Heal a community, heal thyself
At a time when police departments across the country are beset by accusations of racism, brutality and other crimes, a series about police gangs and their nefarious activities isn’t likely to help their image. Especially since it’s based on the experiences of its showrunner, an ex-cop.
Premiering Thursday, March 8, on Crackle, “The Oath” introduces us to the Ravens, a group of big-city California cops involved in everything from drug distribution and money laundering to robbery. That is illustrated in the series’ opening sequence, when a group of masked, machine-gun-toting thugs storm a bank and demand the key card to the safe. After getting away with the loot, the thieves are revealed to cops, who are eventually cornered, apprehended and brought in by the FBI.
It is there that the cops – Steve Hammond (Ryan Kwanten, “True Blood”), Karen Beach (Katrina Law, “Training Day”), Cole Hammond (Cory Hardrict, “LAbyrinth”) and Pete Ramos (J.J. Soria, “Animal Kingdom”) – meet no-nonsense Agent Aria Price (Elisabeth Rohm, “Law & Order”). She tells them she knows about the Ravens and scores of other gangs in the department and she wants them to help her build a RICO case against them. So she offers them a deal: Let undercover agent Damon Byrd (Arlen Escarpeta, “The Magicians”) infiltrate their operation or go to prison.
Also starring Sean Bean (“Drone”), Michael Malarkey (“The Vampire Diaries”) and Linda Purl (“Happy Days”), the series is based on the experiences of creator, writer and showrunner Joe Halpin, a former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy and ex-police gang member.
“Corruption is a large part of why these subsets, these gangs exist within police departments throughout the United States,” Halpin explains. “A majority of it is it starts out banding together to protect yourselves. I mean, you’re out there making snap decisions every day, (are) thrust into violent situations and held accountable for those decisions. And at times you make bad choices and those choices can cause you to lose your job or go to jail. And so it’s kind of a micro-succession of covering for each other that leans into that … world of corruption and causes people to have that us-against-them mentality and band together and form these gangs. And from there, it progresses to different things.
“That said, I was a police officer myself here in Los Angeles for 18 years, was part of a cop gang,” he continues. “But I think it would be wrong of us to paint all police officers with the same brush. Ninety-nine percent of cops go out there, they take the oath, they do what they have to do to defend the people and enforce the laws.”