David Simon Discusses Portraying The Drug War On 'The Wire'

By Victoria Kim 10/25/16

"The militarization of police surrounding the drug war has made an us-against-them mentality."

David Simon Discusses Portraying The Drug War On 'The Wire'

David Simon has a lot to say about the drug war. As a police reporter for the Baltimore Sun during the 1980s, Simon saw firsthand the impact of drug prohibition on the people of Baltimore.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Simon spoke in-depth about portraying the drug war through The Wire, his hit HBO crime drama, and how the drug war is destroying police work.

Simon, who was the show’s creator, head writer, and executive producer, said he hated Law & Order for its shallow portrayal of crime in New York City. “I had nothing but contempt for Law & Order, because the criminals were all just chow,” said Simon. “They were just there to lie to the police and then either get away or not get away. But they were held in contempt and the only good point of view was the police point of view or the prosecutor point of view.”

The Wire, on the other hand, took a different approach—no one was inherently good or evil. The show was able to “critique the drug war negatively if we respected the tenets of good police work,” said Simon. “Everybody had to be human. I had to care about every character right down to … the drug dealers.”

He continued, “If you made the drug dealers human, and you gave them all the practicality of human beings and all the idiosyncrasy of real people, you could take the onus off of selling drugs. Which is certainly a negative thing and a destructive thing to the community, but it’s not necessarily the work of a uniform brand of sociopath who all need to go to jail.”

The government’s “War on Drugs” has only lowered the bar in policing, says Simon. “A police department’s only as strong as its sergeants and lieutenants,” he said. “Those are the guys who train the next generation … When those guys have been promoted because they’ve just made a bunch of fucking drug arrests, and they couldn’t testify in court without perjuring themselves, and they don’t know how to use an informant, they don’t know how to build a case file, then you have sort of the weak sisters are training weaker sisters in a job that actually requires an incredible amount of skills.”

He said: “The drug war was destroying police work. It was making it so doing street-level drug enforcement was becoming the skill set, and solving crime was falling by the wayside.”

And not only is eradicating drugs from society a completely futile endeavor, it’s done a great job of making the relationship between police and communities increasingly divisive.

“This is a horror show because we are a heavily armed society that has lost control of just, we have no sense of gun control, and because the militarization of police surrounding the drug war has made an us-against-them mentality,” said Simon.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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