|William A. Rawls|
|First appearance||"The Target" (episode 1.01)|
|Last appearance||"–30–" (episode 5.10)|
|Created by||David Simon|
|Portrayed by||John Doman|
|Occupation||Acting Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department/MSP Superintendent|
|Title||Acting Commissioner/MSP Superintendent|
William A. "Bill" Rawls is a fictional character on the HBO drama The Wire, played by actor John Doman. Over the course of The Wire, Rawls ascends through the higher ranks of the Baltimore Police Department, eventually becoming Deputy Commissioner of Operations and, at the end of Season 5, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police. This career pre-occupation is often portrayed as detrimental to both effective law enforcement and those under his command; seen, for example, in his repeated attempts to renegotiate his responsibility for case-work and mistakes as commanding officer of Homicide, or his weekly passage of blame at ComStat meetings. Such circumvention of responsibility is aided by his obstinance and crude wit, typically down-speaking and dismissing suggestions contrary to his self-interest. Little is disclosed of Rawls' personal life aside from strong allusions to his closet homosexuality, and his (only spoken-of) marriage and children.
Rawls was a Major and commanding officer of the Homicide unit in Season 1. He is a careerist, concerned only with maintaining the case clearance record of his unit, and is extremely demanding of his detectives. He was enraged when Detective Jimmy McNulty went around him to Judge Phelan to encourage further investigation of the Barksdale organization. He confronted McNulty about his insubordination and told him that McNulty had his attention. At the request for manpower and instruction of Deputy Burrell, Rawls sent McNulty and Santangelo to the Barksdale detail as they were two detectives he no longer wanted (Burrell did not want to see good police work in the case, so he told the unit commanders to dump their squads of detectives that were either useless or unwanted). Santangelo was apparently not meeting his clearance quotas and was then used as an inside man in Lieutenant Daniels' Barksdale detail. McNulty was a capable detective but was deemed insubordinate and disloyal due to his meeting with Judge Phelan. Rawls relied upon Sergeant Jay Landsman to handle much of his communication with the men under his command in homicide.
McNulty attempted to placate Rawls by working several old murder cases, most notably the Deidre Kresson case, linking them all to the same gun, and to D'Angelo Barksdale. Rawls was delighted, and wanted to immediately issue a warrant for D'Angelo. When McNulty learned of this, he was dismayed, since arresting D'Angelo was premature and would tip off Avon Barksdale to their investigation. The detail persuaded Daniels to fight Rawls' push for arrests. Eventually Daniels went over Rawls' head and met with Burrell, convincing him to put the warrants on hold for the time being. This further infuriated Rawls, and he began hounding Santangelo to bring him something he could use against McNulty. Rawls demanded that "Sanny" either clear a "whodunit" case by day's end, inform on McNulty, or else leave the unit altogether due to his low clearance rate. An old case was cleared, courtesy of Bunk Moreland and Jimmy McNulty, credited to Santangelo as a means of keeping Rawls off of his back.
Following the shooting of Detective Kima Greggs in a buy bust gone wrong, Rawls became personally involved in the investigation. His first action was to insist that all non-essential personnel, including Greggs' friends in her detail, leave the crime scene. He later spoke to a distraught McNulty and reassured him that he was not ultimately responsible for the shooting but again expressed his hatred for his subordinate.
When McNulty convinced Daniels to go around his superiors and try to involve the FBI in the Barksdale case, Rawls got a chance for revenge - he reassigned McNulty to the marine unit at the suggestion of Landsman after falsely telling him he would like to see him land on his feet and asking where he didn't want to go. Rawls also transferred detective Santangelo to the Western District as a beat officer. Rawls transferred in Lester Freamon as a replacement detective, noticing his talent for detail in the Barksdale investigation.
Rawls was promoted to colonel, partly on the basis of McNulty's work on the Barksdale case, but his former detective remained a thorn in his side. When McNulty came across a body on marine patrol, Rawls managed to convince another department that the case belonged to them. McNulty used wind and tide charts to prove that the death occurred in Rawls' jurisdiction. When thirteen dead women were found in a cargo container at the ports, Rawls again tried to avoid responsibility for the investigation, and McNulty again found proof that the deaths fell under Rawls' jurisdiction, earning McNulty a permanent spot on his list of enemies. Rawls had Landsman assign the case to detectives Lester Freamon and Bunk Moreland because he believed they were the best investigators in his squad. He demanded personal reports from his detectives.
When Daniels' detail was re-formed to investigate Frank Sobotka, Rawls signed off on every officer Daniels wanted with the exception of McNulty whom Rawls demanded would either drown or quit the force before leaving the hated marine unit. Rawls eagerly pressured Daniels to take on the responsibility for investigating the fourteen murders which Daniels initially refused in order to keep the case simple, but later accepted due to persuasion from Freamon. In exchange, he extracted a promise from Rawls to give him whatever he needed to solve the murders. When Daniels demanded McNulty, Rawls was ultimately forced to pull McNulty out of marine patrol and return him to Daniels' unit. Rawls thus allowed McNulty to be Daniels' responsibility but would not let him any further back into C.I.D.
The fourteen murder cases proved to be a boon for Rawls, as all of them were solved by Daniels' team at the end of season two.
