Baltimore Police Prose
We don't usually read police reports for their literary value (and perhaps we still shouldn't) but I've got to hand it to Homicide Detective Gordon K. Carew for at least taking a moment to expound about the weather while writing about a slaying.
Now, to be fair, the snowy weather played a crucial role in making an arrest, as Baltimore Sun police reporter Justin Fenton reports in today's print edition story. Officer Jen Rollhauser arrives at a house on Windsor Avenue in West Baltimore to find a woman "with a gunshot wound under her chin, dead on the porch."
It's then that Carew's report takes off:
"P/O Rollhauser advised Sgt. [Steve] Olson she observed a fresh set of footprints in the snow leading off the porch from the crime scene."
Sure enough, Olson followed the prints and found a suspect standing at the other end!
You really can't make this stuff up.
Here's Carew's second paragraph: "The crime scene was very cold and heavy snow was falling during the evening. Many area schools had been closed because of snow and icy conditions the day of the murder. Snow was still falling in the evening when the police responded to the residence for the shooting. The roads were icy and subject to falling snow, traffic was light, and there was few pedestrians in the area."
Now, I'll let my colleague, chief of the copy desk and You Don't Say blogger John McIntyre, opine about the literary merits of the above graf -- we've gone back and forth on our favorite cop phrases -- and yes, even while describing the weather, Carew managess to slip into copspeak -- roads subject to falling snow -- but comparing this to other police reports Carew's is utter genious, in a "dark and stormy night" kind of way.
I can't wait for the trial and testimony from a forecaster at the Natioinal Weather Service. Maybe the homicide unit should contract out to the Baltimore Sun's Frank Roylance, our fearless weather blogger at Maryland Weather.
I tried to reach Carew to chat about his writing style but he wasn't in this morning. Detective Dennis Steinhice once sent us a Christmas poem and the commander of the unit, Maj. Terry McLarney, is known for his skill putting his pen to paper.
McLarney wrote an afterword to a 2006 edition of David Simon's book Homicide, A Year on the Killing Streets, in which the reporter spent a year chronicling the unit and the city's obsession with violent death. He wrote about how Simon captured "the controlled chaos that permeates every urban homicide unit: the rollercoaster tempo of some investigations, the frustrations, the triumphs, the steady stream of unfathomable violence."
The major ends talking about how since Simon wrote his book, gangs have discovered Baltimore and the cops now have DNA to catch them. "Yet in the overall scheme of things, those changes are minor and the job remains much as it was when captured by David Simon," McLarney writes. "It is all about crime scenes, interviews, and interrogations, played out against a back-drop of flawed humanity. It always will be."
Please send me more literary nuggets from cops. I'm tired of reading about "city man" getting killed. And in a city where there's rarely a good reason for city man to be killed, words and descriptive phrases might have to fill the gap.