CBS’s hit police procedural drama Blue Bloods hit it out of the park once again with another powerful and moving portrayal of what our heroes in blue go through on and off the job. Friday’s episode, “Life During Wartime,” depicted the anguish officers endure when they're forced to use their weapon under tragic circumstances, as well as the lifelong emotional toll it takes on them.
The episode also pointed out how crime is “spiking” in New York City where the show takes place, that attrition is at a record high, and that it’s “a tough time for cops out there" - all of which are true in real life. It’s not at all surprising that crime would spike as good cops resign or retire in record numbers in the city.
Friday’s episode featured a cop by the name of Officer Lester (Cameron Knight) who gets called into Police Commissioner Frank Reagan’s (Tom Selleck) office because the city’s liberal mayor wants to re-open a shooting death case that Lester was already declared innocent in:
Abigail: Officer Lester.
Frank: Have a seat. Do you know why you're here?
Lester: No, sir.
Frank: 26 months ago, you were cleared in the shooting death of Louis Lamar.
Sid: By a Queen’s jury and the NYPD.
Lester: I know that.
Frank: Well, the mayor has requested that the department re-open the case.
Lester: I don't understand.
Sid: That makes two of us.
Lester: Is there some kind of new evidence?
Frank: No, nothing they've shared with us.
Lester: Then how is this fair?
Frank: I didn't say it was.
Sid: Lamar's family has been pressuring City Hall to re-examine the shooting.
Lester: I was innocent then, and I'm innocent now.
Frank: What happened that night, from your perspective only?
Lester: Lamar's car fit the description of a vehicle used in a gunpoint robbery. I pulled him over, and I ordered him to keep his hands on the wheel. Instead, he reaches into his jacket, quick-like.
Sid: No way you could know he was going for his cell phone.
Lester: Or that he had nothing to do with that robbery. I hate what happened, and it eats me alive. But if it happened again tomorrow, I'd do the exact same thing. I'd have to.
Frank: So, you're at peace with your actions?
Lester: I'm very far from at peace and probably always will be. But I did my duty, and I'm doing my best to live with the fallout.
Frank: Thanks for coming in. We'll be in touch. This thing's going to beat him up pretty good. Keep an eye on him.
Frank later meets with his team to discuss the case further, leading his Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Garrett Moore (Gregory Jbara) to point out that times have changed, so it doesn’t matter if a minority victim is shot by a minority cop. These days, “a cop’s not black or brown or white,” he says. “They’re just blue.”
As always, Frank responds with his usual wit and wisdom to defend his good officer:
Abigail: Pulled the case folder and trial transcript. Lester was deemed justified in using deadly physical force. It was a good shoot.
Sid: Which is exactly why our shooting team cleared him and a jury acquitted him.
Frank: And why I signed off on it.
Abigail: So, it was a tragedy, not a crime. And nothing has changed about that.
Garrett: Except the times.
Sid: Meaning what?
Garrett: Come on, really? Meaning we have a minority victim.
Frank: And a minority cop.
Garrett: A distinction without a difference these days. A cop's not black or brown or white. They're just blue.
Frank: What's that off, a bumper sticker?
Frank: Sounds like it. As thin as the decal it's printed on.
Garrett: It's conventional wisdom out there.
Frank: Yeah, well, we're not out there, Garrett. We're in here. And any wisdom is built on actual facts. A record number of people left the department this year. Most in NYPD history. That's a fact. So, my wisdom here is, I can't afford to lose another good cop. And Lester is, in fact, a good cop who was completely cleared on a tragic incident.
Sid: Boss, I never thought I'd say this, but you sound a little like me. Except way more eloquent.
Garrett: So, you're saying no to the mayor?
Frank: I'm saying no to the conventional wisdom that it is somehow justice to hound a person for as long as you need to until you get the thing you want.
Garrett: I can maybe spin that into, "We're working on it."
Frank: Yeah, but that's gonna sound like we're stonewalling, right?
Garrett: Let me work my magic.