Rawls was promoted to Deputy Commissioner of Operations when Burrell became Commissioner. They preside over weekly COMSTAT meetings with their district commanders. Rawls is ruthless in his pursuit of complete accountability and awareness from his subordinates. As Commissioner, Burrell would write the orders from the Mayor's office, and Rawls as Deputy for operations would then ensure that these orders were enforced. Rawls' responsibility in the COMSTAT meetings was to interrogate individual commanders about their performance while Burrell would then make a decision as to what needed to be done by the commander in order that they could remain in their post. While Rawls berated several Shift Commanders over the season, he commended Lieutenant Daniels on a number of occasions as the type of commander he saw as both dedicated and competent. When Daniels was reassigned to target Stringer Bell, Rawls claimed that it was "Cedric Daniels to the rescue."
In a scene which takes place in a gay bar, Rawls is shown briefly in the background. He is out of uniform and holding a drink. He has a smile on his face and appears to be at ease in the environment, suggesting that Rawls is probably gay. However in the first episode of season one he has a photograph on his desk with his wife and daughter suggesting he might be closeted.
During the shutdown of Hamsterdam, Rawls personally orders the mobilization of the Quick Response Team (QRT) and drives into the thick of it with his car radio playing Richard Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, an obvious homage to the infamous scene from Apocalypse Now, subsequently acknowledged in the DVD commentary for the episode. This goes against Colvin's wish that no mass arrests would take place and also denies Daniels a QRT unit for the take-down of the Barksdale organization.
Rawls was Commissioner Ervin Burrell's first port of call when subpoenas issued by the major crimes unit upset Senator Clay Davis and Mayor Clarence Royce. Rawls suggested that Lester Freamon was the most likely source of the problem and recommended that the unit get proper supervision. Rawls assigned a lieutenant loyal to him named Charlie Marimow aka the "unit killer" to head the unit. Marimow's caustic leadership resulted in an immediate shutdown of the unit's drug-money tracing activities and a return to street level investigations. Rawls preempted a rebellion from Freamon and subdued it by threatening his colleagues and offering him a transfer back to homicide. Rawls also facilitated the move of Kima Greggs from the unit into homicide as a favor to Major Cedric Daniels.
Rawls showed great political acumen when Burrell made the mistake of assigning Greggs a politically significant murder case to slow the investigation down on the Mayor's behalf. He allowed Burrell's plan to go ahead and when it was leaked to the press Burrell fell out of Royce's favor. Rawls told Royce that he did not act differently as he is a loyal subordinate who always follows his bosses orders. Looking to replace Burrell, Royce asked if he was ready to take command in the wake of Burrell's mistake through telling Rawls that if he fixed this situation, Royce would not forget what he had done.
Rawls also endeared himself to Tommy Carcetti's campaign. He received word from Lieutenant Hoskins, his insider in the Mayor's office as commander of the mayoral security detail, that Royce had fallen out with State Delegate Odell Watkins. Rawls fed this information to Carcetti so that he could recruit Watkins's support and asked Carcetti to remember him if he was elected. Rawls then assures the election goes smoothly by interfering with the Braddock case involving a dead state's witness. He reassigns Detectives Norris and Greggs who are working the investigation to election duty for the day as the department is 20 officers short of duty.
Carcetti is elected Mayor and then begins trying to make the department more productive. He observes the department and work and sees an unmotivated investigation unit and petty drug arrests and then comes to Rawls. When Carcetti asks Rawls about the problems in the department, Rawls claims that affirmative action and pressure from the mayor's office has made policing a numbers' game. He states that to appease the voters and have a department that is demographically a match to that of the city, a 20% hike in the number of African American officers was required. He says this has occurred up the chain of command as well as in the academy and the early promotions have put inexperienced officers who are more trained to handle statistical values than they are to set out good policing strategies in command positions. Rawls claims that if it were up to him, he would focus on high end drug enforcement, a claim that Major Daniels (an African American commander who Rawls does view as "good police") does not believe.
Despite being a loyal subordinate, Rawls developed a power struggle with Burrell over who controls the activity in the Department. Rawls was commanded to control day to day activity by Carcetti. Carcetti had no faith in Burrell's capacity to change the department's problems. Burrell was threatened by Rawls allowing the promotion of Daniels from Major to Colonel at the Mayor's request. Daniels was the most apparent threat within the department to dethroning Burrell as Commissioner. Rawls did not realize that Daniels could be promoted ahead of him until Deputy Commissioner of Administration Valchek pointed out the hindrance of Rawls' caucasian race, specifically due to Baltimore's African American majority. The political irony of season 4 is that Rawls helped Carcetti beat Royce in the election with the Watkins information when Royce was more likely to have named Rawls Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department.
Rawls continues to serve as Deputy Commissioner for Operations and begins to work amiably with Commissioner Ervin Burrell again. Mayor Tommy Carcetti puts the department under severe strain by cutting their funding and failing to deliver on his promises to initiate change. Rawls has to deal with extremely low morale amongst all officers and is still expected to deliver a reduction in the crime rate by Carcetti. Rawls and Burrell continue to manipulate their statistics. The altered statistics are discovered by Carcetti giving him the political ammunition he has been waiting for to fire Burrell. Carcetti plans to move Rawls to acting commissioner while he prepares Cedric Daniels to take over the post permanently. The transitions in the police department were officially announced at a press conference attended by Carcetti, Burrell, Rawls and Daniels. In the series finale, Rawls is seen being sworn in as the Superintendent of the Maryland State Police as a reward for his loyalty to Carcetti and his allowing Valchek to become commissioner.
Rawls' distinctive manner of intimidating subordinates is based on real-life Baltimore CID commander Joe Cooke. Simon has also commented that Rawls' attitude towards the murder rate and his unit's clearance record is a product of the extreme pressure he is under.
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