Dope on the Damn Table

The title of this post is actually the epigraph to Season 1, Episode 11 of The Wire: “The Hunt.” It’s spoken incredulously by Lieutenant Daniels when learning the brass wants to make a show of seized drugs, guns, and money, without any real interest in following any of it back to a real source for fear of what they might find. It’s just one of the many ways the show critiques the display of law and order that often masks some fundamental institutional dysfunction, and preserves a broken status quo.

Anyway, as Wire106 was wrapping up this past Fall, I discovered the Baltimore Police Department maintains a rather active presence on Twitter. They tweet out a variety of tips, resources, community outreach, news, as well as crime details. In fact, on more than a few occasions reports of homicides cross my Twitter stream:

It’s an extremely sobering and human Twitter account. At the same time, I can’t help but follow it through the lens of The Wire, and it’s remarkable how many times I see a “Dope on the table” tweet with accompanying image. Below are just a few:

It’s remarkable how much this Twitter stream demonstrates some of the profound accuracies of the HBO series. At the same time, I find that there’s an actual person behind the Twitter stream oddly reassuring. In fact, he or she responded to Paul Bond when he replied about the insignia on one the guns on the table tweets (can’t seem to track that back and forth down right now—any help, Paul?).

After following the account for over a month, I’m noticing an interesting sense of virtual community policing that gets captured on a platform like twitter. Now, I have to acknowledge this might simply be more “dope on the damned table” publicity. Simply a public relations show that elides the deeper structural and institutional issues. At the same time, I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that such a portal into the criminal world through a virtual space like Twitter remains a mesmerizing look at the digital storytelling of law and order in urban cities. The archives we are creating astound me!