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"It's the chain-of-command, baby, the shit always rolls downhill."
Thomas Hauk

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"When I came on in the Eastern, there was a piece-of-shit lieutenant hoping to be a captain, piece-of-shit sergeants hoping to be lieutenants. Pretty soon we had piece-of-shit patrolmen trying to figure the job for themselves."
Cedric Daniels

The commanders of the BPD are among some of its most competent and dedicated members... actually, no. While there are a few competent and dedicated personnel in the upper ranks, for the most part the commanders of the BPD reach that lofty status through politics, nepotism, (which is even lampshaded at one point, when Burrell says to a group of assembled commanders that "There isn't one of you here in this room that isn't here by appointment") ruthless self-serving careerism, and, above all, fixing the stats to make themselves look good. This contributes greatly to the overall dysfunction of the BPD, the ineffectiveness of the police department as a whole, and one of the show's overriding themes: institutions tend to lose sight of their original purpose and make self-preservation and the advancement of the people within them their ultimate goals.

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    Cedric Daniels 

    William "Bill" Rawls 
Played by: John Doman
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/williamrawls_1781.jpg

You, McNulty, are a gaping asshole.

An intelligent, hardass police commander and bureaucrat, once described by a fellow commander as "as ruthless a fuck as we have in this department." He begins the series as a major in charge of the Homicide department, and over the course of the series enjoys promotions to colonel, deputy commissioner, acting commissioner and state police superintendent. Rawls achieves this by mainly by doing everything in his power to produce good stats (murder clearances, lower crime rates, etc) — though what looks good on paper doesn't necessarily shine so bright in reality. For example Rawls is not above making an arrest that has no real prayer of producing a conviction, even though it means severely compromising a major investigation — all because making an arrest in the case, even if it doesn't lead to a conviction, gives him a "clearance" in the case and as a result the crime stats look better on paper. While serving as a colonel and deputy commissioner, he applies severe pressure on subordinate officers to bring down the crime rate. This causes most of his colleagues to "juke the stats" by reclassifying crimes, (serious crimes are downgraded to related but less serious crimes, and as a result of downgrading felonies to misdemeanors, it allows the police to claim that felonies are down overall and that there are fewer serious crimes taking place) a practice that Rawls strongly encourages without actually being explicit about it.