Abigail: But they're gonna go, "Cops protecting cops again, same old story."
Sid: Well, if we don't, who will? One PP starts going after cleared cops, the rank and file are gonna go nuts, and there's gonna be another stampede for the exits.
Frank: Yeah, and get that in there, too.
Frank: I have no idea. But we're counting on you.
And this is why Frank is such a beloved character! He speaks the truth bravely and confidently at a time when this country desperately needs to hear it.
Officer Lester later decides to visit the family of the man he shot and killed, a scene which powerfully depicts the overwhelming emotions both the families of victims in such tragedies feel, as well as the officers involved:
Lester: Mrs. Lamar, I'm Robert Lester.
Mrs. Lamar: We know who you are.
Lester: I don't mean to bother you, and I know you must hate me.
Mr. Lamar: You killed our son.
Lester: I want you to know, I think about Louis every day. I killed a man I never met, and that kills me.
Mrs. Lamar: You want to tell us about your pain? You don't know the meaning of the word.
Sid: Robert? Come on. Let's go.
Mr. Lamar: Make sure he keeps his hands where you can see them.
Lester: What are you doing here?
Sid: They got a doorbell camera. Called it in the moment you showed up.
Lester: I just want to tell 'em I'm sorry.
Sid: Robert, it’s not the time or the place.
After the weekly Reagan family dinner, Frank has a talk with his father and sons about Lester’s case, all of whom share their thoughts from their experience as officers:
Frank: Officer Lester was cleared by a jury of his peers.
Henry: And the PC. And nobody gives a damn.
Frank: I could refuse to review the case.
Henry: And go to war with the mayor?
Frank: Pop, it's my job to stand with my officer.
Henry: And you have 35,000 others to worry about.
Danny: Private conversation?
Frank: Cops only.
Danny: You got two right here.
Jamie: This is about the Lester case?
Frank: Word's out, I see.
Danny: Yeah, every house in the city is talking about it.
Jamie: Make up your mind?
Frank: Not hardly.
Jamie: If Lester skates, public will call it a cover-up.
Danny: Yeah, but if he doesn't, then every cop who's ever faced an excessive force complaint suddenly has a new target on their back. Me included.
Henry: You stay in this job long enough, someone's gonna point a finger.
Frank: Well, sometimes that's justified, but not in this case.
Jamie: Said another cop.
Danny: We're never gonna be perfect out there.
Jamie: Lamar's not a bad guy. All he did was reach for his phone and he died for it.
Henry: He died because he didn't obey an officer's explicit instruction.
Danny: Which means you can't pin it on Lester.
Jamie: I'm not placing any blame.
Frank: Well, unfortunately, the mayor's trying to make that my job.
Henry: So, what are you gonna do about it?
Frank: Lester took it out of my hand.
Danny: What'd he do? Turn in his papers?
Frank: Yup. Friday, end of tour.
Jamie: Well, damn. So, he's a casualty, too.
Frank: Well, not quite. I handed them right back. And pointed out that a cop under active investigation can't resign.
Danny: Wait, that's in the book?
Frank: It is.
Danny: Well played.
Jamie: So, you threw the book at him. Why not just let him go in peace?
Frank: Because I can't fight this thing for all of us without that one particular officer right by my side.
In the end, Lester’s case was closely scrutinized by two different agencies, and he was cleared again. Frank warns him, “Full disclosure, our findings would not preclude a review by the CCRB, a potential civil suit from the family, or even some kind of federal civil rights violation. But I will stand with you, representing the 35,000 cops who will be standing by you, come hell or high water.”
Frank offers him the chance to resign if he chooses, or to “stand by me and stand up for your department” at a press conference announcing the results of the second investigation.
Encouraged by Frank’s unwavering and bold support, Lester answers, “Let’s do this,” to which Frank replies, “Thank you, Officer.”
Thank you, indeed! The episode was such a well-deserved “thank you” to all the good officers out there who risk their lives every day under such difficult and thankless circumstances. Bravo, Blue Bloods! We salute you!