Howard "Bunny" Colvin
|First appearance||"Stray Rounds" (episode 2.09)|
|Last appearance||"Late Editions" (episode 5.09)|
|Created by||David Simon|
|Portrayed by||Robert Wisdom|
|Occupation||Retired; former commander of the Western District in Baltimore Police department; also worked as head of hotel security, and as an Academic aide in University of Maryland's Social Sciences research department|
|Title||Lieutenant, demoted from major|
|Children||Two unnamed, Namond Brice (adopted)|
Howard "Bunny" Colvin is a fictional character on the HBO drama The Wire, played by actor Robert Wisdom. Colvin is a wise and able major in the Western District, alienated from the Baltimore Police Department and political system's concern with criminal statistics and career-climbing, to the consistent detriment of substantive case-work and the over-preoccupation with crude 'rip and run' tactics, petty drug charges on low-level players. He often expresses nostalgia for policing in earlier decades, particularly for the way in which officers amiably integrated into and supported communities; something he holds in sharp distinction with the contemporary "War on Drugs", in which neighborhoods are treated like 'occupied territory'. Close to retirement, he secretly breaks chain-of-command and reassigns his resources to create 'Hamsterdam', three zones within his district where drug dealing is pressured to non-violently conglomerate in exchange for informal legal sanction. Colvin also concentrates policing in these areas and attracts important ground-level social services, such as needle and condom distribution. Despite unprecedented statistical gains, Colvin meets reprimand, demotion (and thus lowered pension) and retirement, later to become a field researcher alongside academic Dr. David Parenti in Baltimore city schools. In this role, Colvin falls into the guardianship of Namond Brice.
Colvin joined the Baltimore Police Department around 1973 (according to Season 3, he had 30 years on) patrolling his home neighborhood in the Western District; one of his early posts was at Pensey and Fremont. Over his tenure, he advanced to the rank of District Commander (Major) in the Western District. Colvin's philosophy of policing involves protecting the community he serves by making quality arrests through the use of trusted informants on his foot post. As a commander he insists that his men learn their sense of direction, their foot post, and urged them to focus on doing real police work. Toward the end of his career, he began seeing the war on drugs as an ineffective waste of time and resources in his district that brought about too many unnecessary deaths.
During his conversation with Wee-Bey, it is implied that he was friends with members of the Barksdale organization from childhood.
Colvin is first seen as a Major and commander of the Western district in "Stray Rounds". He attends the scene of the accidental shooting of a child during a drug turf war and is appalled at the senselessness of the killing. When ordered to crack down on the area, his second in command Dennis Mello states that they have waited too long to make the arrests they had while Colvin begins to question what it is they are really doing on their job.
In season three, Colvin, months away from being eligible to retire on a Major's pension, decides to make a last effort to have a real impact on the community he has been policing for thirty years. He recognizes that much of his time and resources are spent on policing addicts and low level dealers, which never seem to improve the situation in his district and leave little time for "real" police work. All of Baltimore's district Majors are under extreme pressure from the mayor's office to reduce the city's violent crime rate in preparation for the mayoral primary campaign. After Commissioner Ervin Burrell relieves Major Taylor of his post as the Eastern District commander for his poor performance, every other major begins "juking" their stats to make crime rates appear to drop. Colvin refuses to do this, and his stats honestly reflected a 2% rise in felonies. He is quickly chewed out by Bill Rawls, while Burrell threatens to have him replaced and subject to the same fate as Taylor.
Colvin wonders if there is a way for drugs to be made safe for low-level users to take them without facing punishment; comparing the city's drug problems to the illegal public consumption of alcohol, which was circumvented when people begin keeping their beer in a paper bag. After the attempted murder of Kenneth Dozerman, Colvin finally decides that he will independently set up three "free zones" in his district where addicts and dealers can conduct their business under supervision but without interference. This moves the drug trade into a controlled, uninhabited area to protect the rest of his district. Colvin does not seek the permission or approval of any of his superiors before implementing his plan, and ignores the concerns of his subordinates, including Mello and Ellis Carver, who are charged by Colvin with ensuring no violence takes place within the "free zones." One of these areas becomes known as "Hamsterdam", after Amsterdam's liberal drug laws. Because his retirement is imminent and he is guaranteed a Major's pension, Colvin believes he'll be free from any consequences should his plan be discovered. Although his project initially draws suspicion from the district's dealers, he convinces them to move their trade by brutally cracking down on any drug dealing outside of the free zones. Legalizing drugs in Hamsterdam allows Colvin to reassign police resources to solving quality felony cases elsewhere. After implementing the Hamsterdam plan for five weeks, Colvin delivers a cumulative 14% reduction in the felony rate, unheard of in the Western district's history.
