Last week, Freakonomics guest blogger Sudhir Venkatesh sat down with a group of current and former gang members to watch “The Wire.” This week, he took time out from touring for his new book (see reviews here, here, and here) to meet up with them again for Episode Two.
What price, a cop? I posed this question to several self-described “thugs” after the airing of the second episode of The Wire, season five. Once I saw Detective McNulty tamper with a homicide scene — apparently hoping to raise speculation that a serial killer is at large in Baltimore — I knew that the ex-gangsters would be salivating. And I was right.
“White boy would be my bitch in about five minutes,” said Shine, a 43-year-old self-proclaimed “New Yorker to the core,” referring to the rogue detective. “When you see a cop losing his head like that — drinking, acting crazy — you go after it. That’s like m—er f—ing Christmas in the ‘hood!”
And so my lesson on policing, ghetto-style, began.
Shine explained that the greatest prize for the thug is a cop on the take — or one willing to start down that road. “Just look at Prop Joe,” he said matter-of-factly. “Ain’t no way a fat man like that don’t sweat. That’s ’cause he’s got a fly” (meaning a “fly on the wall” — I hadn’t heard the term before).
Kool-J, another member of the thug group, elaborated: “In all the days I was slanging [drugs], I had one fly who helped me.” His voice was nostalgic, as if he was describing childhood summers on the Jersey shore. “But everyone wants a cop like that. That’s why they don’t last long. It’s like fishing in the river. Most of what you catch is small and scraggly. You know, stupid cops who want ten dollars or a d–k suck. But McNulty, he’s the big one! If I was there, I’d get him, give him what he wants — information. Then he’s all mine!”
The “fly fees” are not cheap, I discovered. Flavor, the youngest of the group, said he would need to pay $2,500 minimum a month for a cop, and “$5,000 if they start giving you good s–t.” Orlando said he conducted business using “cars, jewelry, or women,” none of which, apparently, leave a trail.
When pushed, all of them pointed out that few cops actually were willing to accept monetary bribes. “Most just want a little p–sy, or to beat a black man now and then,” Shine said. “It’s sad, really. I wish more of them took our money. It would make our [lives] a lot easier.”
While the actions of McNulty brought out the greatest commentary, coming in at a close second was Marlo’s end-run around the Co-op. Picking up the theme of Week 1, there was general agreement that Marlo would knock off Prop Joe. But another prediction emerged: that Omar would dispose of Marlo.
“That little f—-t is going to win,” Orlando said assuredly. “You watch: he’ll knock Marlo out, take the body to Bunk, and then go and get his d–k sucked.”
Flavor laid down $2,500 for another wager: “I say Barksdale comes back and kills everyone! That [guy] is the real thing!”
I’m thinking of taking this bet; I’ve called Countrywide for a short-term (subprime) loan.
Kool-J went one step further. “Marlo and The Bunk will do the nasty.” That was too much to bear. My Bunk? Selling his body for justice? Say it ain’t so!
Meanwhile, none of them showed any interest in the affairs of the Baltimore Sun.