There is neither an angel nor a devil shown resting on Sgt. Wayne Jenkins’ shoulder on HBO’s limited series We Own This City. But the moments when Jenkins chose bad over good were undeniable in Monday’s Episode 2.
Wayne was shown starting out as a beat cop, for instance, and his training officer Ed Barber quickly disabused him of the lessons he learned in the police academy such as procedure, probable cause and cultural sensitivity. Ed also taught Wayne that it was better to arrest everyone within a “high-crime area,” even if they didn’t do anything illegal, because it made the higher-ups happy, kept the crime statistics low and increased their chances for overtime pay.
In another scene, Wayne attended a cookout, and he brought a cooler full of small but respectable crabs that he could afford. Soon after, a friend made Wayne look bad by flexing his cooler full of pricey steaks and vodka. That moment, juxtaposed with Wayne and Ed’s reckless and baseless arrests, helped paint a picture of a man who not only longed for more money and control, but felt like the only way to obtain it was by becoming a dirty cop.
Dude was so out of control at one point that he rolled up on a scene where a group of officers were fighting with a suspect and started beating a pair of legs because the legs’ owner had Air Jordans on his feet. The only problem was: The legs belonged to a fellow officer who had forgotten his department-issued shoes. Wayne apologized to the officer, who was Black, but it was clear that Wayne’s gung-ho style needed to be reined in, but wasn’t.
The full-circle juncture came when Wayne was shown working as the training officer for a rookie cop. He took one look at the wide-eyed newbie and told him to forget everything he’d learned in the academy. Perhaps if Wayne had ignored Ed’s advice, he would’ve been put out to pasture the way Officer Williams was. He’s the guy who talked to DOJ attorney Nicole Steele about all of the corruption and police brutality that continued on the force, even after Freddie Gray’s death.
Because Williams had spoken out, he was reduced to guarding a city monument no one ever visited. Williams further explained that indiscriminate arrests and police perjury had made his job, and that of other honest cops, harder because potential informants and jurors didn’t trust them.
As for Wayne, by the time he started heading the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force, his pockets were so full of dirty money and his record so tarnished by perjury claims that he began to see himself as invincible. Still, because of Jon Bernthal’s layered performance, there were times where you’d actually sympathize with Jenkins as a Sisyphean figure who could’ve been a positive change agent if he hadn’t arrogantly turned to crime to get rich.
Detective Daniel Hersl, in contrast, was depicted as anything but sympathetic, and his flippant interaction with Nicole Steele by episode’s end made you cheer for her to take him down as quickly as possible. In the coming weeks, perhaps we will learn more about Daniel’s backstory and motivations the way we did about Wayne, Detective Jemell Rayam, and Det. Momodu “G-Money” Gondo this time around.
What did you think of the latest We Own This City? Do you feel sorry for former Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, or no? Drop your thoughts in the comments.