Rawls has no patience for insubordination, or anything that might threaten his stats. As a result, McNulty's shenanigans makes him a prime target for Rawls, and the two clash repeatedly over the course of the series. After failing to get McNulty fired during Season 1, Rawls settles for kicking him out of homicide and transferring Jimmy to what Jimmy believes is the worst unit in the Baltimore PD, the marine unit.
For all his hardass ways, however, Rawls isn't all bad. He occasionally shows great competence at his job and even his animosity towards McNulty has limits. Most notably, when McNulty feels responsible for another cop getting shot, Rawls steps in to assure him that his guilt is misplaced.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: A Smug Smiler most of the time. Rawls can't help but laugh about some situations that displease him, mostly Jimmy's shenanigans such as calling the first Federal deputy "an empty suit" or the stunts he pulls against Homicide from the Marine unit.
    Rawls: Fucking Jimmy. Fucking with us just for the fun of it. You know, I gotta give the son of a bitch some credit for wit on this one. [chuckles] Cocksucker.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Say what you will about Rawls, but the guy usually has his way and often wins his political or jurisdictional battles in a decisive, overwhelming fashion.
    • When Kima gets shot, he demonstrates his leadership and reorganizes the overcrowded and chaotic crime scene with great efficiency. In seconds, actually.
    • When he initially dodges the case of the 13 Jane Does, his relieved subordinates look at him with admiration and Landsman remarks that "the man is a God."
  • Badass Gay: The bar scene in Season 3 confirms his sexuality and he's a hardened police chief.
  • Da Chief: McNulty's archnemesis, Rawls will thwart any policeman who shows any initiative or steps over the line.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The man has an abrupt and pointed sense of humour.
  • The Dreaded: Only suicidal characters like McNulty dare to antagonize Rawls openly, and the sneaky ones like Freamon and Colvin know very well the dangers of crossing him in any way. Even his equals in rank fear Rawls while he's still a major, before he gets more powerful.
    Foerster: You're going to cross Bill Rawls, as ruthless a fuck as we have in this department? No. I like my career, thank you very much.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Flipping the bird to McNulty and a nasty tirade against his subordinate because the detective's extracurricular actions mean that some ghetto homicides will have to be actually investigated by his department, which is both embarrassing and counter-productive to Rawls.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Displays signs of it occasionally. He's so immersed and invested in the stat games that he cannot fathom why the detectives would actually want to chase the bad guys. He initially assumes the serial killer scheme was all about the money and the paid overtime, not about burying Marlo, "the motherfucker who put 22 bodies on them."
  • Evil Is Petty: Very vindictive towards McNulty, not so much towards Daniels.
  • Flipping the Bird: A double deuce during his establishing character moment. These are for you McNulty
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Some of his crass jokes have this vibe. His sarcastic hope that Major Colvin has a stripper waiting behind the door to present more optimistic crime stats has a whiff of this.
  • Jerkass: Abrasive and hardass most of the time. He's given a few comforting moments to show that he's not completely horrible.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • His lack of diplomacy and brusque ways are exactly what is needed in the aftermath of Kima getting shot. He barks orders and quickly removes unnecessary personnel from the crime scene. His blunt speech to McNulty makes Jimmy reconsider his guilty feelings.
    • Rawls is not completely wrong for hating McNulty for his chronic insubordination. When Daniels tries to argue for getting Jimmy transferred out of the Marine Unit, Rawls tries to block it, arguing that there's no need for someone as disobedient and disloyal as Jimmy. In the following season Daniels gets backstabbed by McNulty, who makes it clear that everything Daniels has done for him doesn't outweigh Jimmy's boner for catching Stringer Bell. In the fifth season, giving Jimmy another chance will bite Daniels yet again, this time with the fake serial killer scheme.
      Daniels: You ever see how a dog gets when he smells a bone buried in the yard?
      Rawls: Yeah, and I seen one take a shit on my carpet, too. And don't give me that he's-got-that-fire-in-the-belly garbage, either. The answer is no.
    • This might be the only reason Rawls is able to avoid getting thrown off the force. It's that he does his job, even when it's detrimental to others.
    • When the homeless killer scandal blows up, Rawls finds himself in the advantageous position of not having any actual responsibility over the whole mess and yet having all the information available to screw everyone over. One look from the Mayor's staff after a remark about professionalism make them know that the bastard is already scheming, so they resort to bribing him.
  • Lack of Empathy: With a few honorable exceptions, the man enjoys his own vileness. When Daniels asks him, as a personal favor, not to compromise the Barksdale case in Season 1, Rawls pretends to be taking a moment to consider obliging, just to twist the knife and give a no for an answer anyway.
  • Large and in Charge: Somewhat downplayed because a lot of cinematic tricks go into making Rawls look shorter than he is, (including the fact that Rawls is frequently sitting during many of his scenes) but he's Da Chief and his actor's height (6'3) usually makes him the tallest person in the room.
  • Mean Boss: Loves to verbally demolish and threaten his underlings. Anyone who actually dares to cross Rawls comes to find out that he's a seriously vindictive SOB who will go out of his way to screw them over in return.
  • Nothing Personal:
    • Oh no. Rawls is definitely one to hold a grudge and will go out of his way to punish anyone who crosses him out of pure spite.
    • Played straight in his bid to supplant Burrell as commissioner. When the latter confronts him about his plans, Rawls acknowledges them and almost mournfully assures Burrell that it's just business.
      Burrell: We made a good team.
      Rawls: We did.
  • Number Two: Burrell's executive officer as Deputy Ops. Despite their ups and downs, when Rawls crosses Burrell they still concur that they were a good team, and they continue their wicked association for a bit more until Burrell forcibly retires.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: A major enforcer of "the stats game". According to himself, he wouldn't mind doing it the proper way if there was someone else kicking the stones. The problem is there is no one, so he doesn't ruffle any feathers. Upon hearing it, Norman Wilson mocks this paragon of reform.
  • Pet the Dog: His speech to McNulty where he tells him that Kima getting shot wasn't McNulty's fault. Done with Rawls' usual bluntness, of course, and an explanation that if it was Jimmy's fault Rawls would be the first to lay into him for it.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Despite Norman's lack of amusement, Rawls words it beautifully to Carcetti.
    I'm no more racist than you are, Mr. Mayor.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: For all his abrasive mannerisms, Rawls is fully capable of sucking up to Baltimore's big wigs if he sees opportunity in it. Practically all of his scenes with Carcetti involve him being a shameless Yes-Man.
  • Rank Up: Starts as the Major of the homicide unit. He is later promoted to Colonel and Deputy Ops, thanks, ironically, to the clearance boosts from Daniel's details, has a gig as Commissioner thanks to seniority and ends up as Superintendent of the Maryland State Police.
  • The Starscream: Burrell views him as a traitorous number two after Rawls makes a failed move for the top spot.
    Burrell: You made your move too soon. Politics doesn't suit you. Stick to operations. And don't you ever cross me like that again.
  • Straight Gay: If he's in the closet, then it's a pretty rare case of being neither armored nor transparent - no obviously-false-front of homophobia or anything remotely camp. Via photos and his ring, it's shown that he is married and has an infant son, which he fondly mentions. And then again he appears in the background in a scene at a gay club, among other hints such as "Rawls Sucks Cock".
  • Sympathy for the Hero: Rawls somewhat begrudgingly gives some respect to Daniels because of the loyalty Daniels shows to detectives working under him. Rawls also has his Pet the Dog moment where he keeps Jimmy from collapsing under the weight of his guilt when Kima is shot.

