WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama has talked about crime and policing while heaping praise on the creator of the cult television series “The Wire”.

Sitting side-by-side with former police reporter David Simon, Obama declared that the Baltimore-based series that focused on the drug trade was among his favourites.

“I have got to tell you, I’m a huge fan of ‘The Wire,’” Obama said, delving into how the show came about and the problems that Simon witnessed at the Baltimore police department.

“I think it’s one of the greatest, not just television shows, but pieces of art in the last couple of decades,” Obama said.

Simon painted a picture of cops who were overly focused on arrests rather than police work, leading to a massive increase in the prison population and in crime rates, including murder.

The United States has among the highest incarceration rates in the world.

“We were losing focus on what was really important,” Obama said. “A consequence of that was this massive trend toward incarceration, even of non-violent drug offenders.”

“The challenge, which you depict in your show, is folks go in at great expense to the state, many times trained to become more hardened criminals while in prison, come out and are basically unemployable, and end up looping back in.”

Obama said that “Omar” - a character based on real-life community activist and former felon Donnie Andrews - was his favorite character.