With nearly a killing a day so far this year in her shrinking city of just over 600,000, it’s no wonder that Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh has cried out, “Murder is out of control”—even before the summer homicide season has begun. She has begged the FBI to help her contain the mayhem, now running at a higher rate than 20 years ago in a city made infamous by the brilliant TV series, The Wire—which unflinchingly depicted archetypal urban lawlessness and corruption—and later by the death of Freddie Gray while being arrested two years ago. If Baltimore cops weren’t the nation’s finest even then, the Black Lives Matter riots that injured 15 of them and the violence following Gray’s death that prompted the governor to call in the National Guard certainly didn’t encourage the Baltimore PD to do its job more fervently.
If the FBI, ashamed and angered by director James Comey’s politicized antics during the presidential election, can start to shake off public contempt by helping Mayor Pugh, that would be a wonderful win-win. But no one should hold his breath. The FBI hasn’t really been an urban crime-fighting force since Prohibition.
Baltimore’s mayor would do much better to call in former New York police commissioner William Bratton as a consultant, both to teach her cops how to do their jobs and to teach her and her administration that no police force can succeed without unflinching political support. And Bratton should spend some time with former Baltimore Sun police reporter David Simon, who wrote The Wire with advice from his homicide-detective friend, Ed Burns, and who knows exactly how Baltimore’s past political corruption corroded lawfulness, honesty, and public accountability throughout the city. He can tell Bratton where the bodies are buried—figuratively and literally.
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