    Ervin Burrell 
Played by: Frankie Faison
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/burrell_8402.jpg
"You will eat their shit."

It's Baltimore, gentlemen. The gods will not save you.

Deputy commissioner (later, commissioner). Burrell is a career-minded officer, more skilled at playing politics than actual police administration. He proves to be a major roadblock time and again for Daniels' unit, which has a tendency to run investigations that could implicate Burrell's politically connected friends. Eventually, when Carcetti is elected mayor, his fixing of crime statistics gets him forced to retire, though he is savvy enough to make sure he gets a golden parachute.


  • Actually Pretty Funny: Laughs heartily at Daniels' joke about the police promoting the wrong man, "all the time".
  • Badass Boast: When Herc's latest wrongdoing puts a fresh Carcetti in a compromised position between the police force and the ministers, Burrell saves Carcetti's day by literally throwing the book (of regulations) at Herc. Burrell brags about the move beforehand.
    Am I the only one who knows how to play this game?
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Has shades of this though not to Rawls' levels.
  • Blackmail:
    • Threatens to air Daniel's dirt to halt the Barksdale investigation, but Daniels calls his bluff: "If you wanted to do me, I'd be done already". Much later, he contemplates smearing Daniels to save his own skin, but Burrell is the one already done by that point and hands the dossier over to Nerese Campbell.
    • Facing the boot after the Hamsterdam scandal blows up, he warns the Mayor that he'll disclose "the truth", namely that he brought the matter to Royce's attention but had to sit on it, as the Mayor kept his hands tied for weeks (days, in reality). It works, and in turn, Colvin is forced to eat the full blame, quietly, or his officers will be persecuted.
    • On the receiving end when Valchek, unhappy about the detail of humps assigned to Sobotka, demands a proper detail lead by Daniels, unless Burrell wants to face an embarrassing vote of confirmation as Commissioner and more fallout from the Barksdale case, closed prematurely.
  • Book Dumb: Described as "stone stupid" by fellow Dunbar High School alumnus Prop Joe. Still smart enough to play the connections game.
  • Da Chief: For Daniels.
  • The Dilbert Principle: Played with. He is put in the position of Commissioner as a lackey to the mayor; as such, he is mostly the butt of all the blame the mayor wants to pin on him. To be fair, without him the police's statistics system wouldn't work at all. According to him, he does as he's told; however, judging by the way the system is set up he is right in asserting that his replacement is not bound to do any better nor there is any initiative for breaking of the vicious cycle, as Daniels later finds out.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Even Burrell thinks the fickle nature of politicians is a joke. He also goes ahead and comforts Kima's partner after the latter's shooting.
  • Hidden Depths: According to Proposition Joe, Burrell was in glee club in high school.
  • It's All My Fault: Burrell remembers he's the one who wanted the buy/bust, which ultimately got Kima shot.
  • Jerkass: Condescending towards Daniels and not very nice to Major Colvin as mentioned in kick the dog.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: At the very end of his time in the BPD, as he is getting ready to leave his office for the last time he points out that no other public service/department gets completely interfered with by politicians the way that police do, and that the fickle nature of those politicians makes it impossible for the police to actually accomplish anything they're set to, and it's all compounded by the utter lack of knowledge that politicians have about the nature of policing. It doesn't change the fact that he's an Obstructive Bureaucrat who would rather make himself look good with rigged numbers than actually improve the city, but he definitely has a point.
    To Carcetti, I'm a hack. Royce was no different. Maybe I am. But every day they send over a new priority.
    "Go after the bad guys. No, change that. Make quality-of-life cases. Get on top of the murders. On second thought, run the whores out of Patterson Park."
    You think the mayor tells the schools how to teach kids, or the health department how to do its job, or sanitation how to pick up trash? But get elected, and suddenly they know police work.
  • Just Following Orders: Threatens Royce with invoking this publicly during the Hamsterdam fracas. It's very effective. Generally speaking, he has internalized this line of thinking and attributes some degree of dysfunction to doing what he is told.
  • Kick the Dog: Burrell personally informs Johns Hopkins University of Colvin's involvement with Hamsterdam, making the University withdraw Colvin's job offer.
  • Nothing Personal: Both ways. Carcetti says so when he picks on Burrell to attack the administration. Unlike Rawls or Valchek, Burrell doesn't hold grudges against most of his adversaries and even understands the reasons for their affronts, maintaining a civil relationship with Daniels, whom he despises, until his career in the force is finished, that is. He tries to play the the long game without closing doors unnecessarily. That said, he'll Kick the Dog if he has to, as Howard Colvin can bear witness to.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: As Deputy Ops, he puts a stop on Daniels several times and finally punishes him when the Lieutenant stops acting on his dictates. Once he's Commissioner, it's clear his stint in the post is more focused in defending the administration and its political agenda than in doing police work. While he's portrayed as an antagonist who is in cahoots with Clay Davis and the powerful elite, the show makes the point that even the man in charge has to dance to the tune of the system and can do very little to change it.
  • Office Golf: He's quite fond of it.
  • Pet the Dog: A minor one, but when Commissioner Frazier refuses to talk to Kima's partner Cheryl when Kima is shot and in danger of dying, Burrell goes ahead and does so alone.
  • Put on a Bus: Burrell is forcibly retired and given a desk job in DC halfway through the final season.
  • Slave to PR:
    Daniels: There ain't nothing you fear more than a bad headline, now, is there? You'd rather live in shit than let the world see you work a shovel.
    • Outside of the office or the public life he isn't nearly as bad as he's known for. Put him in his uniform, though, and he becomes all hook-in-mouth.
  • Sleazy Politician: It's politics that got him to his current rank, and Burrell definitely knows how to play that game. Give him credit, he is good at using politics, for example the way he uses Internal Affairs to get Herc fired for Carcetti without making it look as though Carcetti is caving to the deacons is a very effective piece of work.
  • Smug Snake: A bit overconfident in his game playing and speaks to Daniels in a condescending tone in the Season 1 finale.

