Ten things I learned from “The First 48.”

A steady, but depressing diet of death

A steady, but depressing diet of death

Recently, at our monthly dinner, two of  my siblings started chatting about The First 48, a documentary-style program on A&E that focuses on  murder investigations by homicide detectives.   I started watching the show and after a few months worth of episodes I have reached several conclusions.

1.  Criminals are not only a cowardly, superstitious lot, most of them are dumber than a sack full of rocks.  The worst example of this was the brain surgeon who walked into a office building full of cameras and rode the elevators until he found one unlucky woman.  He took the elevator down, let her walk out, then trailed behind her, pulled a gun and shot her in the back of the head.   All of this was recorded on camera but mercifully the show’s producers spared viewers the gruesome sight of the woman being executed.  

 To hammer hope the epic stupidity and senselessness of the crime, this idiot couldn’t even carry off the robbery because the dead woman had fallen on top of her purse so the killer took off with nothing.  Nothing but  two teenaged sons who will now grow into adulthood without their mother.

2.  Black criminals primarily kill other Black people and almost always for no good reason.

3.  The only White people that seem to get killed by other White people on The First 48 are the homeless.

4.   Most cases are solved because somebody talks to the cops.  All that CSI exotic crap does is produce enough evidence for a conviction.   Only rarely does it lead to an actual arrest.

The First 48: When faked murders arent entertaing enough.

"The First 48:" When faked murders aren't entertaining enough.

5.  The police detectives on The First 48 are  always polite, never curse and treat all suspects like perfect ladies and gentlemen.  They don’t threaten suspects, use racial slurs or barely raise their voice.   And they play to the camera like nobody’s business.

6.  Crime scenes are a lot messier and bloodier than television cop shows would lead you to believe.   Blood tends to splatter. 

7.   Every negative feeling you have ever had about Blacks will be reinforced by The First 48.   Hispanics come off almost as bad, but blacks are overrepresented as victims and perpetrators on the program.  Perhaps that stems  from the show being shot on locales such as Memphis, Detroit, Cincinnati, Birmingham and Houston. 

8.   There are no Hannibal Lecters, clever serial killers or grand mysteries in most murder cases.  Once the identities of the victim and suspect are established it’s mostly a matter of figuring out what the connection was between them and why it went sour.

9.   A lot of suspects break down into a blubbering mess when they go into the interrogation room.   I can’t believe so many of them crumble like a warm cookie because the detective tells them “you have to do the right thing here.” 

10.  The First 48 is a really depressing show.  You get really sick really fast of watching young brothers shooting, stabbing and beating each other over dumb stuff.   It can also be an incredibly boring show because often all the police do is sit around drinking coffee (haven’t seen a single donut yet) and wait for the phone to ring.  Usually on the other end of the line it’s someone dropping a dime on their cousin Pookie who shot someone because they had a beef over money, drugs or a girl.    

There are some good people who come forward to report crime or help the cops solve the murders.  I get why the police departments cooperate with the show and permit the cameras and microphones to follow them around.  If things get tense and a F-bomb gets dropped or a N-word casually uttered (by the suspects or witnesses of course—never the cops), it will be cleaned up in the editing room.  The day-to-day lives of the cops look rather mundane, boring and repetitive.  

After watching a few months of the show I’ve already started becomg jaded.  Some murders are more grisly than others and some cases more tragic, but otherwise there’s a certain sameness to the carnage that is both horrific and numbing.

 I can’t imagine what a homicide detective who’s been standing over corpses for five years or  more gets out of it.   

I feel a bit like a voyeur as I watch The First 48 and see mothers and fathers wailing and weeping over a loved one’s body.  Some things don’t need to be shared with the public and as a journalist I’ve always felt grief fell within that category.

Like “To Catch A Predator,”  it’s difficult to guess how long The First 48 can go on.   Those of us who live in urban areas have some familiarity with the senselessness of street crime.  The entertainment value of a seemingly endless parade of predominantly dead black kids doesn’t seem like a substainable long-term concept.