ThreadDavid Simon Creator and Writer/Producer George Pelecanos Reunite to Introduce Award-Winning Investigative Journalist Justin Fenton We Own This Town: A True Story of Crime, Cops and Corruption to life as an HBO limited series. We own this town premieres April 25, 2022 and explores one of the most disturbing police corruption scandals in recent history.
Sergeant Wayne Jenkins and his elite Gun Trace Task Force unit have been accused of removing weapons and drugs from the streets of Baltimore. But rather than help stop the spike in violent crime (including murder), Jenkins chose to exploit the crisis to fill his bank account.
Frequent collaborators David Simon and George Pelecanos (they previously worked together on Thread, Tremeand co-created The devil) co-created, written and executive produced We own this towndiving into a world they know very well for this new drama from HBO.
At the 2022 Television Critics Association Winter Press Panel, Pelecanos said he and Simon were happy to return to a city they know well.
“You know the story of David there and [co-executive producer and writer] Bill Zorzi was a Sun journalist. The book was written by Justin Fenton, a Baltimore Sun journalist. [Executive producer/writer] Ed Burns was a Baltimore cop and Baltimore public school teacher for many years. So there was a lot of knowledge about the subject and the context that we had to build on and pull it all together,” Pelecanos said. “And then the other thing is we wanted to work in Baltimore. We have a history with crews there. They’re family. We like to bring work to Baltimore and we thought that might be a good microcosm of the country, knowing as much as we do about this city. But it could be any American city that we were talking about.
Simon added: “Baltimore in particular – and I think this is common to many American cities – they have been engaged for the last 30 years in the war on drugs, in the fight against aggressive drug interdiction and in the mass arrests following this war on drugs. And as a result, it has destroyed police work in many fundamental ways. So we’ve seen this happen in our city, but it’s happened in many places in America.
The level of corruption and police brutality depicted in We own this town is Thread taken to the nth degree. Simon explained that the officers involved in the Gun Trace Task Force weren’t even at the academy when Thread wrapped, and We own this town explores the complete failure of Baltimore Police Department policy after years of war on drugs and mass arrests.
“The Baltimore Department that we represented in Thread had its problems and they were already engaged in a lot of bad politics which were actually the criticism of Thread“says Simon. “But the Gun Trace Task Force in that level of scandal, I mean where you had officers selling drugs on the street, that wasn’t happening in 2007. Not remotely.”
Simon continued: “There was corruption. There was brutality. There were things that we represented in Threadbut it is as if – to make an analogy with Thread – in Thread people like Carver and Herc and those kinds of characters, they were formed by people who still had some residual idea of what a police department was supposed to be. Now, a generation later, the Hercs and the Carvers, they are the overseers. They are the ones who form the next generation. And it got more deeply dysfunctional and dystopian in a generation or two of policing.
“The violation of constitutional rights as citizens has always been there. And that’s just a summary of what’s been going on for many years,” Pelecanos said.
We own this town is based on the exceptional reporting of Justin Fenton, and the limited series will help shed light on the scandal that rocked the Baltimore Police Department. Simone hopes this will also serve as an argument against law enforcement’s approach to getting drugs off the streets.
“There’s a point we’re making with the show that I think is important, and it’s this: We need to end the war on drugs. We need to take this overlay of war on communities that are the most vulnerable, who have the most economic deprivation, we have to take that and eliminate it because it doesn’t solve anything, it doesn’t address addiction in a meaningful or healthy way.
All it does is fill the jails and take the police away from the police work that cities need and get them to do the kind of police work that only brutalizes and degrades citizens and communities” , said Simon.
We own this town stars Jon Bernthal, Wunmi Mosaku, Jamie Hector, McKinley Belcher III, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Josh Charles, Dagmara Domińczyk, Rob Brown, Don Harvey, David Corenswet, Larry Mitchell, Ian Duff, Delaney Williams and Lucas Van Engen. The six-episode limited series debuts Monday, April 25 on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max.