March 3, 2009

David Simon on police transparency

David Simon is a former journalist, author, and the creator of the HBO masterpiece, The Wire. He is also a fierce advocate of government transparency. One of the biggest motifs in The Wire is how corruption, shady deals and criminal behavior in both political and economic institutions can eventually bring a city to ruin.

David Simon's latest piece focuses on the roadblocks police officials use to stand in the way of the public's right to know what is going on with their city's police force.

When Simon worked the police beat for the Baltimore Sun, police officers often tried to stonewall his investigative efforts:

In response to such flummery, I had in my wallet, next to my Baltimore Sun press pass, a business card for Chief Judge Robert F. Sweeney of the Maryland District Court, with his home phone number on the back. When confronted with a desk sergeant or police spokesman convinced that the public had no right to know who had shot whom in the 1400 block of North Bentalou Street, I would dial the judge.

One can easily see that Simon is no push-over.

Simon also makes an interesting point on the future of uncovering corruption in government:

There is a lot of talk nowadays about what will replace the dinosaur that is the daily newspaper. So-called citizen journalists and bloggers and media pundits have lined up to tell us that newspapers are dying but that the news business will endure, that this moment is less tragic than it is transformational.

Well, sorry, but I didn't trip over any blogger trying to find out McKissick's identity and performance history. Nor were any citizen journalists at the City Council hearing in January when police officials inflated the nature and severity of the threats against officers. And there wasn't anyone working sources in the police department to counterbalance all of the spin or omission.

Maybe in Simon's experience that is true, but there are good efforts out there being led by bloggers, activists, and citizen journalists to do hard-hitting investigative reporting. There is the good work going on at ProPublica and the debunking of the Bush National Guard memos led by conservative bloggers. In addition, Michelle Malkin has an excellent round-up of investigative reporting being done by various bloggers. TransparentNevada is also doing its part to bring transparency to Nevada state government.

Citizens should welcome any and all investigations into political and governmental corruption be it from newspaper reports, bloggers, activists, or groups like TransparentNevada.

TransparentNevada is constantly on the lookout for political and governmental corruption and will not hesitate to shine the light on it once found. If you have a tip on any possible corruption, please let us know. Our contact information can be found here.