|First appearance||"The Detail" (episode 1.02)|
|Last appearance||"–30–" (episode 5.10)|
|Created by||David Simon|
|Portrayed by||Jim True-Frost|
|Aliases||Prez, (Mister) Prezbo|
|Relatives||Stanislaus Valchek (father-in-law)|
Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski is a fictional character on the HBO drama The Wire, played by actor Jim True-Frost. Pryzbylewski is a detective of Polish heritage in the Baltimore Police Department. Initially seen as incompetent, hapless, corrupt and hot-headed, he proves to function better behind the scenes as a talented code-cracker. Eventually, he leaves the Baltimore Police Department following an accidental shooting of another officer and becomes a middle school math teacher, where he develops into a caring and moral person. In some ways he is the mirror-image foil to Herc, who also lost his job at the police department but went on to aid criminals.
Character background and plot relations
"Prez" has a well-known history of incompetence in the department; an oft-recounted incident involved him shooting up his own squad car in a panic and then calling in a false report. He has been bounced around various units, and is considered an inept detective by many of the subordinates in the Police Department. Because of his marriage to the daughter of senior officer Stanislaus "Stan" Valchek, he is protected from being discharged, despite their mutual animosity. Prior to the beginning of Season 1, Pryzbylewski had been working in the casualty division under Lieutenant Cantrell.
Prez is portrayed as a sometimes intelligent and decent man, but lacks the necessary drive due to the often brutal realities of Baltimore police work. Despite eventually winning the respect of his colleagues in the Barksdale Detail through his code-breaking and paper-trail skills, he is never truly comfortable as a police officer. By contrast, he later becomes a dedicated and capable teacher.
Prez is sent to Lieutenant Daniels' Barksdale detail because Deputy Commissioner Burrell allows the unit commanders to dump their most incompetent officers on Daniels. Upon arrival at the detail, he accidentally shoots a wall while showing off modifications to his gun. Daniels is appalled, but agrees to keep Prez if Cantrell will also give him Leander Sydnor, the best detective under Cantrell's command.
Later, Prez, Herc, and Carver drunkenly incite a near-riot at the Franklin Terrace Towers, and Prez pistol-whips a teenager with his service weapon, blinding him in one eye. Notably, even the brutality-prone duo of Herc and Carver think Prez's actions are uncalled for. Daniels stands up for his detective and protects him from serious repercussions by providing Prez with a suitable story to give to Internal Investigations; Prez is ultimately suspended from street duty, but Valchek is grateful to Daniels for helping Prez.
Stuck in the office, Prez grows bored and begins playing with the Barksdale organization's pager codes, eventually breaking them and making a major contribution to the case. Under Freamon's mentorship, he discovers a gift for wiretap work and following the paper trail, eventually becoming a valuable member of the team.
Prez confesses to his father-in-law that his earlier problems had largely been due to dissatisfaction with his traffic police work. He tells him that detailed case work had become his passion and that he wants to continue to work major cases. When Valchek starts feuding with Frank Sobotka, he requests a detail similar to the previous Barksdale detail. As in the previous case, Burrell gives him a team largely consisting of incompetent "humps". Prez is given minor authority within the detail, but Lieutenant Grayson will not follow his recommendations on how to proceed. Prez tells his father-in-law that the detail is making little progress, and Valchek, after seeing the unit at work, demands that Daniels is brought in as the unit commander, threatening to derail Burrell's bid to become police commissioner.
When the focus of the investigation shifts away from Sobotka, Valchek angrily confronts the detail, berating Prez specifically. Prez stands up for their work and punches Valchek. With Prez facing charges of insubordination and assaulting a commanding officer, Daniels stands up for him a second time, pointing out that if there is an official inquiry the FBI agents present during the incident would affirm that Prez hit Valchek only after the latter had shoved and cursed at him. Valchek agrees that Prez can return to the detail following a written letter of apology and two months of working the midnight shift as a narcotics detective in his district.
Prez joins Daniels' newly formed Major Crimes Unit. When responding to a distress call, Prez fails to properly identify himself as an officer and fatally shoots a plain clothes officer in a case of night-time mistaken identity. He is brought up on administrative charges and suspended because the officer was African American, and the shooting is seen as being potentially racially motivated. Prez vehemently denies being a racist but due to the press and Baltimore's majority African American population, the story leaks out and prompts a hearing from both the courts and the Vanguard (Baltimore's African American police officer union). Prez is horrified at having killed another officer and quits the force despite Daniels, Caroline Massey and Lester Freamon (all of whom are African-American) agreeing to testify that they do not believe Prez to be a racist.
Prez starts a new career as a math teacher at Edward Tilghman Middle School. As a teacher, he becomes attached to the students in his classroom, even going as far as to assist neglected student Duquan "Dukie" Weems with laundry and food that his family does not provide for him (they are known to sell his possessions for drug money). After Randy admits to knowing about Lex's murder, Prez passes the information on to Bunk. He later finds out that Randy has been labelled a snitch after Herc mishandles an interview with Randy and is disappointed with his friends at the precinct. Later, Prez discovers that Dukie is no longer attending middle school and is working on the corner. Prez sees through the school system's flaws, but adapts well, and becomes a dedicated teacher who enjoys helping his students advance through class.
Prez was only seen once in Season 5, appearing in the series finale "–30–". He has grown a beard, and appears to have become a capable and well-respected teacher. When Duquan "Dukie" Weems visits him and asks for money, ostensibly for payment of rent and to allow him to enroll in a GED program, but in reality to feed his new drug addiction, Prez agrees to give him the money, but tells Dukie that if he is lying their friendship is over. Prez drives off disappointed but not surprised when he sees Dukie is using the money to support his newly developed drug addiction.
The character's code-breaking ability, and the season 1 pager code itself, are based on the Melvin Williams case investigated by Harry Edgerton and Ed Burns. Prez's experiences as a teacher are based on those of Ed Burns, who became a Baltimore middle school teacher when he retired from the Police.
- Dan Kois (2004). "Everything you were afraid to ask about "The Wire"". Salon.com. Retrieved 2006-07-12.
- Alvarez, Rafael (2004). The Wire: Truth Be Told. New York: Pocket Books.