With Flint Town, Netflix examines not only a city in distress, but a police force that's attempting to serve a community while navigating a public health crisis, desperate citizens, lack of funding, and social and political upheaval. Now on Netflix, the eight part docuseries tags along with several members of the Flint Police Department as they go about their daily duties while at the same time grappling with the unfortunate realities of the city's situation. One of those officers is a woman who says she never saw herself ending up in this harrowing position — so who is Flint Town's Officer Bridgette Balasko?
The officer, introduced in the first few minutes of Flint Town's first episode, had been with the police force for three years as of the start of filming, the show states. According to Balasko's LinkedIn page, she joined the force in February of 2013, and prior to that was a police recruit at Mott Community College. Putting on a badge apparently wasn't her first step into public service, either — her LinkedIn page suggests that she's always been lending a hand through various groups.
The page states that she worked as an intern for five months in 2012 at One Stop Housing Resource Center in Flint, which, according to its website, is a program among non-profit groups that works to provide housing placement for people who are homeless, at risk of being homeless, or have special needs. Prior to that, she's listed as working as a food assistance specialist for the Center for Civil Justice in Flint, promoting "hunger-related policy issues related to food assistance programs" and "provided legal and technical assistance to low-income people and their allies."
Balasko says during the show's premiere that she never necessarily expected to become a police officer in Flint — following college, where her LinkedIn says she majored in political science and government — she had other plans in mind. “I’m not like the typical [story of], 'Oh I wanted to be a cop since I was a little kid,'" she tells the camera. "That’s not what I wanted to be. I was contemplating going to law school, then my focus kind of shifted toward federal law enforcement. That was where I wanted to be when I got out of college, but right after I graduated out of the police academy, Flint PD hired me."
Flint Town drives home the point that police officers in the city are hard pressed to quickly reach every member of the community who needs their help, and a big part of it is their lack of numbers. In the past 10 years, the documentary states that Flint PD's forces have gone from 300 officers to just 98, in a community of about 100,000 people. Balasko echoed these sentiments in her time onscreen. "[With] all the crimes that happen in this city, there needs to be like, seven more of me to handle the case load," she says. Bustle has reached out to Balasko for further comment on Flint Town and her role in the doc, but has not yet heard back.
Overworked officers aren't exactly a surprise in the city of Flint, as unfortunate as it may be, especially given their dwindling numbers. According to CNN, the one-time home of the largest General Motors plant in the U.S. has now long been plagued with sickness due to lead-contaminated water. The New York Times reported in 2017 that there were an estimated 20,000 lead-tainted water pipes in Flint, and that the water crisis began when the city started to source its drinking water from the Flint River instead of the Detroit water system in 2014. The decision was a move to save money, but officials didn't "enact proper corrosion control, causing lead to leech from the city's pipes into its water supply," the same article states. Two city managers have since been charged with felonies for their role in the situation, according to the Times.
Balasko's time with Flint PD, and the states of the police department and the city as a whole, is explored further as the series goes on, but it goes deeper than that. She has goals that stretch beyond Flint, as well as concerns about her future should she stay in her current position. "My whole family has told me I need to leave. They don’t like it because it’s dangerous and they always think the worst is going to happen," she says in the show. "I don’t know if working here, I could ever have a family. It’s not realistic, which is sad to think about."
Flint Town gives a unique glimpse into what it's like for law enforcement to operate under such strenuous circumstances, and by featuring nuanced subjects like Balasko and her partners, the doc helps illustrate the human faces that exist behind that struggle.