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May 14, 2016

Camden to be featured on CNN documentary 'United Shades of America'

Focus on community's relationship with police

The spotlight turns toward Camden as a CNN documentary is set to air Sunday night.

"United Shades of America" is an hourlong documentary series that examines race relations and subcultures in the United States.

W. Kamau Bell, a black stand-up comedian, hosts the show that touches on some delicate issues with a mix of humor and seriousness.

So far, Bell has explored the interworkings of a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, investigated San Quentin State Prison's attempt to reduce the recidivism rate and tried to answer what it means to be Latino in the United States.

The fourth episode is slated to shed light on policing in America, or as Bell puts it "the crisis of ineffective and occasionally murderous policing."

To do so, the show filmed in Camden, which was chosen not because the problem is unique in the city, but because the city is actively trying to do something about it.

Bell explained his thoughts on the episode in a post on CNN:

"Many residents in Camden seem hopeful but tentative in fully turning their trust over to the cops. And on the other side, the cops seem equally tentative. By the end of the episode, I feel like I don't know if this is going to work. It's too soon. In the episode, I say it is a good start, but sitting here watching it a year later, I don't know what "a good start" even means.

Camden seems like it could be Ground Zero for changing the way police operate in black neighborhoods, but it also seems like Ground Zero in that there are blocks and blocks that look like they were set-designed for the sequel to "Mad Max: Fury Road.""

The episode was filmed last year just after South Carolina police Officer Michael Slager fatally shot an unarmed 50-year-old Walter Scott five times during a traffic stop and the riots in Baltimore in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray due to injuries suffered in the back of a police van.

Viewers will have a chance to see Bell walk the beat as officers with the Camden County Police Department attempt a style of community policing.

"United Shades of America" is scheduled to air Sunday at 10 p.m. on CNN.