A tale of corruption that is sad but true
The Seven Five (2014)
This documentary is one of tragedy. The 75th Precinct is historically the busiest precinct in New York. It is massive in size and covers some of the most dangerous parts of the city. The 75 usually was the top precinct for homicides every year, often eclipsing 100 in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Just like in most parts of New York at that time, crime was out of control and the cops felt powerless to get a handle on it. This feeling of having no effect on crime unfortunately led many cops to give up. Some cops went even further, they became what they were sworn to fight. They became perps. Michael Dowd was one of these turncoats.
The Seven Five documents Dowd and his partner Kenny Eurell as they fell into criminality. The film calls Dowd the “most corrupt cop ever”. Unfortunately, this is probably not true, but Dowd’s antics in the late 80’s and early 90’s gives any criminal cop a run for their money. The boldness of the Dowd and Eurell is unbelievable, particularly if you came on the job after the Giuliani era started. Despite the harangues of those decrying the police at every turn, the amount of reform since these bad old days is remarkable.
The documentary shows how New York City was back in those days. Often using film from that era, The Seven Five shows the hardships of being a cop before we got a handle on crime.
It portrays Dowd as the criminal he was, always looking to use his shield to make a quick buck. Dowd himself is a major player in the film. He provides extensive interviews for the documentary. His fearlessness in his criminal activity is nothing short of remarkable. He thought he could get away with anything. And for a long time, he did.
The film documents his early forays into crime and how it progressed to full on drug dealing, working for drug kingpin Adam Diaz. He was even stealing from crime victims and tipping off drug dealers about upcoming raids. The NYPD missed numerous red flags amongst some of the cops in the 75. Weak supervisors and poor internal checks and controls allowed him to flourish and give some credence to his fearless attitude. As anyone who has had to listen to barbs from the public about cops being corrupt and not being able to police themselves, this story is cringeworthy and infuriating.
The Mollen Commission was formed to explain and address the corruption in the NYPD in the early 90’s. Dowd was the Mollen Commission’s star witness. Not the typical cop, but he associated the NYPD with corruption for a generation. The film shows Dowd testifying at the Mollen Commission.
Dowd cleans himself up pretty well for the interviews, but he is a perp through and through. His current embodiment as a reformed jailbird and apologist for police corruption falls flat, but you cannot deny he is a dynamic figure.
As you watch this documentary, you will be reminded of the bad old days in New York City. Thankfully, cops today know this is a history lesson and not indicative of current policing in the Big Apple. Let’s hope it stays that way.
The Seven Five runs about an hour and forty-five minutes, is available for free on AMC, Tubi, and Kanopy. You can rent it on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube, etc. for about $3 or $4. It’s also available for purchase on those platforms. Check out the JustWatch website for more info. You can find current updates on where to watch any film or show for free or behind a paywall.