"I can't. I'm not ready for that."

"Sure you are."

Patti Cassidy met her husband at York College, where he was majoring in law enforcement. He had grown up in North Jersey, but attending college in York soon oriented him toward the metropolis just to the south. She can remember him new to the Baltimore department, standing in the Inner Harbor — a short world away from the Western District — taking in the city's brand-new waterfront, telling her that this was a place he wanted to police.

And yes, there were later moments when Patti would begin to wonder, aloud, what life might have been like with other choices, other decisions.

"Don't even go there," Cassidy would tell her, shutting it down.

This is the life that is. He carries it like that, day after day, year after year.

* * *

Cassidy's old shift spends the afternoon chasing calls that haven't changed since 1987: domestic complaints, juvenile shoplifting, car stops, and, of course, drug trafficking on Lauretta, on Lanvale, on Payson, on Bentalou.

Everyone backs the calls, showing up in twos and threes, leaving no one to get out of a one-man car and stand alone. Shanice Price, a young female officer with little time on the job, pulls up a pedestrian, thinking him right for an outstanding warrant. But when she keys her mike, she's told by dispatch that the computer is down.

She holds him for as long as she can, but eventually, when the system stays down, Price gives the suspect a walk. Later, she learns that, yes, she'd been thrown a false name. The rest of sector two spends hours hunting the mope, hoping to make right on the insult.

"There's ways to hold a guy if you have to," explains Santucci, schooling her in street legal. "You can always come up with reasons."

They hunt some more for the man, checking the Bentalou corners, but, no, not today. They finish their shift and come home, parking the units around the house. Run sheets are dumped, keys exchanged.

In the roll call room, another shift will soon hear the same things said that morning from Cliff McWhite, the major: The same assurances that they need not stand to attention at his entrance, that formality in the Western matters little; the same item about the Northwestern District having blown up overnight, about the lookout on a vehicle wanted from a homicide in that district; the same gentle warnings to make yourself heard on the radio when you are talking to dispatch, and to back each other as they always back each other, and to come home at the end of the shift.

As at so many rolls call these days, another shift lieutenant will bring up the news about Gene Cassidy, the talk about how the F.O.P. is planning a day for a blood drive and for donor registration and information about what is required. March 19 at the union hall. Eleven to six. And then, as was done that morning, the lieutenant will read out the open warrants.

And they will go to the cars.

About the author

David Simon is a writer and television producer whose work has often centered on Baltimore, crime and policing. Two of his critically acclaimed HBO series, "The Corner" and "The Wire," were both set in Baltimore.

Simon worked for 13 years as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, and after covering the crime beat for four years, he began research for his 1991 book, "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets."

The shooting of Officer Gene Cassidy, with the ensuing investigation and prosecution, was recounted in that non-fiction narrative.