Tuesday, C.C. Harrison, the wife of former Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, posted a cryptic addition to Instagram following her husband’s resignation from the department last week.

The image — possibly AI generated? — is a stylized black-and-white portrait of Harrison giving Citizen Kane vibes with a half-dozen chess pieces in the foreground.

“No caption needed...,” C.C. Harrison wrote below the image.

This may not be true, because Baltimore Banner staff have robustly debated what the image means — and we know we’re not alone.

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Here’s what we’ve gathered.

What City Hall thinks

City Council members were finishing up work on the budget this week, but Banner City Hall reporter Emily Sullivan said she saw some folks flashing the post to colleagues during meetings.

The consensus, Sullivan said, boiled down to two schools of thought: It was a reference to some games being played over Harrison’s departure, or it was just a corny wife post.

Sullivan said there was lots of debate about whether the art was commissioned or if it was AI-generated and if there was any significance to the chess pieces chosen.

All the pieces matter

As The Banner’s resident Guy Who Has Watched “The Wire” Too Many Times, I couldn’t help but see a couple references in C.C. Harrison’s post to David Simon’s vivisection of urban institutions.

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First, the chess pieces, a reference to a first season scene that establishes a theme for the show’s entire run. In the scene, D’Angelo Barksdale explains the rules of chess to Bodie and Wallace, using the pieces as a metaphor for the drug organization they all work for.

“This is the kingpin. And he the man,” D’Angelo explains. “You get the other dude’s king, you got the game.”

“So how do you get to be the king?” Wallace asks later.

“It ain’t like that. See, the king stays the king,” Barksdale responds, noting their place in the hierarchy.

In C.C. Harrison’s post, the king is the most prominent piece, centered under Michael Harrison’s chin.

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The post also made me think of another conversation in “The Wire,” between a Police Department leader and his wife.

In the first season, then-Lt. Cedric Daniels discusses the potentially no-win assignment he’s been given by department leadership with his wife, Marla. If things go wrong, Marla says, Cedric will be blamed. If they fail to make arrests, she continues, he’ll be blamed.

“The game is rigged,” she advises, “but you cannot lose if you do not play.”

How does this apply to Harrison? We don’t know. Michael Harrison’s city-issued phone is no longer working and C.C. Harrison did not respond to a message.

What the internet thinks

As always, the best commentary and theories come from Baltimore social media:

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The post kicked up speculation again that Michael Harrison was seeking the top job in the Washington, D.C. department:

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Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made a cameo:

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And this analysis of the chess piece locations noted that it does not depict a checkmate:

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What does it all mean? We have no idea, but a caption might have helped.


John edits political coverage for The Baltimore Banner. Previously he's covered Washington, D.C. for WNYC public radio and politics and education in Maryland, South Carolina and Florida.

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