Greeted as Liberators

For an overview of our witticisms on#46 go to the mini-directory. Otherwise, continue on for some thoughts on #47.


Something I have brought up before, and which I think bears re-examination now is the “bad cop,” concept. Best embodied in Officer Walker, but also relevant to Herc and some other more minor players, this is something I think is crucial to this episode and this season. If we are seeing how people get educated, then to some degree we are learning how people become socialized too (this is seen of course in Bunny’s experimental classroom), and part of becoming socialized in recognizing how one fits into the matrix of law enforcement. Through Walker, Herc, Carver, McNulty and Bunny (though he really counts as ex-cop), we saw a few different approaches to policing, and some fierce commentary on how police interact with citizens.

While I find that Officer Walker presents somewhat of a caricature at times, I don’t think it’s any accident that he’s been peppered into this season, screwing over everyone he touches. Donut’s car boosting has been waiting to catch up with him all season, and I think his increasingly risky joyriding has ceased to be funny entirely, particularly given the amount of damage he caused on his latest jaunt (of course he explained it away nicely as a function of the poor handling of the truck). Of course, Walker’s overreaction was equally out of line, not least for his treatment of the woman he crashed into, and certainly most for his brutal attack on Donut.

Herc too drew the ire of someone he is ostensibly there to protect and serve too. Bubbles contacted him exactly two times, and both times Herc fell through on his promise, showing not only his usual callous indifference to the job, but also a complete lack of respect for the assistance Bubbles was able to provide at great personal risk. The second time was perhaps worse because he was busy trying to clean up his own mess in front of a commander who is equally hot-headed, lame at his job, and frustrating to his colleagues.

His comeuppance was clever and stinging, all the more because we know the great sway that the ministers hold. Yet, like Walker, Herc in this case abuses his duty by willful disregard for the rules, the job, the whole purpose of being a police. He made no note of the vanity licence plate, didn’t run the tags, and certainly didn’t take the time, even a second, to ask the suspect any questions. He’s going to end up if far greater trouble than the camera would have cost him.


And so Bubbles gets some payback, and the boys plan some of their own. Yet the turn from essentially law-abiding to law-abhoring is one that I think the show wants to illustrate and humanize. In another case, that of Namond, the police proved sympathetic and caring. Carver’s soft spot for Nay is touching, but also the mark of good police. Namond is not beyond saving, and Carver seems to sense this, which is why it is funny that Bunny Colvin ends up taking him home for the night. Both are not yet ready to give up on these kids, on the streets, and both are also terrific police, able to solve cases and effect positive change. Carver has certainly come a long way since being Herc’s doofus sidekick (or the other way around). Of course, in the end, Nay’s mother re-educates him quickly on the rules he is supposed to follow.

Meanwhile, another “good police,” our old friend McNulty, not only scoffs at the rounding up of essentially innocent citizens to juke the stats (which ends up nearly causing a riot), but takes his time to figure out a real case. Of course this is either an obvious foreshadowing of his return to detective work or the most hurtful tease of the season.

So you have, on one side, a populace frustrated, injured, betrayed, and as a result hateful of the police, and on the other a populace served and protected. The latter doesn’t solve the many troubles of the inner city or the underclass, but it helps, which is a whole lot more than the former can claim.


For a lot of people, “stop snitchin'” is a scare tactic, one that works all too well as neighborhood residents do not cooperate with law enforcement for fear of reprisals from their own neighbors. It’s another code, though, that develops out of some inflated sense of the importance and permanence of street justice and street rules, yet serves to protect only the guilty. Randy stands to feel the sting of this most acutely, as Marlo has it circulated that he is a snitch. Yet the whole mechanism, as has been elucidated better by many at this point, functions on the assumption that police cannot help, are not wanted, and must be denied access to the community. Though this isn’t all that startling a tactic for the criminally employed, it is a startling development for inner city citizens, who in many cases may find themselves very much in need of police help.

But look at Randy’s cooperation, and Herc’s insensitive and accusatory response. Or as seen this week, Herc’s betrayal of Bubbles or Walker’s violence. It isn’t all that surprising that many are all too easily pursuaded to hop over to the dark side. The boys plans to fight back against Officer Walker indicate this shift, and maybe not one that the boys would have made, or made so young, from grudging acceptance to outright malice. Of course even a lifelong law-abider could reach a limit when carted in for drinking a beer on a stoop.

