Monday, September 03, 2012

Ask A Cop: The Wire

So ever since I took the job as a cop, I've answered various questions about being a cop.  Many after current events, like police shootings.  So I thought it might be a decent idea to start a feature where people could ask questions and get them answered.  And in asking the good people of Twitter and Facebook for ideas for the feature, the leading question was, "Is the Wire realistic?"

For those not in the know, The Wire was a TV series that ran on HBO that centered on drug dealing and responses to it in Baltimore. It ran for 5 seasons and each season centered on a different area, like the docks or the schools, etc.  The most important thing about this show and its authenticity is where it came from.

The Wire was the creation of David Simon.  Simon grew up in Baltimore and covered the city for the Baltimore Sun, their daily paper.  Simon wrote a book about crime in Baltimore called Homicide: Life on The Killing Streets, which followed the Homicide Division of the Baltimore Police.  The book was then adapted to a show called Homicide: Life on The Streets which many people called "the greatest show nobody ever watched," Filmed on location in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore, the set was so realistic that many people stopped in to file police reports, thinking it was real.  The show also challenged the notion that every murderer is captured in 45 minutes.  The cases spanned several episodes and sometimes seasons, and I'm not sure audiences had the patience for it.

Not having been a Baltimore cop/drug dealer/teacher/politician/reporter, I can't really say with absolute certainty whether the show was real.  But I will say it's one of the most realistic shows I've seen, along with Barney Miller and NYPD Blue. Sure, I've never waked a cop at a bar.  And I've never had sex with a prostitute to make a case.

But I have been the victim of COMPSTAT and of asshole bosses, and I've been really drunk with guys I worked with, and might have damaged my vehicle under the influence. I also recognized that some of the most important decisions of my police career were where to go to eat.  The Wire is not a procedural drama so its hard to compare to actual police work.  However, it is a character drama, and this is really where the comparison rings true.  Police officers, especially cops in large cities, are characters.  These are not the guys who were jocks in high school and pushed around the nerds and then became cops.  These were guys who were Elvis Impersonators, electricians, from all different nationalities.  Learning how to understand Jamaican or how to expertly curse in Spanish were very important parts of my law enforcement development

So yes, the Wire is realistic.  Not really for all the stuff that happens in it, but for the way it feels and the  ease in which the cops talk to each other and work together.  There are 1,000 Hercs in the NYPD and more than a few Bunks and McNultys.  And we have plenty of lesbians as well.

If people liked this, I'm happy to continue.  Feel free to put additional questions in the comments, if you have them.

1 comment:

AA said...

In Back to the Future how did Biff get away with being such a dick? Seems like some old timer would have put him in the service or beat him senseless.

Also, how do I get out of a speeding ticket?