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The Numbers Game

A.M. sees Wire-like resonances in incoming DC Police Chief Lanier's promises of a new regime for the DC Police Department. Meanwhile, Episode 48 leaves me wondering how there could possibly be enough time left in just two episodes to wrap up the existing plot threads. In many ways, last night's offering felt to me like a mid-point of a story rather than a "the beginning of the end" one that the schedule would seem to suggest. Freamon's figured out that the bodies are stashed in vacant buildings. The Major Crimes Unit is going to be reassembled. But surely you can't build a case against Marlo in a two episode arc. Perhaps that'll all be saved for Season Five.

One way or another, I think what we're going to see in Charm City is the difficulty of trying to extricate policing from the numbers game. Over three plus seasons now we've seen the perils of living and dying by the stats. Focusing on the quantity of arrests detracts attention from their quality. Focusing on the statistical manifestations of crime generates incentives to "juke" the numbers. Carcetti, Daniels, Carver, and the "good guys" generally want to move beyond this. But without the statistics, without the metrics, how is anyone supposed to be accountable? This season in particular has emphasized that the narrative of "good police" hampered by corrupt and inept "bosses" is unduly simplistic. Lots of police aren't good police. Not only is there the example of the malign Bad Cop who got tagged with paint, but there's a morass of mediocrity, the semi-anonymous patrol officers who smile broadly every time they get an opportunity to crack heads "the Western District Way." Tell them their new mandate is to build relationships with the community and make high-quality felony arrests and what are they going to do? How are you going to tell if they're doing it without stats and metrics? If bureacracies were composed entirely of saints, you could just let everyone do their thing, but in the real world for all the flaws of the numbers game politicians are going to want something to judge the performance of cops, teachers, and whoever else seems important.

What's more, as the scene cutting from Freamon to the fundraiser and part of the preview indicated, there's only so far even a good mayor's going to want to go. Carcetti wants to reduce crime. He also wants his reduction in crime to the be the centerpiece of a run at Anapolis. So why would he want the Baltimore Police Department running around exhuming old corpses and, in effect, pushing the statistical crime rate up even higher? Why would he want to follow the money up to connected local politicians and connected local businessmen? This was the essential dilemma from way back in seasons one and two. "High-end enforcement" sounds good, but the Stringers and Marlos of the world aren't, at the end of the day, all that high end. The pyramid reaches up to the Greek with his friends in the Bureau, to Clay Davis, to prominent developers, to mysterious New York connections, to all kinds of places nobody really wants to go.