I will preface this by saying I grew up in Detroit. At the time of the riots, I was a teen living in a far suburb. The riots were something that happened on TV that really had no meaning for me until I took the bus to Tiger Stadium and saw the burned out buildings and all the destruction still left a year later. What really happened, I did not know and probably will never understand.
My second preface will be to say that as a young adult, I for a few years worked at the Detroit Police Department headquarters as one of the first female 911 operators, and it is impossible to exaggerate the uninhibited and unrelenting racist and sexist attitudes I encountered daily. I had entered a white male world, and everyone who didn’t fit both those adjectives was dirt and they wanted you to know it. When they walked down the hall, you had to get out of their way, quickly. That was many years ago, but only a few years after the riots.
I was naïve enough to bring my lunch into work the first day and put the bag in the refrigerator in the lunchroom. I found the contents unwrapped, scattered, and spit on. It was “their” refrigerator and "their" lunchroom and I was not allowed. Seriously, I cannot make this stuff up -- female employees were forced to eat our daily meal sitting next to the toilets in the women's bathroom (I had 30 minutes for lunch, no time to go out). Yes, they actually put two tables inside the women's bathroom. Only males (white and black, but seated at different tables) were allowed to eat in the lunchroom, away from the sounds and smells of people urinating and defecating. This went on for the three years I was there and who knows how long after. (I could write a book about how female crime victims were treated.)
I remember one particular white male cop who was on desk duty for a few months because he was such a violent racist; he had brutalized so many black people so many times, they figured it was only a matter of time before there was a lawsuit (seriously, I am not making this up – that is what we were told). I saw him every day at work, and he was, without question, mentally unstable, but still on the job, just being given some time to not hurt anyone before he was put back on the streets. I was glad for myself when he was, but fearful for others. He terrified me; he lived to hate.
I also worked with a few white male cops who were kind, generous and caring. Unfortunately, there weren't as many of them. There was one sergeant whose retirement broke my heart; I truly adored him, such a sweet man. There were some who became cops because they sincerely wanted to help people and make the world a better place. I remember them with great admiration.
As for the black cops, same thing: some very good, some rotten to the core.
So, the movie? I thought it was brilliant. Is it accurate? I don’t know, but I found myself riveted to the screen and replaying scenes that went by too quickly for me to catch all the nuances. Can I believe it happened as it did, or close to it? Yes, absolutely. I wasn’t there, but I personally knew some of the people who were around at the time and absolutely, positively capable of the evil deeds done in this movie. If you don't believe it could have happened as shown, you are mistaken.