    Stanislaus Valchek 
Played by: Al Brown
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/stanvalchek_7012.jpg
"Make nice or invest heavily in petroleum jelly."
You want to do it your way, fine. But you ain't gonna use my people to fuck me.

Commander of the Southeastern district. Father-in-law of Pryzbylewski, he uses his connections to get Prez out of trouble several times. During the course of Season 2 Valchek gets into a feud with Frank Sobotka over a stained glass window, and Valchek's attempt to make the lives of the dockworkers miserable leads to the union stealing an expensive police surveillance van, and Valchek then demands an investigation into the stevedore union's finances that brings them down.

During Season 3 Valchek becomes an early supporter of Carcetti, and a key information source inside the police for the mayoral candidate. Once Carcetti becomes mayor, this results in Valchek getting a significant promotion, albeit one that keeps him away from day to day activities of the BPD. In the series finale, after Burrell has left, Rawls has been bribed with a state position and Daniels quits rather than juke the stats, he is promoted to Commissioner by virtue of being the last man standing.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: After being humiliated during most of the second season, he finally finds some amusement in the stolen van being toured around the world due to the feud with the stevedores.
  • Almighty Janitor: Starts as Major, which is pretty low as far as the food chain goes, and stays there for most of the story. This doesn't preclude him from playing politics in the big league in any way, as he's very able to blackmail Burrell and dramatically influence his nomination as Commissioner, and later act as Carcetti's point man inside the department. All because Valchek has suction with the 1st district, home to many of the remaining white ethnic neighborhoods in Baltimore. He's well-connected politically and maintains good terms with various Democratic organizations and big-shots close to City Hall such as Andy Krawczyk.
  • Antagonist in Mourning:
    • Not quite, but still notable by his callous standards after Sobotka's demise.
      Almost feel sorry for the son of a bitch.
    • Despite having always disliked Prez and the tension between the two men having escalated to the point where Prez punched Valchek right in the face in Season 2, when Prez shoots a fellow officer by mistake Valchek tries to rally support for Prez. Valchek almost immediately puts his foot in his mouth by asking Daniels to attest that the incident had no racial element to it, (which disgusts Daniels to the point that Daniels doesn't even deign to respond) but credit where credit is due: Valchek could have sat back and watched Prez go down in flames, but he actually wanted to help.
  • Dark Horse Victory: He is the last character that people would expect to wind up as Commissioner, but in the last episode he becomes the last prominent member of the police hierarchy left...
  • Deadpan Snarker: Has his moments. Although he prefers to be blunt and direct throwing expletives around, the man can also be witty and sarcastic, notably when the FBI seizes a huge shipment of Colombian crack cocaine.
    Now, that, gentlemen, is a case. God forbid you two should put something like that on my friend, Frank Sobotka. I would die happy.
  • Evil Is Petty: His feud with Sobotka is all about petty grudges.
  • Foil: To Judge Phelan. Both are influential public servants who set in motion a major criminal investigation thanks to their political clout. While the judge also has some selfish reasons, he's mostly moved by professional offense and a sense of justice. For Valchek it's all personal and narrowminded.
  • History Repeats: Valchek becomes the new Burrell/Frazier after being promoted to Commissioner.
  • Ignored Epiphany: When Prez tells him the Sobotka case is going nowhere and gets him to finally realize Burrell screwed over the Barksdale case and potentially this one, Valcheck seemingly steps up and blackmails Burrell to get "real" police on the task squad. It quickly becomes apparent any recognition of the justice system's flaws went completely past him and all he really wants is to hurt Sobotka.
  • It's All About Me: Concerned about petty personal schemes most of the time. Ironically some of those lead to actual police work when they spiral out of his control.
  • It's Personal: Unsurprisingly, his feud with Frank Sobotka becomes personal after Frank gives Valchek a nasty "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    Sobotka: What's right would be for you to come down here to my house like a decent human being and ask a common courtesy. But that's not you, it's not your way. My old man always said you were a half-ass punk over at Holy Redeemer as a kid. My sister said you were a pain in the ass pest at all them CYO dances where none of the girls would even look at you. Damn near everyone at the Point said when you got your badge it was too much for anybody named Valchek to have a patrolman's drag. And sure enough, you've been an official asshole every day since.
