The Wire
The Wire

William Rawls is the superintendent of the Maryland State Police and a former member of the Baltimore Police Department.



Rawls is a married man with children and a closeted homosexual.

Season 1

In 2002, Rawls was a major and commander of the Homicide Unit. He was enraged when Detective McNulty circumvented chain of command by discussing the Barksdale Organization with Judge Phelan. Rawls instructed McNulty to type up the Homicide Unit briefing on Avon Barksdale by the following morning. After Burrell requested manpower for the Barksdale detail, Rawls sent the insubordinate McNulty and the incompetent Santangelo. ("The Target")

After Phelan contacted Deputy Commissioner of Operations Burrell regarding the murder of State's witness William Gant, Rawls met with Burrell], Narcotics Unit Commander Foerster, and Narcotics Shift Lieutenant Daniels. Rawls believed that Gant's murder was unrelated to his testimony and offered to discipline McNulty for once again circumventing chain of command. Burrell reminded Rawls that McNulty's removal was not an option as it would provoke Phelan into contacting the press. After The Baltimore Sun reported that Gant was a State's witness, an infuriated Rawls instructed Landsman to remove McNulty's personal effects from the Homicide Unit office. ("The Detail")

During a meeting with Santangelo, his mole in the Barksdale detail, Rawls reminded Santangelo that he must find incriminating information on McNulty. ("The Buys")

Sergeant Landsman interceded with Rawls on McNulty's behalf. Landsman acknowledged that although McNulty is narcissistic, he is an invaluable detective. Somewhat appeased, Rawls offered Landsman a deal: if McNulty concluded the Barksdale investigation in two weeks, he would be allowed to return to Homicide Unit. ("Old Cases")

McNulty later met with Rawls and Landsman. Rawls informed McNulty that if he concluded the investigation within one week, he would be permitted to return to Homicide. Rawls also instructed McNulty to procure an arrest warrant for D'Angelo Barksdale for the murder of Deirdre Kresson, after Moreland and McNulty's reexamination of the crime scene. Daniels later implored Rawls to delay the indictment to ensure the investigation is not compromised. Rawls refused but was later overruled by Deputy Commissioner Burrell. His ire further roused, Rawls instructed Santangelo to apprise him of any of McNulty potential misdeeds. ("The Wire")

Rawls gave Santangelo an ultimatum: to remain in Homicide Unit, he must either clear one of his unsolved cases by day's end or inform on McNulty. After Omar provided information on the murder of Denise Redding, Santangelo was able to clear an unsolved case, courtesy of Detectives Moreland and McNulty. ("One Arrest")

Following the shooting of Detective Greggs in a buy-and-bust operation awry, Rawls instructed all non-essential personnel, including Greggs's friends in the detail, to leave the crime scene. Rawls also reoriented the deliberately turned street sign. DEA agents questioned Rawls about the money lost to Savino Bratton in the failed operation, but he rebuked them profanely. He then assured a distraught McNulty that, despite his contempt for McNulty he was not responsible for Greggs's shooting. ("The Hunt")

Rawls met with McNulty to congratulate him for the success of the Barksdale investigation. He revealed that the Deputy US Attorney contacted Burrell to complain about McNulty's arrogance during a meeting to discuss taking the Barksdale investigation to federal court. Despite claiming that he wanted McNulty to enjoy his new posting, he transferred McNulty to the Marine Unit. Rawls transferred Lester Freamon to Homicide Unit to replace McNulty and reassigned Santangelo to the Western District as a patrol officer. ("Sentencing")

Season 2

By 2003, Rawls was promoted to the rank of colonel and commander of CID. His promotion was attributed to the success of the Barksdale detail but he continued to resent McNulty nonetheless. 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 Freamon and Moreland because he believed they were the best investigators in his squad. He demanded personal reports from his detectives.

When Daniels's 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 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 CID. Daniels' detail solved all fourteen murder cases at the close of the season, which proved to be a boon for Rawls.

