David Simon, creator of Homicide: Life on the Streets, The Wire and Treme was a police reporter for many years before moving to TV. A few days ago, he wrote an open letter to the Ferguson Chief of Police about the importance of transparency. He wrote a stinging response to someone who suggested we should just trust the police to sort it out

Your understanding of how law enforcement investigates its own with regard to the shooting of civilians leaves a lot to be desired, I have to say. Suggesting that the public does not have a right to know the name of those who shoot and kill civilians under sanction and authority of the state does not take the following into account: Until an officer is named and his history, credibility and reputation are reported,there is no way to know if he has exercised respect and restrained in his use of his authority, or if he has failed to do so.


Your suggestion that the FBI is likely to be an impartial arbiter of police who use lethal force is entirely oblivious to the actual performance of that agency with regard to police actions and civil rights violations. Indeed, the FBI itself is among the very worst agencies at transparency and self-discipline with regard to the use of lethal force.

I can't do all your research for you. But you can be more aware by googling the NYT series last year on the FBI's whitewashing of its own sad performance with regard to the shootings of civilians. Then google the name of FBI Special Agent Christopher Braga in my home state of Maryland. Two unarmed people have been shot by the same agent for no good reason, years apart, because the FBI kept his identity and the details of his performance quiet from the public. And know, further, that in April three FBI agents shot a citizen on a mall parking lot outside Baltimore — and four months later the public still doesn't know if that suspect was armed, if his actions justified the shooting, the identities of those who fired their weapons and whether they have killed five other citizens, or twenty, or just this one. We don't know anything. For you to be comfortable with the FBI, operating in darkness, without transparency, makes me sure that you know very little about that agency and its practices.

I was a police reporter too long to trust in law enforcement deciding best what the public should know. That is a recipe for a police state. And we are well on the way to cooking such a thing up in this nation.