David Simon, who formerly covered crime for the Baltimore Sun, is taking his successors to task for not doing ore to challenge the Baltimore police department’s decision not to identify those police officers who shot or even killed someone. As justification for this change, Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld, cited 23 threats last year against city officers. Simon, writing in the Washington Post, said Bealefeld didn’t mention that not one of the 23 threats was in response to any use of lethal force. Nor did he acknowledge that 23 threats against a 3,000-officer force in a year is an entirely routine number; that the number of such threats hasn’t grown over the past several years.
Without a name, Simon notes, “there’s no way for anyone to evaluate an officer’s performance independently, to gauge his or her effectiveness and competence, to know whether he or she has shot one person or 10.” Simon complains that a Baltimore police officer can operate “in the shadows, while his higher-ups can claim that this is necessary not to avoid public accountability, but to mitigate against a nonexistent wave of threats. And the last remaining daily newspaper in town no longer has the manpower, the expertise or the institutional memory to challenge any of it.” Simon’s book on Baltimore’s homicide unit was the basis of a long-running television program, and he produced HBO’s “The Wire.”