Season 3

Rawls was promoted to Deputy Commissioner of Operations after Ervin Burrell was appointed to a full five-year term as Police Commissioner in 2003. Along with Burrell and IID Commander Reed, Rawls presided over the weekly ComStat meetings. Rawls was completely ruthless in his pursuit of complete accountability and awareness from his subordinates. Failure to meet his standards resulted in reassignment. While Rawls berated several shift commanders over the season, Rawls commended Lieutenant Daniels on numerous occasions as the type of commander he saw as both a dedicated and good police officer. 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, implying that he is off duty, but nothing further has been made of this.

Season 4

Rawls was Ervin Burrell's first port of call when subpoenas issued by the major crimes unit upset Senator Davis and Mayor Royce. Rawls suggested that Lester Freamon was the most likely source of the problem and recommended that the unit get proper supervision.[1] Rawls assigned a lieutenant loyal to him named Charles Marimow 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 Cedric Daniels, now a Major.

Rawls showed great political acumen when Burrell made the mistake of assigning Greggs the politically significant Braddock murder case. Braddock was a state's witness and Royce feared that solving the crime would harm his chances of re-election if the motivation for the killing was Braddock's witness status. Burrell assigned Greggs to slow the investigation down on the Mayor's behalf, believing she would be inept as a homicide rookie. Rawls 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 intervene as he is a loyal subordinate who always follows orders. Hoping to replace Burrell, Royce told Rawls that if he fixed this situation, Royce would not forget what he had done. Rawls had veteran homicide detective Ed Norris reassigned to the case and called a press conference claiming that Norris and Greggs had been working together all along.

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 Watkins. Rawls fed this information to Carcetti so that he could recruit Watkins' support and asked Carcetti to remember him if he was elected. Rawls then ensures the election goes smoothly for both parties by interfering with the Braddock case further. Rawls reassigns Norris and Greggs who 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 in command positions. Rawls claims that if it were up to him, he would focus on high end drug enforcement. Carcetti later learns that Daniels does not believe Rawls' claims.

Previously a loyal subordinate, Rawls political challenges led to 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 felt 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 population and Carcetti's own caucasian race. Rawls helped Carcetti to beat Royce in the election with the Watkins information when Royce was more likely to have named Rawls Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department.

Season 5

Rawls continues to serve as Deputy Commissioner for Operations and begins to work amiably with Commissioner Burrell again having accepted his position. Mayor 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. ("More with Less")



Season 1
"The Target" "The Detail" "The Buys" "Old Cases" "The Pager"
"The Wire" "One Arrest" "Lessons" "Game Day" "The Cost"
"The Hunt" "Cleaning Up" "Sentencing"
Season 2
"Ebb Tide" "Collateral Damage" "Hot Shots" "Hard Cases" "Undertow"
"All Prologue" "Backwash" "Duck and Cover" "Stray Rounds" "Storm Warnings"
"Bad Dreams" "Port in a Storm"
Season 3
"Time after Time" "All Due Respect" "Dead Soldiers" "Amsterdam" "Straight and True"
"Homecoming" "Back Burners" "Moral Midgetry" "Slapstick" "Reformation"
"Middle Ground" "Mission Accomplished"
Season 4
"Boys of Summer" "Soft Eyes" "Home Rooms" "Refugees" "Alliances"
"Margin of Error" "Unto Others" "Corner Boys" "Know Your Place" "Misgivings"
"A New Day" "That's Got His Own" "Final Grades"
Season 5
"More with Less" "Unconfirmed Reports" "Not for Attribution" "Transitions" "React Quotes"
"The Dickensian Aspect" "Took" "Clarifications" "Late Editions" "-30-"


  • Rawls's distinctive technique for intimidating others is based upon former BPD CID commander Joe Cooke. Simon remarked that Rawls's attitude to both the city's homicide rate and the Homicide Unit's clearance rate is a product of the professional pressure he is placed under.[2]


  1. Character profile - Deputy Commissioner William Rawls. HBO (2004). Retrieved on 2006-07-22.
  2. David Simon. (2005). 'The Wire "The Target" commentary track [DVD]. HBO.