His name may have been Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick), but he preferred Lieutenant, a tough cop who devoted himself to quality police work and effective arrests in his quest to have a real, positive impact on the streets of Baltimore throughout five seasons on HBO’s The Wire. Despite his penchant for occasionally rocking the boat by going above someone’s head, Daniels moved quickly through the ranks, eventually resigning only after making it all the way up to Commissioner by the end of the series’ run, which you can catch relive in its entirety anytime on HBO Now. In short, Daniels is a model for effectiveness and diligence. But if you saw the show, you also know that he’s the one character from The Wire — despite all the killers and gun toting bad guys — whose wisdom you should look to when you need to be all business and when you need to let people know that you aren’t screwing around. Because if there’s a read you get off of Daniels and his icy cold stare, it’s that he is a serious man who is exasperated by people who play games.
“The money is part of my case.”
This Should Inspire You When: You need to take a no bullsh*t approach to talking to your boss.
Not phased by Commissioner Burrell’s intimidation tactics, Daniels resists the idea of bringing in Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris) prematurely, wanting to hold out for a more substantial arrest that will put him away long term. When Burrell pushes back about why a Lieutenant interested solely in a drug arrest would spend so much time with Clay Davis’ finances (an obvious sore spot for him), Daniels simply tells it like it is.
This Should Inspire You When: It’s time to let a slacker co-worker know what’s up.
Daniels’ pushback against Burrell ends up costing him, as he’s moved to the evidence room after the Barksdale case is brought in. Despite working out of a cage in a dimly lit basement that’s a blatant attempt to demoralize him, Daniels remains serious about his police work, and when Bunk (Wendell Pierce) comes in looking for a crucial piece of evidence that’s been incorrectly marked, he’s willing to tear the place up to get it. When his co-worker observes that the evidence could be anywhere, Daniels tells him he’s right. When he follows up realizing that this was a task that could take all night, Daniels’ response says a whole lot more than the two words that come out of his mouth.
“You show loyalty, they learn loyalty. You show them it’s about the work, it’ll be about the work. You show them it’s about some other kind of game, then that’s the game they’ll play.”
This Should Inspire You When: You’re training someone or waxing philosophic about your job.
As Carver (Seth Gilliam) gets a promoted to Sergeant in the Eastern District, Daniels imparts on him some of his sage-like advice, even talking about his own time spent there, hinting at a checkered past that eventually comes back to haunt him. Despite that, Daniels’ message to him is simple — it’s easy to fall into The Game, but he’ll be leading by example now, and as Carver has his first real chance to make a difference, Daniels wants to help to make sure he does it right.
“Detective McNulty, when the cuffs go on Stringer Bell, you need to find a new home… you’re done in this unit.”
This Should Inspire You When: You need to let someone know that you know they messed up, but that you’re putting their beatdown on layaway.
The chain of command is very important to Daniels, and when he finds out that Detective McNulty (Dominic West) went over his head in the case against Stringer Bell (Idris Elba), he makes it clear that he wants McNulty out of his unit… eventually. Because if there is one thing that Daniels respects more than the chain of command, it’s the work.
“Lester Freamon is not in the business of selling woof tickets. I, for one, wouldn’t bet against him.”
This Should Inspire You When: You need to backup your guy.
Being all business, Daniels needs people in his unit he can depend on. Here is a perfect example of how far his opinion of Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters) has come over the years. A detective he first referred to as a “cuddly house cat” is now someone Daniels wouldn’t bet against, including cracking the case of where the Stanfield crew had been hiding their dead bodies.
“I’ll swallow a lie when I have to. I’ve swallowed a few big ones, lately, but the stat game? That lie? That’s what ruined this department. Shining up sh*t and calling it gold so Majors become Colonels and Mayors become Governors, pretending to do police work while one f*cking generation trains the next how not to do the job.”
This Should Inspire You When: You’ve had enough and you’re not interested in playing the game anymore.
Once Daniels is made Commissioner, he’s asked by the office of Mayor Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) to do exactly what he’d promised not to do back when he was campaigning — juke the stats. To make matters worse, it’s made clear that they’ll be using dirt on him from his days in the Eastern District as blackmail if he fails to comply. As a result, Daniels gives a rant of epic proportions that summarizes his outlook on the failed job the police do in Baltimore, in many ways summarizing a lot of what The Wire set out to say. And as someone who’s given a couple ultimatums over the years, this situation pushes him right over that edge, forcing him to see himself as just another cog in a failed system before resigning.
“To be continued.”
This Should Inspire You When: You want to send a cold streak through the spine of someone who you know is intimidated by you.
After McNulty’s serial killer scam is discovered, he shares a thoroughly uncomfortable elevator ride with Daniels. The men have such a complicated professional history forged on respect for each other’s abilities and their individual determination, but for Daniels to say anything more or act out in anger would have ruined an otherwise perfect scene. It wasn’t the time to punish McNulty (even though that time never really came), it was the time to make him piss his pants a little. A small victory, but one all the same.