitable conclusion.
This two part series beginning Sunday, June 1 and is destined to become one of those much talked about investigations. Hosted by veteran crime reporter John Sylvester, it chronicles the rise of gun-related violence in Victoria, how that led to the introduction of armed police and how that development in turn resulted in a surge of police shootings across the state. The series is impeccably researched, relying on first hand accounts by the officers, coroners and politicians involved in the events, and supported by actual police investigation footage and photos.
Trigger Point is clearly the result of a keen journalistic mind. Sylvester doesn’t try to whip up his audience but allows the facts to create their own impact. Even the inclusion of period media coverage and the liberal use of thoughtful recreations mixed with returns to the ‘scene of the crime’ provide an emotional dimension that contextualises rather than sensationalises the events. What emerges is clear evidence of real people making reasonable decisions that nevertheless lead to a drift towards unreasonable violence:
“It was perfectly understandable that police thought, ‘We’re going down the path of America.’ So they started training police using American methods. Our police began to behave like American police – and that was a fatal mistake.”
At the personal level viewers are confronted with two human realities. Firstly, that life is much more complex television has prepared us for. I remember this fact being brought home with force when I participated in as a jury member in a rape trial. Sequestered in the jury room, I suggested we use the whiteboard we were provided with to create a time-line of the events – every courtroom drama I’d watched suggested this was a reasonable thing to do. But two hours later it became clear that there was no way to reconcile the varying statements we’d been provided, even those who seemed to agree. Trigger Point clearly reveals the same complexity and ‘TV training’ exists at the level of gun crime, a point former detective senior constable Lachlan McCullough underlines:
“Some people seem to think that you can shoot someone in the leg or in the arm to try and wound them to stop a deadly incident. If you’ve got time to do that, you’ve got time to avoid shooting them in the first place.”
But clearly some things are possible, while others are not, and it’s some comfort to me as a Christian that even though we seem to be unable to be sure which is which, God suffers no such limitation. All-seeing, all-knowing and able to read the human heart, He will bring about a judgment that takes every factor into account. Which leads me to the second human reality…
Trigger Point also makes clear how strongly the officers caught up in this escalating violence feel their own role. A retired member of the Armed Holdup Squad reflects on the moments after he’d killed a criminal in defense of his own life:
“I can remember thinking immediately after the shooting… I saw out of the corner of my eye a man in the street, and I immediately ran over to him and I thought, ‘He’s my chance – that fellow holds the key to me being regarded as a righteous person.”
My experience with the legal system, professionally and personally, has left me with the indelible impression that though it is the best instrument we have for maintaining order, but a terribly blunt one. You might win a case and still feel harshly handled by the system or the public. But as Christians we can at least rest in the knowledge that there is One who knows our hearts and limits the events so that we won’t be tested beyond what we can bear. Better still, thanks to Jesus one day “… He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.”
Release Date: Sundays, 9:30 PM