Colvin is forced to take his vacation time immediately after revealing his experiment to Rawls and Burrell. Mayor Clarence Royce considers trying to spin Hamsterdam as an enforcement strategy because of its success in lowering the crime rate. However, in the meantime, Herc leaks the story of Hamsterdam to the press. After realizing that public opinion is sharply against the free zones, and that there are broader political ramifications, the Royce administration recants and decides to end the Hamsterdam experiment. Burrell offers Colvin to Royce as a sacrificial offering and scapegoat. He and Rawls convince Colvin to accept the responsibility silently by threatening to persecute his officers. They demote him to lieutenant and thus lower his pension. Burrell tops this by contacting Johns Hopkins University (which had agreed to hire him as their deputy commander of campus security upon his retirement), and informs them of Colvin's role with Hamsterdam and they withdraw Colvin's job offer.
As a commanding officer, Colvin is well liked by his men. Colvin has a major impact on Carver, convincing him to reassess his role as DEU sergeant and to take a more community-minded approach to policing. Colvin also reconnects with Jimmy McNulty, who had started out as a beat officer under his command. Colvin's last piece of detective work involves McNulty's major case unit — Stringer Bell contacts Colvin to inform on Avon Barksdale and Colvin passed the information on to McNulty. In Colvin, Stringer sees a fellow reformer who feels his superiors are preventing useful work from being done. As Bell puts it, they are "both trying to make sense of this game," though from opposite sides of the law. 
Colvin attempts to supplement his diminished pension by working as the head of security for a downtown hotel. He becomes disillusioned with the post when the hotel manager refuses to let him arrest a wealthy client who had assaulted a prostitute in his hotel room, and quits the job soon thereafter.
Colvin is approached with another job from The Deacon. The deacon has learned of a large grant to the University of Maryland School of Social Work to look at repeat violent offenders. The study is led by Dr. David Parenti. Colvin has developed a reputation among academics as a result of his Hamsterdam experiment as the man who attempted to legalize drugs in Western Baltimore, and the Deacon helps Colvin secure a job offer with Dr. Parenti as a field researcher. Dr. Parenti initially plans to focus on 18- to 21-year-olds, but Colvin senses that they need to look at a younger group to effect any change. He convinces Dr. Parenti to look at Edward Tilghman Middle School for his target group.
Colvin identifies for Parenti the two types of West Baltimore students: "stoop" kids, the kids who obey their parents' instructions to stay on the stoop or front steps of their house, go to school, and are respectful of authority; and "corner" kids, the kids who sell drugs on the corner, disrupt class, and are aspiring gangsters disrespectful of authority. Together, they isolate ten corner kids into a classroom where Dr. Parenti and UM doctoral student Miss Duquette study them while Colvin acts as the mediator. In this classroom, no suspensions are handed down to misbehaving students, as it is seen as a punishment the students often utilize to get out of class intentionally.
Colvin begins to take an interest in Namond Brice, one of the most disruptive students. He allows Namond to stay at his home when Carver arrests Namond for selling drugs, and his mother is out of town. Colvin takes him home the next day and sees first hand that his mother is pushing him into drug dealing. After seeing how Namond has progressed in school, Colvin sees Namond's potential. He realizes that Namond was never fit for the corners and will only get himself killed or arrested if he remains in his current household. Colvin then talks with Wee-Bey Brice, Namond's incarcerated father, explaining Namond could have a life outside of West Baltimore given the proper support from Colvin and his wife. After thinking it over, Wee-Bey tells Namond's mother to send him to live with Colvin as he wants him to have a future. Namond is seen to be living with Colvin and his wife at the conclusion of season four.
Colvin appears briefly, late in the season ("Late Editions") with a gray and white goatee, attending Namond's high school competitive debate. He looks displeased when Mayor Carcetti visits the event, using it to burnish his political image. Outside the debate, Carcetti approaches Colvin and apologizes for being unable to support the Hamsterdam experiment from the third season, saying no politician could run with the idea politically, even though Carcetti hinted in season three that he supported Colvin's initiative. Colvin refuses to shake Carcetti's extended hand, and says nothing about his education plans which were similarly ignored by Carcetti's city hall in season four.
- Dan Kois (2004). "Everything you were afraid to ask about "The Wire"". Salon.com. Archived from the original on 2006-11-19. Retrieved 2006-07-12.
- "Org Chart - The Law". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-22.
- "Character profile - Major Howard "Bunny" Colvin". HBO. 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-14.