Earlier this year, Baltimore Police Commissioner Fredrick H. Bealefield argued “The Wire”‘s treatment of Baltimore was “a smear on this city that will take decades to overcome.” “You know what Miami gets in their crime show?,” asked Bealefield. “They get detectives that look like models, and they drive around in sports cars…what Baltimore gets is this reinforced notion that it’s a city full of hopelessness, despair and dysfunction.” Hey, depending on what show you’re watching, Miami is also depicted as the planet’s #1 repository for (easy-to-knock-off) sexual predators. But enough about the commish’s selective viewing habits, solicited for a response by the Baltimore Sun’s Peter Herrman, “The Wire”‘s creator, David Simon (above, fourth from left), admits, “we made things up, true. We have never claimed otherwise…but respectfully, with regard to our critique, we have slandered no one. And to the extent you can stand behind a fictional tale, we stand by ours – and more importantly, our purpose in telling that tale.”
Commissioner Bealefeld may not be comfortable with public dissent, or even a public critique of his agency. He may even believe that the recent decline in crime entitles him to denigrate as “stupid” or “slander” all prior dissent, as if the previous two decades of mismanagement in the Baltimore department had not happened and should not have been addressed by any act of storytelling, given that Baltimore is no longer among the most violent American cities, but merely a very violent one.
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.