  • Jerkass: The man seems to have "screw politeness" as some kind of motto, partly because he knows he is a necessary evil, as Burrell describes him.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • He may have begun his crusade against Frank Sobotka due to a petty personal vendetta over a stained glass window, but he's entirely correct that Frank's involved in some very dirty business, good intentions or not.
    • Rightfully points out Rawls' ignorance when he senses Rawls is scheming for the Commissioner post, pointing out that as a white guy, Rawls will never be Commissioner so long as Carcetti is in office.
  • Karma Houdini: No matter what he does or how much of a jerkass he is, he always gets away with it and winds up rising in the ranks.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: To Burrell when he blackmails him into getting him a better detail so as to nail Frank to the walls.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Carcetti has to reward him with a promotion, so he makes sure it's one that strips Valchek of any real influence, Deputy Commissioner of Administration.
  • Mean Boss: As far as he's concerned, the men working under him might as well be tools. If they do what he wants them to, they receive a sort of benign neglect. If not, then he goes berserk on them, and is quite willing to get verbally abusive as well.
  • The Mole: Is Carcetti's mole inside the police force for much of Carcetti's primary run against Royce.
  • Nice Hat: Valchek wears and seems to like the police cap more than any other noteworthy commander. Appropriately, his last scene has him trading his then current cap for the Commissioner's cap.
    Fits like a glove!
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Bosses Prez around, who never really wanted to be a policeman in the first place. Valchek confesses he told his daughter "not to marry that brain-dead son of a bitch."
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Quite possibly the worst example of this in the entire show, which is saying something. Even Rawls and Burrell do some actual "police shit" from time to time while Valchek rarely does, and he unabashedly tells the other Majors that he'll cheat the stats to make crime go down rather than making any effort to actually manage his district.
  • Pet the Dog: When Herc accidentally catches Royce receiving a blowjob from his secretary, Carver sets up a meeting so that Valchek can advise Herc on how to spin the situation to his advantage. Valchek proceeds to give Herc good, solid advice in a friendly manner without asking for anything in return... at least not yet. He does mention the possibility of asking Herc for favors down the road.
  • Police are Useless: He's far more concerned with furthering his own career and pursuing petty personal vendettas than he is with doing a good job policing the city.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Although he claims to be appalled over the prospect of the council choosing a white Colonel over Burrell, (an appointment that Valchek calls racist), the man still throws out a few hints of racism, most notably when he laughs at Rawls' hopes of replacing Burrell as Commissioner because "This is Baltimore, and you're not one of the natives, are ya?"
    • He doesn't shy away from misogynist remarks either. When Kima is assigned to a red ball case, he casually denounces it because she's "a rookie, a broad no less," which gets a miffed Reaction Shot from Theresa D'Agostino.
  • Raised Catholic: Father Lewandowski scolds him because at Sunday mass, Valchek can't be found but then he donates a window and a big sum of money in order to be perceived as a pillar of the church.
  • Smug Smiler: Valchek is always too pleased with himself and finds amusement in many of the -admittedly ironic- events around him.
  • Smug Snake: Subverted, he winds up Commissioner in the Season 5 finale.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Vocally complains that the first Sobotka detail under Lieutenant Grayson is full of humps, and he's right.
  • Villainous Breakdown: In season 2, when the detectives and Rhonda tell him they can't charge Frank Sobotka in connection with drug smuggling because it would scuttle their broader investigation. He's in meltdown mode until Frank is arrested, even extending his wrath to the feds, who let him down, and to Daniels.
    Fucking rat fuckers, all of you. This is my case. Mine! And now you're gonna tell me who the target is? Not fucking likely.
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    Commissioner Frazier 
Played by: Dick Stilwell

The police commissioner during the first season, an idiot boss of the highest order and totally removed from anything resembling real police work. He is offhandedly mentioned as changing jobs and going to another department in Season 2, which is what leads to Burrell becoming Commissioner.


