Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Harry Edgerton was the model for the character Frank Pembleton, played by Andre Braugher on “Homicide.” Ed Burns was David Simon’s co-creator on “The Wire.”


Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (David Simon)

- Highlight Loc. 1540-51 | Added on Monday, July 02, 2012, 10:33 PM

(Harry) Edgerton’s detachment from the rest of the unit was furthered by his partnership with Ed Burns, with whom he had been detailed to the Drug Enforcement Administration for an investigation that consumed two years. That probe began because Burns had learned the name of a major narcotics trafficker who had ordered the slaying of his girlfriend. Unable to prove the murder, Burns and Edgerton instead spent months on electronic and telephone surveillance, then took the dealer down for drug distribution to the tune of thirty years, no parole.

To Edgerton, a case like that was a statement of a kind, an answer to an organized drug trade that could otherwise engage in contract murder with impunity. It was a persuasive argument. Close to half of Baltimore’s murders were believed to be related to the use or sale of narcotics, though the solve rate for drug murders was consistently lower than that for nearly any other motive. Yet homicide’s methodology hadn’t changed with the trend: Detectives worked the drug-related murders independently, as they would any other homicide. Both Burns and Edgerton had argued that much of the violence was related and could only be reduced—or, better still, prevented—by attacking the city’s larger narcotics organizations.

By that argument, the repetitive violence of the city’s drug markets betrayed the weakness in the homicide unit, namely, that the investigations were individual, haphazard and reactive. Two years after that initial DEA case, Edgerton and Burns again proved the point with a year-long probe of a drug ring linked to a dozen murders and attempted murders in the Murphy Homes housing project. Every one of those shootings had remained open after detectives followed the traditional approach, yet as a result of the prolonged investigation, four murders were cleared and the key defendants received double life sentences.

It was precision law enforcement, but other detectives were quick to point out that those two probes consumed three years, leaving two of the unit’s squads short a man for much of that time. The phone still had to be answered and with Edgerton reporting to work at the DEA field office, the other members of his squad—Kincaid and Garvey, McAllister and Bowman—would each be handling more shootings, more questionable deaths, more suicides, more murders. The fallout from Edgerton’s prolonged absences had served to push him further from the other detectives.

True to form, Ed Burns is at this very moment detailed to a sprawling FBI probe of a drug organization in the Lexington Terrace projects—an investigation that will eventually consume two years. Edgerton originally went with him, but two months ago he was shipped back to the homicide unit after a nasty budget dispute between federal and local supervisors. And the fact that Harry Edgerton is now back in the standard rotation, pecking away at a 24-hour report on something as menial and undramatic as a suicide, is a source of glee to the rest of the shift.

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