Wednesday, April 29, 2015

“The Western District Way: Race, Class, Corruption, Incompetence and Police Brutality in Baltimore and the Warning of “The Wire”

By David Mathew Walton aka Kalonji 

A. Butholenkosi Dual Doctoral CandidateHistory/African American Studies

Michigan State University

Something that surprises me about too many people is the glaring obviousness of the shallow analysis and glaring disconnect that far too many of us have. We all loved “The Wire”, and watched it religiously. Critics applauded the HBO series “The Wire” for its grittiness, truths, realness, elucidation, and powerfulness in the representation of the political, economic and social conditions of Baltimore. Yet, despite it being repeated dozens of times that the show was written based upon a former police officer’s memoirs and the work of a Baltimore Sun reporter, meaning that it was a fictional depiction of actual events; we have not even made the connections yet.


Thomas Carcetti was/is Martin J. O’Malley, the former Baltimore Mayor and former Maryland Governor (who is presumed to run against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency), former Mayor Shelia Dixon is the former City Council President Nerese Campbell who felt Carcetti jumped in and stole her time. And etc. etc. We can see how the needs of the constituents were compromised for political power, political favors, and political partisanship.  So, why does this matter? Simply, in “The Wire” we see a dramatization of the factors that have culminated into the crisis we are witnessing today.

As I listened to the mayoral press conferences and news reports, hearing terms such as the “Western District,” I thought of the “Western District Way” of police brutality that was highlighted in show and admonished by “good police” like Jimmy McNulty, Kima Greggs, Lester Freeman, Bunk Moreland and even Ellis Carter (eventually) contrasted by the police beat downs of young Black males at the hands of Thomas “Herc” Hauk and others that were administer with no purpose or strategy.  I reflected on Bunny Colvin speaking on the long by-gone days of community policing and community/police relations.  I also imagined Ervin Burrell and William Rawls cooking the books and “jooking” the stats to hide the ineptitude of their law enforcement apparatus. I too consider Roland ‘Prez’ Pryzbylewski’s murder of a Black man, who ended up being a police officer, which was basically swept under the rug.  As I watched the news coverage and read newspaper articles, I was reminded of the sensationalized, water-down, and manufactured approach to the news by local television stations and the Baltimore Sun that infuriated and frustrated Gus Haynes.

So with all of the police corruption and incompetence, political corruption and incompetence, media corruption and incompetence, and etc. elucidated in "The Wire"; yet you could not recognize it when you saw it? All of those folks who loved “The Wire”, all of the college professors who taught classes using “The Wire” in a myriad of disciplines and universities; what were your recommendations? Where were your studies? Where was your activism?

Yet, the show warned us that this would happen if proper policing (community policing) was not implemented, if police brutality was not ended, if economy recovery was not completed, if the media did not abandon sensationalization and etc. But as most watched, they were simply entertained and not enlightened nor motivated to act!!!!


The ‪‎Baltimore Uprisings and ‪‎Baltimore Rebellions will effect the upcoming Presidential and Congressional elections. But not in the ways you think. Meaning, police brutality will not be addressed, but it will affect O'Malley and the current Mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is slated to run for Senate and is the Secretary of the Democratic National Committee. Their careers will probably end, but police brutality will not!  In fact, police brutality will persist after the temporary and tenuous treaty and unity between Stringer Bell, Marlo Stansfield, and Omar Little dissipates and devolves to business as usual.  Hey, it’s the “Western District Way” after all!

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