Not to make too much of the occupying force / Iraq / Afghanistan analogy, but there is a distinction between cooperation and collaboration, and while one exists in peacetime as a virtue, the other exists in war and is roundly reviled. Snitching is collaborating, and that’s something you only can do with an enemy, and sadly, there are Officer Walkers out there who make the city into even more of a warzone, where cooperation is near impossible.


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30 Comments on “Greeted as Liberators”

  1. Shoals Says:

    about colvin: at some point, i said that we’d rarely seen him interact with the criminal element, and no one disagreed with me. but then carver says “boss, you’ve always had a way with the knuckleheads.”

    and give my vindication some. when i said earlier in the season that i found naymond’s “i can’t help it, i just get evil” line really moving, everyone called me a sucker. but now it’s looking like he might be full of love after all.

  2. Shoals Says:

    ps when is anyone ever going to say anything to nay about his dad? other than bodie saying “i respect dude like hell.”

  3. Tom Hilton Says:

    Does anyone else expect Herc’s treatment of the minister (Bubbs’ revenge not only on Herc, but on the minister for not helping him) to spiral into a major shitstorm for Mayor Carcetti? White officers brutalize an apparently prominent black minister…seems to me that’s going to look pretty ugly for the new white mayor, especially if Madame President gets wind of it (it’s a ready-made club for her to beat Carcetti with).

  4. jeremy Says:

    But carcetti isn’t he mayor yet, is he? I thought he was still mayor-elect at this point. I was thinking that Carcetti could use it to come at Burrell and the council, saying they need a change in leadership.

  5. Eric Overmyer Says:

    When Carver says, You’ve always had a way with the knuckleheads, he’s making a joke — yeah, with the knuckleheads on the corner, like Hamsterdam, but also knuckleheads like me — Carver being an ex-knucklehead who ahs become a good police. And Colvin gets the joke — knuckleheads on the corner, knuckleheads under his command, knuckles in the project classroom…Colvin’s life is about reaching the knuckleheads.

  6. Shoals Says:

    my questions stands: did colvin ever reach the knuckleheads on the corners in season 3? i mean other than expand their minds with the concept of hamsterdamn. . .is there any precedent for his way with the kids in the classroom.

    and i can’t pretend it doesn’t sting to realize that i missed a joke.

  7. Shoals Says:

    question: should it sting more or less if this eric overmyer happens to be the same one who writes for the wire?

  8. lukeoneil Says:

    I hadn’t picked up on the joke, but I think it would be funny if this was indeed the person who wrote the joke (not familiar with who writes what), because it’s always funny to see someone explain their joke ex post facto.

    Regarding Naymond, it’s painful to see his charm and humanity peak through because we know that for a lot of these kids the difference between good kid and criminal is such a tenuous thing.

  9. Eric Overmyer Says:

    It should sting less. Actually, it shouldn’t sting at all — it’s a quiet, inside joke between the two of them, Carver and Colvin, an affectionate, friendly moment, Carver kidding Colvin — I just thought you might be interested in the thought behind the line, since it caught your attention in the first place.

  10. Vinay Says:

    I just want to say I really love this site. I feel like a chump for not knowing about it earlier. That’s all.

    Oh a quick thing, about Naymond: I agree with the ideas of his “humanity”, “full of love” etc., but what about the idea that he’s just a coward?

  11. lukeoneil Says:

    I think there are a lot of other nuggets of horseshit you have to buy into in order to be able to make the distinction betewen men who “stand tall” and “cowards.” I think the concept of a coward at work on the streets of the Wire is largely irrelevant to actual humanity. It’s a con set up, much like the concept of snitching, that keeps people at odds, perpetuates violence, maintains power.

    Naymond is just a teenage boy. Teenage boys aren’t supposed to be either tough or cowards. It’s too bad that these boys live in a situation where those dinstinctions even have to exist.

    That said, on the leel of the streets, yes, I suppose he could accurately be described as a coward. It’s that unwillingness to hurt someone else that I think makes him all the more human.

