Blue Bloods: the Code of Silence and Loyalty in Police Departments

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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In this episode of Blue Bloods, a big question that many of the characters have to answer is, “How far are you willing to go?” In the case of Jamie Reagan, it’s about how far he’s willing to go to stand up for Officer Cara Walsh. He has been ostracized from the police force after testifying against her partner, who killed a suspect after using an illegal chokehold. After partnering with Walsh, the two are left to fend for themselves in an armed robbery when their immediate backup fails to respond.

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This situation shows Jamie just how far others are willing to go to prove that Walsh is not worthy to be an officer. For Frank Reagan, it’s about how far he’s willing to go to protect an old friend, who may have been drunk on the job when he accidentally shot his partner in the leg. Finally, for Danny and Erin Reagan, they must decide how far they are willing to go when a father retaliates against the man who killed his daughter, after an accidental shooting eight years earlier left her with a terminal injury.

Several examples can be garnered from this episode, but perhaps the most prominent and emotion-evoking is the dilemma of Officer Cara Walsh. When Walsh testified against her partner, she broke an unwritten code of silence that exists among police officers. This code of silence can be a test of loyalty among officers when they come under fire, with many choosing to uphold it, even when it involves those they normally dislike. In The Wire, we see this code of silence take effect when Prez, Herc, and Carver start a small riot in the Towers after brutally assaulting some of its residents. Lieutenant Daniels approaches them after the incident and tells them to get their stories straight, even going so far as to tell them exactly what they should say to internal affairs. What many of the officers who have turned against Walsh do not know is that she was influenced by Commissioner Reagan to testify, who fired her partner even after the grand jury found him “not guilty.” Instead, they choose to exact their own revenge against Walsh for breaking this code of silence and showing her disloyalty.

When Jamie and Walsh are under fire during an armed robbery and their backup purposely fails to show up, we see just how far others are willing to go to punish Walsh for her “crime.” In fact, their revenge against Walsh only stops when Jamie physically restrains Officer Reynolds and threatens to have him fired from his position. While doing so, he asks Reynolds, “You think Cara Walsh hung him out to dry? Well, she didn’t. So, you failed to respond.” Although not said outright, Jamie heavily implies to Reynolds that he and his partner left Jamie and Walsh to fend for themselves during the armed robbery, thereby breaking their loyalty to fellow officers. After this incident, it seems that Walsh is given a second chance by the rest of the force, with the episode closing out as Reynolds and his friends buy her, Eddie, and Jamie a pitcher of beer.

The second example of second chances shown in this episode is a prime example of “noble cause corruption” as described by Jonathan Cooper & Jonathan Bolen. Throughout the episode, Detective Danny Reagan tries to convince his sister, Erin, to reopen a case against reformed gang member Damon Williams. Eight years earlier, Damon had accidentally shot a 15-year-old girl, Isabelle Greene, and when she died from her wounds, her father begged Danny to reopen a case against Damon. Later, when Mr. Greene shoots Damon because Danny tells him there would be no trial, we see Cooper & Bolen’s theory of noble cause corruption start to form. According to them, this corruption “happens when police officers care too much”, which is a good description of Danny’s behavior throughout the series. He brings Erin to the crime scene, shows her that Mr. Greene is the suspect and tells her, “His daughter’s dead and he’s getting locked up. Hope you can live with yourself.”

When Erin visits Damon in the hospital, she tells him that Mr. Greene is the suspect, then gives him a long speech about the idea of second chances, including himself. When she asks him if he knows who shot him, he lies, despite knowing that it was Greene. While we might feel sympathy for Greene when he loses his daughter and perhaps even understand his desire to get revenge on Damon, that does not make his actions legal. In fact, when Erin gives Damon her speech on second chances and then very pointedly ends with asking if he saw who shot him, she is contradicting her office’s order and committing noble cause corruption. When Frank learns that his old friend Chris Scanlon wasn’t given a breathalyzer test after accidentally shooting his partner, he immediately suspects that something is not right. However, his friend is only four months away from retirement, leading Frank to question whether he should honor his loyalties and let things slide or dig deeper into the situation. Despite being the one who pressured Walsh to testify against her partner, Frank faces challenges when confronted with a similar predicament.

In the end, he gives his old friend a second chance to tell the truth, resulting in Scanlon turning in his badge and “retiring with honor” as he had always desired. This isn’t the first time Frank is faced with a scenario where old loyalties are tested. In season one, while investigating the Blue Templar’s involvement in his son’s death, Frank discovers that one of his officers, Jerry, signed off on a cache of guns, stating they were destroyed, and then gave them to the members of the Blue Templar. The agreement he reaches with Jerry involves Jerry turning in his shield, completely disassociating himself from the NYPD and never speaking of the incident again. This shows once again how pervasive the code of silence and loyalty within police departments can be. These two incidents also show how police departments prefer to handle their issues internally and silently, to keep the public from finding out.

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Blue Bloods: the code of silence and loyalty in police departments. (2022, Nov 17). Retrieved from