  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Everything about him screams that he's both incompetent and isolated from the reality the police face.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Shown twice despite his little screentime. When Kima is shot he assumes that Norris, a white detective addressing Daniels, is Kima's superior, gives the condolences to him, and then seems rather nonplussed to be corrected about it and leaves without speaking to Daniels. Also, when he finds out that Kima is a lesbian he refuses to go to Kima's partner Cheryl to extend condolences to her, as police brass usually does to show they're standing with the family. The latter is a step too far for Burrell, who despite being no paragon of virtue at least goes to give condolences to Cheryl and talk with her.

    Raymond Foerster 
Played by: Richard De Angelis
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/foerster.jpg

A veteran Major in command of the Baltimore narcotics division, this makes him Daniels' immediate superior at the beginning of the series. Later he gets promoted to Colonel and takes over CID once Rawls becomes Deputy Comissioner. He's relatively apolitical and uninvolved in the schemes of the police brass, even willing to openly protest Burrell trying to interfere with a politically charged case. He develops cancer and grows progressively sicker due to it until he dies during the course of season 4.


  • Benevolent Boss: At his wake Landsman says he was this, as he claims that Foerster spent 39 years in the BPD "without leaving a trace of bitterness or hatred with any officers, a miraculous career by BPD standards".
  • Character Death: The character and the actor died of cancer during Season 4. They receive an In Memoriam wake at Kavanaugh's Pub.
  • Good Is Impotent: He's well meaning and nice to his men, but he refuses to help Daniels in season 1 for fear of crossing Rawls and Burrell, and his protests against Burrell playing havoc with a murder case get overridden and squashed.
  • Pet the Dog: Was more concerned about Kima getting shot than any of the other brass, later he protests when Burrell tries to stall a murder case to protect Mayor Royce.
  • Rank Up: Promoted to Colonel and head of the Criminal Investigations Division after Rawls leaves the post.

    Howard "Bunny" Colvin 
Played by: Robert Wisdom
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/howardbunnycolvin_1767.jpg
"There's never been a paper bag for drugs. Until now."

But you know what? The shit out there, the city, is worse than when I first came on. So what does that say about me? About my life?

Colvin is the Major in command of the Western District. While he's a reasonable commander who is sincerely devoted to protecting the community, he has become burned out and jaded after witnessing the corruption of Baltimore in general and its police department in particular for many years. Sick of seeing so much death related to the drug game, he comes up with the "Hamsterdam" free-zone experiment in Season 3. When his superiors finally find out and Hamsterdam causes a political firestorm, he is forced to retire in disgrace because of it.