  12. Vikas Says:

    Vinay should thank me (his brother) for showing him the site. Which I found because of Free Darko.

    Naymond being a coward
    -I think he is one. I rewatched the first episode of the season todya. Of his crew (Naymond, Michael, Randy, Dukie) Naymond continually targets Dukie because he is the weakest and is the least capable of defending himself. How human is it to shit all over your friend who you know has a very difficult life. Michael and Randy always have to butt in to stop Naymond or keep him in check. They also do not treat Dukie that way. Also in the same episode, we see Naymond watch while two Terrace boys catch and beat on Michael after the “Piss balloon debacle”. Naymond gets away and within in minutes he’s back to his act until Michael puts him in check. As a friend, he sucks.

  13. Kevin Says:

    I have to agree with the remark that the police protect and serve a small sliver of society and brutalizes the rest.

    Just the other day my little brother was being harassed by some kid in his 6th grade class. He told the kid he was going to beat him up. So what did the principle do? They yanked him out of class and the police told him if he did confess and write down that he wanted to “kill the kid”, he was going to jail. Great protecting and serving there. You punish the person who is trying to protect themselves while you reward the perpetrator.

    I swear the Wire has gave me more insight into the workings of large organizations. In my brother’s situation, they are screwing him not because they care that he prospers or fails. They just want to further their careers by being the person that “prevented another Columbine” and puts their school on the list of crime-stoppers.

  14. Tom Says:

    Side note: Reg E. Cathey is super great.

  15. Shoals Says:

    one of my favorite shoalsiam pasttimes is to troll law and order reruns for wire actors. so far, the best ever is cathey, with an afro wig on, playing a cornell west-like rogue academic. jamie hector as a cab driver is a close second.

  16. SP Says:

    “Oh a quick thing, about Naymond: I agree with the ideas of his “humanity”, “full of love” etc., but what about the idea that he’s just a coward?”

    When you see your father locked away for the rest of his life because of the game, maybe being a “coward” and not really wanting to get into the game is a sign of intelligence.

    Also, with regards to Herc, he’s also the one that ratted out Hamsterdam. With everything he’s done this season, it’s pretty hard to top that in terms of idiocy. But I guess that’s the point of who he is. He isn’t a cop looking for any kind of solution, just following what he knows.

    With regards to snitching in the original post, I think Bunny Colvin summed it up best in season 3 when he was schooling Carver, “the neighborhoods become occupied terroritory.”

  17. Kidjock Says:

    What really makes me mad is the hypocrisy of the term snitches. It’s cool for Kevin to go snitch to Marlo to save his ass, but not cool for Randy to snitch to his teacher to save his? If we look at them both as tattletelling, why is one accepted and another looked down upon?

    My mom always told me to tell the truth, but that noone likes a tattletale. My thoughts on the subject is that it is important to tell the truth on big things, but not to go around telling on people for little, insignificant things. It’s a fine line to walk.

    As far as Namond being a coward, he is. But not for not wanting to be in the game, but for having everything given to him that he shrinks when he eventually up against life’s hurdles.

  18. Tom Hilton Says:

    Jeremy: good point, although I don’t think it’s dispositive–Carcetti has obviously been trying to influence the PD as Mayor-elect, and if it comes out that he tried to go around (black) Burrell to put (white) Rawls in de facto charge…and white cops brutalize a prominent black minister…well, correlation can be made to look a lot like causation.

    On the other hand, it could work the other way: it could be the pretext for forcing Burrell out. I don’t know.

    Two things I do know, based on how The Wire operates: it will have spiraling consequences far beyond what Herc could possibly foresee; and those consequences will include a bureaucratic scramble to place the blame on somebody else.

    (By the way, I love the recurring role of Police Property in the show–Dozerman’s gun in Season 3, the surveillance van in Season 2, and now Herc’s surveillance camera driving one of the plot threads in Season 4.)

  19. Shoals Says:

    sp, you’re bringing something that i think we’ve tended to ignore about naymond: despite his not being as fucked by circumstance as michael, dukie, or randy, he’s still go a lot of strikes against him. father gone for life. mother who only relates to him through material goods. born into the game. learned to think that having some luxury is a priority that should be had at any costs. superficially, he may have it easier than his friends, but his is a textbook case of another kind.

    d’angelo might’ve given us some unreasonable expectations about how one could/should cope with this situation. and remember, he was a good 3-4 years older than nay, and in a far less precarious position.

