Watch “Blue Bloods”

Blue Bloods

I owe Tom Selleck an apology. The long-time genial hunk, famous as “Magnum, P.I.” and notable in show business lore for missing the career opportunity of a lifetime when contractual obligations forced him to turn down the role of Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” has guided his CBS police series “Blue Bloods” to five seasons, exploring tough ethics dilemmas in virtually every episode, and usually doing it very well. For some reason, I’ve only cited the show a few times, once critically, and it deserves better. Netflix started streaming the show, and my wife has been watching about three a day. I really hadn’t been paying sufficient attention, or respect. It’s a wonderful ethics show, the best since “Star Trek, the Next Generation’s” hay day, and one of the very best ethics TV shows of all time.

Selleck plays fictional New York City police chief Frank Reagan. The show could be called “The Conflicts of Interest Family, ” because law enforcement is the family business, and Selleck’s large brood includes two sons, one a patrolman and the other a detective, under his command, and a daughter who is an assistant district attorney. Reagan delicately balances the jobs a father, mediator and boss, all while being given back-seat advice from his father, who is retired but was also a NYC police chief.

I have found myself thinking about how Selleck’s character would react to the Ferguson ethics train wreck. Police shootings have been frequent topics of episodes, as have political efforts to demonize police. Frank was a fan of New York’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, and accusations of profiling do not reduce him to a mass of apologetic jelly. Meanwhile, he has forged a working relationship or trust with the City’s black mayor, whose loyalties to the black community, and more than a few dubious civil rights headline-seekers.

Selleck is a credentialed, if low-key, Hollywood conservative, and his show’s demographics are just short of Social Security territory.  It’s too bad: teachers should assign the show and discuss the episodes in class. The episode I wrote about earlier was an entire ethics course on its own, but hardly unique in the series: What should an undercover cop do when a child is imperiled in a burning building, and he is the only one who can get to the kid in time? If his photo is taken by the media that arrive on the scene, not only is his cover blown, but his life and family may be in danger. He hands off the child to his partner, who is the on photographed and becomes a hero. The city is clamoring for the Chief to decorate him as a hero. Naturally, the real rescuer is a Reagan.  Should the partner be willing to live a lie? Should the Chief deceive the public and preside over a fake ceremony to preserve an undercover operation that might bust the mob?  This was a memorable “Bluebloods” episode. but many reach this level of ethics complexity, and the duds are far and few between. This season the show has explored many ethics problems that have been debated in the news, such as campus rape, police body cameras, the “blue line,” news media bias, and others.

I apologize, Mr. Selleck. I have neglected your excellent efforts to present ethical dilemmas in law enforcement, leadership and parenting to the public in an intelligent, balanced, courageous and entertaining manner. Great job, on a great show. Please keep it up. I promise to pay closer attention.



25 thoughts on “Watch “Blue Bloods”

  1. Should the Chief deceive the public and preside over a fake ceremony to preserve an undercover operation that might bust the mob?

    The partnercould have said that someone ran out of the building and could not see the face clearly due to all that smoke.

  2. “I apologize, Mr. Selleck. I have neglected your excellent efforts to present ethical dilemmas in law enforcement, leadership and parenting to the public…”

    I’m not sure that I understand the need for the apology. Although I do agree that Blue Bloods often presents thought-provoking ethical issues, I find it extremely ironic — almost laughable — that the Reagan family, if it existed in the “real world” as portrayed, would constitute one of the roaringest examples of conflicts of interest known to New York City government and the NYPD itself.

    I realize that mundane everyday realities such as hiring and employment policies seems pretty boring next to police racism, gay cops, and shooting unarmed minorities. But I find it unbelievable that no one ever points out that the Reagans amply deserve their title as “The Conflicts of Interest Family, ”

    First, there’s nepotism. There’s a lot wrong with the NYPD, but I believe (or hope, anyway) that it would not allow the sons of a sitting police commissioner to serve actively under his command.
    Beyond that, the commissioner’s daughter is an Assistant D.A. The two cops and the Assistant D.A. regularly discuss (collude, really) about active cases, many of which one or both of the brothers and the Assistant D.A. have key roles.

    I understand completely that the Reagan family and the jobs they hold are the basis of what is, after all, a work of fiction. Now please tell me that you understand that the collusive relationships among the family members SCREAM conflict of interest, almost defines it! Such collusion, if discovered, would constitute one of the most enormous scandals in the history of policing and city government — ANY city’s government.

    Why does nobody ever talk about this? Do they not know that it’s roaringly illegal? Do they, maybe, wish that the real world could actually be like what’s shown on “Blue Bloods”? Despite how satisfying this might feel, please believe me that you DO NOT want a police department to write its own rules. The blood on the street may be YOURS.

    • Great comment. I thought in one of my “Blue Bloods” posts I revealed that around the Marshall household, the show is called “The Conflicts Of Interest Family.” I’ll have to check.

      • Thanks, Jack. When I discussed the fictional Reagan family’s fictional (I hope) conflicts of interest with my brother recently, he said that most people don’t watch a TV show to look for such details as hiring and employment policies — especially when they would invalidate the show’s central premise. I agreed with him.

        What I object to is that “Blue Bloods” wants it both ways. The issues it deals with are right out of today’s news, and the show usually does an effective job of elucidating these matters. But if the show bases its episodes in reality, then it cannot ignore the complete unreality of its premise. To me, this show is another example of unchecked authoritarianism: do as I say, not as I do. Now, THAT’s the current reality; it’s spelled T-R-U-M-P. Need examples? Read your daily paper.

