David Simon, HBO Tackle True Story of Corrupt Baltimore Police Unit

March 23, 2022Mac Caltrider
David Simon

Jon Bernthal stars as Baltimore Police Detective Wayne Jenkins in We Own This City. Photo courtesy of HBO.

The Wire writers David Simon and George Pelecanos have teamed up again for HBO’s upcoming drama We Own This City, and the recently released trailer suggests the highly anticipated miniseries will be a gritty portrayal of Baltimore’s notoriously corrupt Gun Trace Task Force. 

Based on Justin Fenton’s book of the same name, We Own This City chronicles the small unit within the Baltimore Police Department that made national news in 2017 when officers on the task force were caught stealing money from illegally detained citizens, filing false police reports, and lying to investigators. All eight members of the task force were later convicted of federal racketeering. 

The upcoming series appears to be setting itself apart from most police dramas in its dedication to authenticity. Most television shows are quick to turn corrupt cops into caricatures, usually played by the likes of Ray Liotta or Dennis Farina, all but evilly twisting their mustaches and laughing maniacally. We Own This City appears to take a more complex and nuanced approach. 

The six-episode miniseries stars Jon Bernthal and Jamie Hector as Baltimore detectives Wayne Jenkins and Sean Suiter. The trailer reveals HBO is attempting to get all the details correct, even down to Jenkins’ twirling of his espantoon: an ornate nightstick with a leather strap unique to the Baltimore Police Department. In an interview with Variety, Fenton spoke to the show’s realism and effort to portray its flawed characters as believable human beings.

“It’s important to portray people as they are. […] Showing a great father, a great husband but a horrible man, or vice versa, is very important for the world to see. Just so that you can also ask about yourself: ‘Do I act like that? Do I have it in me?’” Fenton said.

David Simon
Baltimore Police Department officers in riot gear arrive at the site of a riot after the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, April 27, 2015. Wikimedia Commons photo.

The series arrives just two months shy of the 20th anniversary of The Wire, also praised for its realistic portrayals of both police and criminals. HBO even tapped much of the same talent for We Own This City. Along with Hector, actors Domenick Lombardozzi, Delaney Williams, Tray Chaney, Nathan Corbett, Chris Clanton, Imani Nia Robinson, Kevin Murray, and Jermaine Crawford all starred in The Wire and all have roles in the upcoming series.

We Own This City will premiere on HBO April 25, 2022.

Read Next: These Early US Fire Departments Were Violent, Coercive Political Gangs

Mac Caltrider
Mac Caltrider

Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He served in the US Marine Corps and is a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.

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