“Thank you Commissioner Ed Davis! You saw @bostonpolice, and our city, through its greatest challenge with courage, grace & class! #Godspeed!”
@DonnieWahlberg tweeting on September 23, reacting to the coming resignation of BPD Commish Ed Davis
There was a time before his seemingly mature cop-loving phase when Donnie Wahlberg was a model young celebrity tough guy—although not such a believable one. Back then, in the late ’80s, Saturday Night Live wit Dennis Miller suitably ripped the fledgling boy band badass: “The saddest part of the New Kid on the Block phenomenon,” Miller joked, “is the brooding New Kid on the Block … hunched over with that shitty nanny-goat facial hair …. the baseball hat on sideways. He’s always glaring at you with that Rebel Without a Clue look … always whipping up on that Harley just to let you know that he’s a motorcycle guy in a moped band.”
Times change. Miller has since ostensibly left comedy to work as a fluffer on Fox News, and hard rock Donnie has also weathered a career roller coaster, first getting overshadowed by his criminally corny underwear rapper sibling Mark, only to rebound as an enduring Wahlberg personality who’s gone to great lengths to preserve the family’s name around Boston—a tough feat to accomplish all the way from Hollywood. But while Donnie’s been estranged from the block for longer than J-Lo, he’s somehow managed to salvage a shred of local cred by brown-nosing the biggest gang in town.
For a guy who built his reputation posing as the roughneck New Kid, it seems insane that Donnie would suck up to the Boston Police Department, or to any cops for that matter.
Nevertheless, in the past few years he’s become to law enforcement what his fellow Masshole Denis Leary is to firefighters—an intense groupie on par with the bathroom stall hose junkie in The Wrestler. On the hit CBS drama Blue Bloods, which had its fourth season premiere last Friday, Wahlberg plays a rogue and physical, but ultimately altruistic detective. You know, the kind that doesn’t really exist. Unlike Law & Order: SVU, which features renowned cop-hater Ice-T and others playing complicated characters who fuck up regularly, on Blue Bloods, the NYPD reigns righteous, as is only feasible in fiction.
For Wahlberg, though, it’s not enough to glorify one department that’s notorious for wholesale brutality and its unconstitutional stop-and-frisk program. On Boston’s Finest, the quasi-reality show that he produces for TNT, Donnie’s taken to promoting fraudulent imagery of his hometown’s fuzz. While it’s not a horrible idea to tail Hub cops around with cameras, TNT hasn’t managed to catch demonstrable corruption along the lines of police beating unarmed black teens. Rather, the show has been praised for its community service in humanizing officers, as if most Bostonians don’t already consider cops to be pillars of society.
There was never any question the department would appreciate the show. Wahlberg lubricated the brass before their first season earlier this year; back in February, the official BPD account tweeted, “Donnie Wahlberg to BPD Commissioner Ed Davis: ‘Sir, you’re gonna love Boston’s Finest.’” The proof was in the subsequent pandering—episodes about everything from gang unit triumphs, to cops ridding the city of that wretched marijuana, to the generally tough but ordinary family lives that many seem to enjoy. Not surprisingly, the show features no illegal searches, or incidents where people are harassed by cops but wind up being innocent.
In Wahlberg’s world—for which he provides the voiceover—the BPD is infallible.
All of which makes the actor and producer’s tweet from last week—thanking outgoing Commissioner Davis for his “courage, grace, and class”—that much more irresponsible. As reported in the Dig and in outlets ranging from the New York Times to NBC, Davis may have been superficially hailed as a champion of public trust after the Boston Marathon bombings, but in practice, he’s been a less-than-lackluster public servant. Under his watch, the department’s homicide clearance rate has been abysmal. On top of that, he’s failed to earn respect from the patrolmen’s union, resided over the surveillance of peace activists, and run afoul of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, which last month took a vote of “no confidence” in Davis.
Thankfully, as Boston moves to elect its next mayor, the commissioner’s announced that he is stepping down.
As Davis seeks potential opportunities at Harvard and elsewhere, the city may finally get a law enforcement leader who is closer to the benevolent commish on Blue Bloods played by a mustachioed Tom Selleck. As for Wahlberg—he returns with another season of Boston’s Finest on November 26th. We’ll have a newly elected mayor by then, and, hopefully, a more functional BPD. Until the latter comes true, though, Wahlberg’s Boston’s Finest fantasy is less representative of what happens on the hardscrabble blocks of Boston than a New Kids album. The difference, of course, is that no one ever took the younger, brooding Donnie seriously.