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Why Do We Kill?: The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore Paperback – June 23, 2011
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How bad is the crime situation in Baltimore City? Leaving the grim statistics aside for the moment, it's so bad that I no longer watch the local TV newscast at 11 PM! (1) Who wants to go to bed with gory images of mindless violence dancing in their heads?
The mantra is always the same from the news reader--murder, mayhem, drugs, tears, blood and outrage! The only thing that changes are the names of the victims. Some are totally innocent, such as children and teenagers who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Enter Kelvin Sewell! He's a former homicide detective with 22 years of in-your-face experience with the Baltimore Police Department (BPD). Sewell, an African-American, has encountered it all--from the inside--like "in the box." That's "the room" at BPD headquarters, where suspects in a crime, and witnesses, too, are questioned by the cops. It's where Sewell would deflate the ego of a street-hardened thug by simply asking him: "Can you recite the alphabet?" He underscored, "not one" was able to do it!
In his compelling memoir, "Why Do We Kill?: The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore," Sewell teams up with award-winning investigative reporter, Stephen Janis, to tell his uncompromising story from a down-at-the-crime-scene perspective. (2) In Baltimore, Sewell relates: "People kill because they're angry over a slight. Frustrated over a hard look. Pissed off because somebody talked with their girl. They kill and will kill for nothing."
This jarring insight rang with relevance as Sewell's book was going to press. It involved a city court case and a BPD officer. He was convicted of manslaughter.Read more ›
In this slim book, Kelvin Sewell, a black resident who joined the Baltimore City Police Department (BCPD) in 1987 and spent 22 years in various assignments, provides a genuine `insiders' look at murder and mayhem on the streets of Charm City.
The first half of the book provides concise descriptions, or `case files', of 11 of the more noteworthy cases Sewell handled as an investigator in the Homicide Unit.
The second half is a quick overview of Sewell's career in the BCPD, focusing less on specific cases and more on the nature of police work, and a blunt appraisal of the role of race, politics, and bureaucracy on the operations of the BCPD.
The title's use of the pronoun `We', as opposed to the more typical `They', reflects Sewell's attitude that as a black man and a resident of the city, he saw its perps, and its victims, with a mindset different from that of many white officers and observers. It is this philosophy that gives Sewell's memoir a tenor and perspective that Simon's work is necessarily less apt to provide.
The case files in the first half of `Why Do We Kill ?' review genuinely cold-blooded acts of mayhem taking place from 2008 - 2010. With the exception of one case involving Paul Pardus, a white man who murdered his mother, shot a Hopkins hospital physician, and then killed himself, the case files describe acts of violence committed by low-income blacks upon other blacks of the low-income and working classes.Read more ›
All of the problems in Baltimore are exacerbated by its Police Department which Newell casts as being institutionally defective to the core. The saddest part of the book for me, oddly enough, was the description of Baltimore City's once vaunted Homicide Unit. When David Simon wrote his book "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets," the BPD Homicide Unit was staffed almost entirely with competent veteran detectives, men and women who knew what needed to be done and took their duties seriously. Dark humor was expected but it never got in the way of the work itself. At one time an assignment to Homicide was rightly considered to be the capstone of an already long and distinguished career. Only the best were considered and those who didn't make the cut were washed out. The depths to which the unit has been allowed to sink as described by Newell, himself a Homicide supervisor, is absolutely disgusting.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a must read if you live in Baltimore, MD. This gives me an enlightened perspective on policing in my City. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Rodney L. Tate
I'm not really sure why I didn't find this book particularly memorable. I read many books every year but for some reason this one never got off the ground. Read morePublished 8 months ago by DynoDon
The book was an excellent read but what was more important was that the author posed questions that are ignored or avoided. Read morePublished 8 months ago by George H. Mitchell
I like this book a lot. First half are cases from the author's career, second half are stories from his experience with the police dept. Very interesting inside perspective. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Michael N
"I read this book in hopes to find a deeper understanding of how people think and why people behave the way they do. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Nykel