The Wire is one of the best television shows I ever saw, that anyone ever saw. Created by David Simon, who wrote the sensational true crime book Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets, it’s a cops and robbers show about the mean streets of Baltimore so realistic it’ll make your teeth ache. It’s also brilliantly written with some excellent contributions from the likes of Dennis Lehane and George Pelicanos.
All that said, however, the show does suffer from a political disability. Although every single politician in it is a Democrat, whenever it can, it still manages to blame Republicans, conservatism or just politics in general for the degraded state of the city. I don’t know this for sure but I strongly suspect Simon is a liberal who can’t quite grasp the nettle of “Oh, I get it – we did this to the city!” despite the evidence in front of his eyes. I know the feeling.
For most of the show, this doesn’t create a problem because, as I say, the Democrats are onscreen doing that destructive thing they do. But the show’s second season deals with a system called Compstat and gets it wrong. If you want to know the truth about Compstat (or just about anything else involving the police) you have to go to City Journal‘s fabulous Heather Mac Donald, specifically this recent piece:
“The crime analysis and accountability system known as Compstat, developed by the New York Police Department in 1994, is the most revolutionary public-sector achievement of the last quarter-century. Since its inception, Compstat has driven crime in New York down an astounding 77 percent; veterans of the Compstat-era NYPD who have gone on to run police departments elsewhere have replicated its successes. Other government agencies, both in New York and nationally, have applied the Compstat model to their own operations, using minutely analyzed data to hold managers accountable for everything from improvements in public health to decreases in welfare dependency to road repairs.”
Read the rest here, and then compare how The Wire’s second season wrongly tows the New York Times’ anti-Compstat line.