Good police use ToughBooks: Technology and The Wire

In the first episode, detectives type up reports on typewriters. By the end, they're wielding Ethernet cables and tablet PCs to greater damage than their service weapons

Like just about everyone else, I came late to The Wire -- judging by the number of obsessed people I know getting their re-up via the BBC or boxsets, the only people who watched first time round were Charlie Brooker and the cast's mums.

It's difficult to write about it without inflicting spoilers, so I promise I'll keep it vague. Created by an ex-reporter and an ex-cop, and examining the problems of contemporary America via the crucible of Baltimore crime, The Wire is almost wilfully contrary, with the writers refusing to be beholden to character arcs or narrative resolution: when the bullets start flying, no-one is safe.

This makes it simultaneously the most satisfying and frustrating show I've ever seen, but above all the most compelling. The only reason it's taken me two long months to get through all five seasons is because I forced myself to occasionally break off to eat, sleep and get screaming drunk by the abandoned railway tracks.

The Wire

Among so many other things, The Wire is a story of people finding their place -- or not -- starting with a unit of misfits and screw-ups given their chance to shine. It's been interesting to see the development of technology in the show: in the first episode, we see detectives typing up reports on typewriters. By the end, detective Lester Freamon is a telecommunications expert, wielding an Ethernet cable and a tablet PC to greater damage than his service weapon.

It's a theme of the show that to effect real, lasting change rather than just chasing short-term stats, being good police should be about communication, about Nikon and Canon and Panasonic ToughBooks over battering rams and daysticks.

I have only the very last episode left. I almost don't want to watch it.

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