Behind the Blue Line is an interview and photography project that shares real stories of police brutality, abuse and misuse of power in Minnesota. The title refers to the “Thin Blue Line,” a symbol often used to represent law enforcement as the barrier between criminals and civilians, order and disorder. Behind the Blue Line is about stories from the other side of the blue line—the stories that are often untold, swept aside, ignored. The people we have interviewed do not feel protected by police officers. In fact, each one has had an experience of heightened danger after police came on the scene.
These stories speak to a problem that runs deeper than the idea that officers who commit violence are a few “bad apples” in an otherwise fair system. Our interviewees have experienced violence not just from police officers, but from an entire system designed to protect oppressors and silence the oppressed. Hence, this project is not about “bad” officers and “good” civilians, but about people who have a unique vantage point into policing today.
Listening to their stories can give us an intimate connection to another person’s humanity, and through this, a sense of the human impact of a problem that may at times seem abstract. It is from this sense of connection that understanding and action is born.
This project is a collaboration between Annabelle Marcovici, Den-Zell Gilliard, Joe Davis, and Erica Seltzer-Schultz. You can read more about each person on our bios page. Annabelle and Den-Zell photograph each participant somewhere meaningful to their story – usually at a place where they experienced police brutality or their home. Erica and Joe conduct interviews with participants that range anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes in length. They then work with a transcriptionist, Ben Linzmeier, to create a verbatim document of the interview, which they divide into chapters to aid in accessibility. Web developer Peter Vankoughnett helped create an interface where viewers have the opportunity to click on each participant’s portrait, listen to their story, and read all or part of their transcript.
If you’d like to support Behind the Blue Line, check out our crowd fundraiser. In the upcoming weeks and months, Annabelle and Erica plan to continually add stories to the website until the project has at least 20 individual stories. They hope this project may one day turn into an in-person exhibit and/or book.
Please reach out to us with any comments, questions, or if you want to be updated about the project.
If you have a story you’d like to share, feel free to contact Behind the Blue Line. Please do not hesitate to pass this on to anyone you know who might want to get involved including relevant organizations. We also encourage you to share any feedback or ideas you have for the project.