Ervin Burrell
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Ervin Burrell

The Wire

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About Him

Living… in a state of constant fear for his job security. Nearly all of Burrell’s actions as commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department are dictated by his desire to get his contract renewed for another term. This usually involves appeasing his boss, Mayor Clarence Royce.

Profession… police commissioner. Burrell rarely takes the long view when it comes to reducing the crime rate. He seems to prefer making high numbers of relatively petty arrests that make the “stats” looks good cosmetically to targeting the systemic causes of crime. This method is easier but predictably ineffective, and he and the politicians of Baltimore are left to sit around pointing the finger at one another. Fortunately Burrell is skilled in the art of damage of control, as he often applies political spin to media and political criticisms.

Interests… Burrell participated in glee club during his formative years at Baltimore’s Dunbar High School. Whether or not he still sings, no one knows, but he’ll hum quite a tune when off the record to a friendly reporter to get his version of the facts out there.

Relationship Status... married with children to his wife Arlene. We don’t hear much about them, as Burrell compartmentalizes work and family, perhaps to shield his family from the soul-crushing nature of navigating the politics of policework. 

Challenge… holding onto his job. Burrell has no leverage in his relationship with the easily agitated Mayor Royce. He must accept Royce’s prescriptions for policy and shield him from media criticism. Burrell tells his second-in-command William Rawls that when his time as commissioner comes, he can expect the same trouble: “You might think it'll be different when you sit here... but it won't.”

Personality… tough, uncompromising and ambitious. Like his deputy commissioner, Rawls, Burrell is a firm leader who presides over the police force with a mighty fist. Unlike Rawls, he has no sense of humor. He never smiles. Burrell’s desire to hold onto his job as commissioner is a bit puzzling given his apparent misery in that position. He will surely be much happier in retirement, lounging after a round of golf with mojito in hand. 

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