  20. the ISD camera Says:

    Bodie has problems. Marlo has recently killed Lex and Lil Kevin. There’d be no one at Bodie’s back on that corner, if Poot hadn’t gotten out of prison. And Slim Charles, who withdrew his protection from Bodie some time ago, rolls by to seek assurances that Bodie doesn’t have a “problem” with Marlo. No, no problem!

    Bodie and Poot are killers; we know who they killed. Is Bodie now forced to step it up?

  21. the ISD camera Says:

    Eric Overmyer, cool!

    I’ve got a collection of early plays.

  22. lukeoneil Says:

    Slim Charles wanted Bodie to do something of course. Prop Joe has never been fully comfortable with Marlo, which is why he wanted to bring him in close. If Bodie goes off and get’s lucky, hitting Marlo, then Prop Joe and Slim stand to gain. If he gets got himseld, they lose nothing.

  23. SP Says:

    Shoals, I definitely agree with everything you said there. And about comparisons between Namond and D’Angelo, it’s important to note that D’Angelo was born into the reigning drug organization or at least came of age when they were in power. When Namond was ready to enter the game, he didn’t have that backup. He was coming into a game that is more fierce than ever, where he is going up against the “crack babies’ babies.” People who have never had anything so they have nothing to lose, unlike Namond who in some ways has had a life most similar to the average suburban kid, at least in terms of material possessions. The situation is somewhat similar between Namond and D’Angelo, but it takes less respect for one’s life to enter the game in Namond’s position. When Namond said that he expects to be dead in 10 years, he absolutely meant it. Can you imagine if you were a 13 year old with that perspective, feeling like you’re crawling into your own grave?

    With regard to snitching in general, I’d also like to note that there was an accepted snitching in season 3 (I’ve just been burning through it in a couple days to satisfy my Wire urges because I only watched each episode of the previous seasons once earlier this summer while I’ve been watching every season 4 episode about 5 times) Anyway, when that kid shot some other kid in Hamsterdam, they made him go to the police. The reason for this is because the police were actually working with the community. That’s the problem when you base policing on a lie, you’re not working with the community. If someone snitches to put a murderer in jail, nothing will change in the community. The drug dealers are still going to be the most powerful people in the community and the cops will still end up just putting community members arbitrarily in jail because they’re selling on the wrong corner at the wrong time. If one drug dealer goes down, another will just come up and satisfy the market. The disincentive to snitch is far greater than the incentive.

  24. Shoals Says:

    it is a little embarassing that i still misspell “namond” on the regular

  25. Gavrilo Says:

    Bodymore note–I looked up Faidley’s in Zagat and, as Omar attests, they have the best crabcakes known to man. I guess we should all check it out when we’re in town.

  26. Pooh Says:

    one of my favorite shoalsiam pasttimes is to troll law and order reruns for wire actors. so far, the best ever is cathey, with an afro wig on, playing a cornell west-like rogue academic. jamie hector as a cab driver is a close second.

    Lance Reddick as an a commando from some East African country killing folks for blood diamonds?

  27. Shoals Says:

    what’s strange is that jamie hector’s character was african, too. wendell pierce has several times been a smooth-talking lawyer

  28. Marc Says:

    Hey, Shoals: didja catch L&O:Criminal Intent last week? Michael K. Williams was a brutal pimp, and while jailed gets to pull a bail-switch with the kid who plays Naymond!

  29. Gavrilo Says:

    In case the Wire-Oz nexus hasn’t been fully explored here, it includes Daniels, Bodie, Herc, Carver, Rawls, and Cheese. (See also: Lost-Oz nexus). Michael K. Williams recently did some thankless work on ABC’s Six Degrees as your basic bad guy. His most egregious role, however, has to be as the police (!) in R. Kelly’s execrable Trapped In The Closet videos.

  30. matt bird Says:

    There was a character with the last name Overmeyer on tonight’s episode of this show on Fox called “Bones”.

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