Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III was recently quoted, concerning the HBO series ‘The Wire,’ that the show was a “smear that will take decades to overcome,” and the “most unfair use of literary license that we’ve borne witness to.” Creator David Simon’s rebuttal is classy, but firm:
“I do not recall that Commissioner Bealefeld – when he was rising through the ranks during those years – made strenuous public objection to the department’s misdirection, to its statistical flummery, or to the decline in arrest rates that resulted as quality police work was de-emphasized in favor of juked stats. Perhaps he did so in private, to little avail. And perhaps now that he is in a position to act, he is taking a better path. Again, as a resident of Baltimore, he has my wholehearted support if this is the case.
“Others might reasonably argue, however that it is not sixty hours of ‘The Wire’ that will require decades for our city to overcome, as the commissioner claims. A more lingering problem might be two decades of bad performance by a police agency more obsessed with statistics than substance, with appeasing political leadership rather than seriously addressing the roots of city violence, with shifting blame rather than taking responsibility. That is the police department we depicted in ‘The Wire,’ give or take our depiction of some conscientious officers and supervisors. And that is an accurate depiction of the Baltimore department for much of the last twenty years, from the late 1980s, when cocaine hit and the drug corners blossomed, until recently, when Mr. O’Malley became governor and the pressure to clear those corners without regard to legality and to make crime disappear on paper finally gave way to some normalcy and, perhaps, some police work. Commissioner Bealefeld, who was present for much of that history, knows it as well as anyone associated with ‘The Wire.'”