After retiring from the police he goes on to try to rehabilitate delinquent middle school children and keep them from joining gangs. He find success in Namond Brice, whom he also adopts.
  • Bald, Black Leader Guy: Of the Western District. Bunny mentored McNulty, for fuck's sake.
  • Benevolent Boss: He even helps Jimmy backdoor Lt. Daniels to steer the investigation back onto Stringer Bell.
  • Compassionate Critic: Most prominent when he explains the difference between soldiering and policing to a still green Carver.
    You're a good man sergeant. You got good instincts, and as far as I can tell, you're a decent supervisor. But from where I sit, you ain't shit when it comes to policing. Oh, don't take it personal, it ain't just you, it's all our young police. Whole generation of y'all. No, you think about it; you've been here over a year now, Carver, and you got nobody [in the community] looking out for you. Nobody willing to talk to you.
  • Cool Teacher: In Season 4, after leaving police work, getting done out of a more cushy job at John Hopkins and one at a seedy motel.
  • Cowboy Cop: Becomes a maverick among the police middle management, keeping the chain of command in the dark about his Hamsterdam business. As a result he gets along quite well with Jimmy, and is one of the few higher ups in the department than Jimmy has a shred of respect for. The two even share the "fuck the bosses" motto.
  • Didn't Think This Through: As inventive as his idea of Hamsterdam was, he clearly approached it only thinking about law enforcement objectives and didn't think through all the upheaval and changes it would create. The Deacon very directly points out some of things Colvin didn't anticipate, such as the need for medical care and basic living amenities for the exploding population within Hamsterdam, and Colvin certainly didn't comprehend the political firestorm it would cause (particularly in an election year!) or the consequences he personally would have to deal with as a result.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: His initial plan for a new job after retiring from the police was a position at the prestigious and powerful Johns Hopkins University, which would have also paid him very well. Once he is forced to retire in disgrace due to Hamsterdam, that job offer is withdrawn and Colvin instead winds up as the head of a hotel security team. And that job only lasts until the hotel management tell him to turn a blind eye to a businessman patron physically assaulting a prostitute in the hotel...
  • Famed In-Story: "Crazy-ass" Colvin is vilified by the traditional establishment as the man who legalized drugs, but he's loved in the academic and progressive circles for his unique approach.
  • A Father to His Men: To McNulty and Carver in particular.
  • Good Counterpart: Stringer's good counterpart; they both try to rationalize the drug trade by breaking the old patterns and are both screwed over by the bosses for their trouble. This is lampshaded by Stringer himself when he says he went to Colvin because they were "both just trying to make sense out of this game." Later on he uses the same Curse Cut Short (Just get on with it mother-) to Rawls and Burrel as they are cashiering him that Stringer used an episode earlier to Omar and Mouzone. The difference is Colvin's doing it for the greater good of the community whilst Stringer is out for himself, as evidenced when Colvin takes the hit for hamsterdam as opposed to letting his under-commanders take the hit instead.
  • Happily Married: We don't see a great deal of his home life, but he and his wife appear to be this.
  • Heel Realization: Colvin was just riding out his last six months on the job until Dozerman getting shot makes him realize how useless and complacent he's been and he decides to give it one last go with Hamsterdam.
  • History Repeats: Colvin is all too aware of how this works, and thus does his best to help avoid it once he starts working with school kids.
    Every single one of them know they're headed back to the corners. Their brothers and sisters, shit, their parents. They came through these same classrooms. We pretended to teach them, they pretended to learn and where'd they end up? Same damn corners. They're not fools, these kids. They don't know our world but they know their own. They see right through us.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: His reason (in a nutshell) for creating 'Hamsterdam' in Season 3.
  • Internal Reformist: Fed up with the "statistics-game" and related bullshit, he tries a new approach in the so-called war on drugs.
  • Mentor: The policeman who broke Jimmy's ass in when "Bushy Top" was a rookie. In addition to his stint as a teacher and his tutelage of Namond, he kindly gives a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Carver regarding his policing style which makes a deep, positive impact on Carver's career and helps him to become a caring public servant. Watch
  • Nice Guy: Compassionate, empathic, friendly and fatherly. In a show like The Wire this is a Trauma Conga Line waiting to happen.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: His reward for cutting the felony crime rate in his district by 14% and improving the general quality of life for its citizens is to be busted down to lieutenant, fired in disgrace, blacklisted and vilified to the media as an "amoral" and "incompetent" man who "buckled under the pressure" of his command. It also does significant damage to his plans for what to do when he retires from the police.
  • Noodle Incident: Only his friends know how he got the Embarrassing Nickname "Bunny".
    Colvin: (to Namond) If you tell anybody, I'll cut your balls off.
  • The Not-So-Harmless Punishment: He proceeds to break the rules regarding the Hamsterdam experiment under the impression that he at least has his Major's pension to fall on; unbeknownst to him, this is precisely where his superiors hit him, retiring him with a Lieutenant's pension.
  • Old Soldier: Colvin often talks about his 30 years on duty.
  • Parental Substitute: To Namond.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: One of the few police commanders willing to solve problems and help underlings in need.
  • Sarcastic Confession: When asked how he plans to lower the crime rate in his district:
    "I thought I might legalize drugs."
  • Save Our Students: Makes this his goal once he takes a job doing research work with the troubled "corner kids" at the school in season 4. He has some success.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: In season 3, he goes against police department policy and essentially legalizes drugs in certain parts of his district because he believes it will reduce the amount of violent crime, (it has some other unintended benefits, such as making it easier for social services to reach out to addicts) and thus accomplish what he views as the ultimate goal of policework - making people safer. It works, but only for awhile, and at the price of Hamsterdam being shady at its best and nightmarish at its worst.
  • Tempting Fate: Bunny made the mistake of being too secure and sure that nothing too bad could happen to him.
    "Another 6 months to my thirty and I'm out the door with a major's pension. What can they do to me?"
  • Tragic Hero: He's a Reasonable Authority Figure who is passionate about doing the job right and protecting the community in a police force where most cops only care about working the numbers so that it makes them look good. His last big attempt to do something about the out of control drug and gang violence proves his undoing.
  • Was It Really Worth It?: Hamsterdam wrecks Colvin's career and in the end it makes little impact in the people's welfare.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Some of the conversations with Wee-Bey seem to imply that as a child, Colvin was a close friend to several members of the Barksdale organization.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: While several people object to Hamsterdam and are appalled by his idea, the Deacon is shown as making the best point, calling Colvin out on public safety grounds.

    Dennis Mello 
Played by: Jay Landsman
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/dennismello_9638.jpg
"Don't get captured."

