Oakland in 1983 is a city churning with violent crime and racial conflict. Officer Hanson, a Vietnam veteran, has abandoned academia for the life-and-death clarity of police work, a way to live with the demons he brought home from the war.
But Hanson knows that justice requires more than simply enforcing the penal code. He believes in becoming a part of the community he serves-which is why, unlike most officers, he chooses to live in the same town where he works. His sense of fairness and honor leads to a precarious friendship with Felix Maxwell, the drug king of East Oakland. He is befriended by Weegee, a streetwise eleven-year-old who is primed to become a dope dealer. He falls in love with Libya the moment he sees her, a confident and outspoken black woman.
Every day, every shift, tests a cop's boundaries between the man he wants to be and the officer of the law he's required to be. When an off-duty shooting prompts an internal investigation, Hanson must finally face who he is, and which side of the law he really belongs on.