        • I am disappointed that my most recent comment has been deleted. Was it because I used the “F” word? Sorry. However, the gist of my comment is this: I would like to see an episode of Blue Bloods in which PC Frank Reagan gains possession of information that implicates some of his higher-up Catholic Church friends in the sexual abuse of children.

          Frank is then pressured to take no action because of a local bishop’s (or cardinal’s) intervention. What will Frank do? What WILL he do?

          Folks, you can’t get more topical and more current than this! It’s based on the recent report from a grand jury in Pennsylvania that 300 priests (in Pennsylvania alone!) molested and/or sexually abused about 1,000 children since the 1950s.

          This would give PC Reagan some huge legal and ethical dilemma, wouldn’t it?

            • Mr. Ejercito,

              To quote yet one more famous person, the Brown Bomber,
              Joe Louis: ‘You can run, but you can’t hide.” Maybe you should read Pope Francis’s letter about this mess. It was excerpted in The New York Times (8/22).

              To you and your good Catholic friends and fellow parishioners: Stop running, turn around, and face the truth. It’s the only way that this horror is going to end.

                • Mr. Ejercito,

                  You’re probably a very good Catholic, but you have chosen to hide behind legalisms. Does that remove your moral responsibility or that of 100 million Catholics WORLDWIDE? You would like to think that this is just a matter of dealing with one state’s legal processes. You know better, I’m sure. You know that every day that you and your fellow Catholics keep silent is one more day that the horror continues.

                  And when you go to church, what do you say to that person on the cross, whom you call the son of God? That it’s not your problem, not your fault?

                  Have you ever asked, out loud or maybe in your prayers, when will Pope Francis or the next pope or the one after that, finally do something?

                  But you also know that the Vatican and other church authority structures, which have kept secret the full extent of these horrors for decades, seem to fear exposure by civil authorities the most. You know that day will come, and so will the day of a far more important reckoning. The Catholic Church, in body and spirit, has a great deal to answer for.

                  But please, If you have the courage to reply, spare us both the legalisms.

  3. A very famous Bible passage goes: “What is truth?” said jesting Pilate, and did not stay for an answer. Do you have the courage to stay around? And while we’re quoting famous people, let;’s add Paul McCartney: “There will be an answer. Let it be.”

  4. Mr. Ejercito and Mr. Marshall,

    According to a Philadelphia Inquirer story dated September 4, 2018 (pretty good, since I’m writing this posting at around 12:23 a.m.), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has blocked publication of the grand jury’s report on priestly sex abuse in six of the eight dioceses in the state.

    AG Shapiro said that “The only thing that could stop these findings from becoming public…is if one of the bishops or dioceses would seek to delay or prevent this public accounting,” Well, gentlemen, it looks like the ol’ fix is in — again.

    Neither of you seriously doubts, do you, that the report is genuine. You seem to want it to be a hoax. What’s the old saying? Whistling past the graveyard, I believe.

    C’mon guys, you know it’s real.

    • Grand jury proceedings are typically secret. That is because the grand jury only hears the evidence presented by the state. No cross-examinations, no defense witnesses. The release of a grand jury report is thus highly o
      prejudicial to the accused.

    • 1. Why are you commenting on this topic on a Blue Bloods post?
      2. What possible justification can you have for implying that I have, now or ever, doubted that long-time Catholic child abuse scandal and the ongoing cover-up? There’s even a tag for it: You won’t find a single sympathetic or mitigating comment anywhere on Ethics Alarms about the Church’s conduct in the matter, not from me. So what the hell are you talking about?

      I’ll require a retraction and an apology from you on this.

      • Mr. Marshall,

        I do retract and apologize for including you in my comment regarding your beliefs or attitudes about the Catholic sex abuse scandal.

        However, the connection to Blue Bloods should be clear enough, considering that a previous episode has included a storyline about Frank Reagan acceding to pressure from a bishop about not investigating the murder of a young man who had had close ties with a local priest.

        The program showed Frank kissing the cardinal’s ring, which concluded the matter. Considering the sex abuse scandal’s continuing, high visibility and the show’s topicality, I believe that at least one episode on this subject would be extremely relevant.

        Don’t you?

        • If I were Tom Selleck, I’d hold that the show has enough moral-ethical ground to cover in its main topics of law enforcement, community relations family, and conflicts of interest. I don’t see what added clarity that show could bring to the molestation cover-up issue. They are welcome to try, of course.

          • Mr. Marshall,

            It might be an indicator that police and other law enforcement agencies are no longer as willing to accede to pressure from the Catholic Church about not investigating complaints about clergy sexual abuse.

            I saw a news item on Thursday (9/6) that law-enforcement agencies in NY and NJ are going to investigate such complaints
            more aggressively. THAT would be a drastic change!

  5. To answer your question, yes, I’m aware of the Kern County sex abuse cases, and the ways that small children were unfairly influenced to say that their teachers abused them.

    Are you aware that the Vatican has paid some $3 billion, worldwide, to plaintiffs in clergy sex abuse cases? Were these cases also hoaxes? Time to own up, guys, the Catholic Church is, and has been, a horribly corrupt institution for a long time.

  6. Mr. Ejercito, Mr. Marshall

    My error: I misread the date on the report about not making the grand jury report public: it was first reported on June 21, 2018. I own up to MY mistakes, sans obfuscation. Do either of you know whether the full report has been made public yet?

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