All right. Listen up, you mutts. This is complicated. I mean, it isn't complicated if you went to college or, I don't know, your mothers actually stopped drinking for a minute while they was pregnant. For Baltimore city police, this is complicated....

Administrative lieutenant of the Western District working under Colvin, which effectively makes him Colvin's right hand. Eventually becomes commander of the Western.


  • Deadpan Snarker: Jokes often about the absurdities of the job, most of them courtesy of the higher-ups. Sometimes he does it in a non-verbal manner.
  • Kick the Dog: Forces Carver to stop letting Randy stay in the police station and get pushed into the foster system. To be fair, he's right that the kid can't stay there forever and that the station is not a place for him, but his lack of care about the fate waiting for Randy in the foster system is troubling.
  • Meta Casting: Played by the real Jay Landsman.
  • Number Two: Colvin's second in command, later he plays a similar role under Daniels when Daniels is (fairly briefly) head of the Western District.
  • Rank Up: Promoted to Major for the Western District after Colvin and Daniels' stints.

    Jimmy Asher 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/wire_4_58.jpg
Played by: Gene Terinoni

Lester: That, Sergeant Hauk, is one of the most effective supervisors in our police department.

Lieutenant Asher is a friend of Lester Freamon's who is Lester's choice to take command of the MCU once Daniels is promoted and leaves... solely because Asher is such a hands off commander that he will let Freamon and the detectives do whatever they want. Indeed, Asher is far more concerned with his upcoming retirement and building a new beach home in Delaware than he is with anything going on within the MCU, so he will simply sign off on any papers Lester presents and then happily walk away with his head in the clouds. This comes to a screeching halt once Rawls replaces Asher with Marimow, but once Daniels becomes head of CID Asher is promptly reinstated as head of the MCU.


  • Benevolent Boss: A somewhat deconstructed example, as Asher is a kind, well meaning man who is an ineffective and Clueless Boss. Freamon makes the point that his nonintrusive hands-off approach allows actual police work from the professionals.
  • Butt-Monkey: He doesn't get much respect and doesn't seek it either. He's a meek guy treated with polite condescension and interrupted mid-sentence several times.
  • Clueless Boss
  • One Steve Limit: An aversion. While his part is tiny, he does happen to share the same first name with the closest thing the show has to a main character.
  • Phrase Catcher: Everyone always asks him "How's that beach house coming?"
  • Puppet King: He is the head of the MCU only on paper. During his run there, the unquestioned true leader of the group is Lester Freamon.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Briefly after his first stint. Rawls sends him to the telephone unit after the MCU raises too much stink.

    Charles Marimow 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/wire_4_57.jpg
Played by: Boris McGiver

Jay Landsman: Marimow does not cast off talent lightly. He heaves it away with great force.

A jerkass lieutenant notorious for destroying units and alienating his men, he is put in charge of the MCU by Rawls specifically to break it when the MCU begins pressing corruption cases harmful to the Royce administration shortly before the election. His style of command quickly drives both Lester and Kima out of the unit, leaving Sydnor as his only actual detective, until a newly promoted Herc and Dozerman transfer in. It's not until he's replaced as head of the MCU that the unit begins to come out of its doldrums.


  • Bad Boss: He openly states that anyone who doesn't do exactly what he says and get exactly the results he wants will not only be bounced out of the MCU, but he will do his best to end their career within the Baltimore Police entirely.
  • Epic Fail: His attempts to take down the Stanfield gang. When Herc knows the drug crews move around the stash and you don't, that's a sign of how bad a commander you truly are.
  • Jerkass: Arrogant, obnoxious, unreasonable, unlikable, and just generally a prick towards the people working under him.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While it does't excuse his generally obnoxious behavior, he does have legitimate reasons to despise Herc. Marimow correctly surmises that Herc owes his rank as a sergeant to Mayor Royce's influence, and later guesses that Herc's CI "Fuzzy" Dunlop is a fake. The cherry on top is when it gets revealed that has Herc stolen and lost an expensive camera from police stocks.
  • Hate at First Sight: Between him and Herc, when Herc rejoins the unit.
  • High Turnover Rate: All but the most dedicated or foolhardy detectives voluntarily transfer out of units that he commands.
  • The Peter Principle: An Implied Trope. Marimow voices pride in having worked his way up the ranks from the bottom, but if he ever was competent at any level, he certainly isn't now.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Rawls intentionally uses him to break up problem units, but Marimow seems to truly believe that he is a tough but capable supervisor. He also voices the opinion that it will be easy to take down Marlo.
  • Take That!: The character shares a last name with a former boss of David Simon. A boss with whom Simon had a bitter feud while at the Baltimore Sun.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Invoked by Rawls, who specifically uses Marimow to break up units he doesn't care for.
    Rawls: Marimow... my Trojan Horse.

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