Last week Baltimore City Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld said that the HBO drama “The Wire” was “smear that will take decades to overcome.”  David Simon, the show’s creator and former crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun, responded on the Sun’s Baltimore Crime Beat blog.

While Simon responds directly to Bealefeld, he reserves some righteous criticism for the city’s former mayor, Martin O’Malley, now Governor of Maryland.  According to Simon, under O’Malley the city police department became a tool to further his political career.

Later, when a mayor sought to become governor using public safety as an issue, the same police department went further down the path, emphasizing widespread street arrests of dubious quality and legality. This did not reduce crime so much as it violated the civil rights of many city residents and led to the widespread alienation of our jury pool, with many city jurors no longer willing to trust the integrity of testifying officers - a problem that will plague Baltimore law enforcement for years. Furthermore, on behalf of Mr. O'Malley's political aspirations, many supervisors in many police districts were engaged in a prolonged campaign to improperly downgrade U.C.R. felonies to misdemeanors so as to further the political claim that crime was under control. This was common knowledge throughout the department and was much remarked upon privately by respected veteran supervisors and investigators, themselves frustrated at the practice. Nonetheless, aggravated assaults became common assaults. Armed robberies became larcenies. Rapes were unfounded.


Last June, Baltimore settled a 2006 lawsuit brought by the NAACP and the ACLU on behalf of 14 individuals who alleged they were arrested without probable cause, along with thousands of others under O’Malley’s “zero tolerance” policy.  

During the 2006 gubernatorial campaign, O’Malley vigorously defended the policy, saying “In the seven years that I’ve been here, I’ve never had a community leader say to me, Mr. Mayor we have a problem in my neighborhood.”

Yeah, right.