Police Violence in The Wire

19 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2018  

Jonathan S. Masur

University of Chicago - Law School

Richard H. McAdams

University of Chicago Law School

Date Written: June 15, 2018

Abstract

That police brutality is a common occurrence in HBO’s The Wire does not set it apart from other filmic depictions of police. What is distinctive is the fact that police violence is neither condoned nor relegated exclusively to a few “bad apples.” Instead, The Wire depicts structural causes of police violence by showing how organizational dysfunction leads some of the very best police officers on the force to commit unjustified and inexcusable violence. We explore four structural mechanisms the show depicts: the police code of loyalty: the hyper-masculine need to project power and dominance; the strategic imperatives of the War on Drugs; and a collective action problem among police. The implication of this complex depiction is that the elimination of police brutality requires far more than removal of a few bad officers. We conclude by briefly exploring how police departments might reverse the structural and institutional mechanisms causing police violence.

Suggested Citation

Masur, Jonathan S. and McAdams, Richard H., Police Violence in The Wire (June 15, 2018). 2018 University of Chicago Legal Forum, Forthcoming; U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 853. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3201265

Jonathan S. Masur

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773.702.5188 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/masur/

Richard H. McAdams (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-834-2520 (Phone)

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