‘Chicago P.D.’: Atwater Calling Out Nolan Proves Time are Changing

Chicago P.D. is unafraid to tackle what is happening in the real world. Some fans like this, and some fans don’t, but it is not going away. While calls for police reform have been loud in the United States this year, Chicago P.D. and the intelligence unit have heard the message. For years, Hank Voight has dented and often broken the rules, but with more attention on the police comes more attention to him in Deputy Superintendent Samantha Miller, played by Nicole Ari Parker. Her role is going to be complicated. Many fans like the way Voight gets the bad guys at any cost, but it will be her job to reform him.

However, the most prominent storyline portraying the growing racial divide in the US is the story between Kevin Atwater and Kenny Nolan.

LaRoyce Hawkins as Kevin Atwater wearing a police uniform in front of a blurred background
LaRoyce Hawkins as Kevin Atwater | Matt Dinerstein/Getty Images

Atwater and Nolan’s feud

The story of the Nolan-Atwater feud starts back in season six. Atwater was undercover trying to arrest drug lord Phil Gamble by getting close to his right-hand man Daryl Ingram. Everything is going perfectly. The team has disrupted Ingram’s regular supplier, and Atwater is taking him to meet with another undercover cop, Antonio Dawson. Dawson will arrest Ingram when he buys the drugs, they’ll get him to turn on Gamble, and it will all be OK.

Except on their way to meet Dawson, they are pulled over by a police officer racially profiling Atwater. The cop, Tom Doyle, wants Ingram to get on his knees, and when he doesn’t immediately comply, Doyle shoots and kills him. Atwater bows to pressure over Ingram being a criminal, but makes it clear to Doyle he will get his badge, and to prove it, he pulls a gun on him, so he knows how it feels.

Atwater faces the blue wall

In the season finale of season seven, Atwater is undercover again when he runs into Doyle, who is also undercover. Due to a paperwork mix up the two are scheduled to work together, which, given Chicago P.D., can’t go well. While they are driving together, Doyle sees two Black men, and one is carrying a bag. To Atwater’s dismay, Doyle pulls over and asks the man about the contents of the bag.

The guy runs into a building, and Doyle chases him with Atwater not far behind. By the time Atwater arrives, Doyle is shot and dies shortly afterward. The bag is found just to have sneakers. Atwater and the team find the house where the shooters are and arrest both shooters, who claim that Doyle drew his gun first and it was self-defense. At the end of the episode, Atwater testifies that there was no probable cause for Doyle to have chased the shooters, and they go free. Atwater now has Doyle’s fellow officers as enemies, including Kenny Nolan.

Atwater doesn’t back down


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Atwater refuses to change his story about Doyle’s actions and Nolan and his friends are out for blood. They plant drugs in Atwater’s car and tip-off the police, but the frame fails when Atwater finds the drugs first. The episode ends with Atwater arriving home only to be jumped by four men leaving him badly beaten.

In episode two, Atwater continues to get harassed but wants to handle it himself without Voight’s involvement. Eventually, Atwater puts Nolan in his place, promising to give up his badge and go to the press with his story about how a Black cop was intimidated out of the police force as retaliation for reporting racism with the police department.

Nolan backed down almost instantly — he knew that in today’s climate, the story about him and his blue wall of cops would destroy their careers and reputations. Nolan’s response to Atwater made one thing clear: things have changed in the Chicago P.D., and Nolan knows that his retaliation won’t be tolerated if it were exposed to the public.