Mackey is a corrupt yet effective police officer; he steals from drug dealers, beats suspects and has committed murder on three occasions. Two of the victims were violent gangsters, though the first was an undercover officer trying to put Mackey and his team behind bars. Mackey sees his tactics as a means to an end.
Vic Mackey's morality is a classic example of dualism. While he has a solid status as a family man, he has cheated on his wife with a number of women (including fellow officer Danny Sofer). He is sworn to uphold the law, yet regularly breaks it for professional and personal gain. Mackey's personality is often viewed as amoral or machiavellian, believing that "the ends justify the means." However, this may also lead to his downfall, which he has narrowly avoided throughout the course of the series.
Despite all of the crimes and immoral acts he has committed, Vic is ironically considered the show's "hero." His brutality is usually directed towards dangerous criminals whom he considers deserving of their harsh treatment at his hands-i.e. rapists, child molesters and mass murderers. Even when he's broken the law himself, it's often been in the course of solving even more serious crimes. In the first Season finale episode, Vic cornered a teenager and threatened to plant crack cocaine on him unless he was told who kidnapped and murdered two police officers.
In the early days of the Strike Team, Mackey was nearly taken down when rookie Officer Julien Lowe caught him and the Strike Team stealing evidence from a crime scene (in this case, narcotics). However, Mackey obtained leverage against Lowe by catching him in a homosexual act and threatening to expose him. Although Julien vowed to deny Vic's allegations, Vic smugly retorted,
"I don't have to prove you're gay, in this house all I have to do is say it, with all the gory details."A terrified Julien immediately caved in to his demands. After this, Vic has attempted to be friendly to Julien, with varying degrees of reception.
Early in the series, Mackey extorted money from drug dealers and openly stole their money or drugs. The purpose was to support him and his team's retirement and provide a legacy for their children. Later, he justified stealing gang money to help pay for his kids' autism treatments as well as alimony to his ex-wife Corrine. In the second season, Vic helped his ex-partner and training officer, Joe Clark, bring down the man who got him booted from the force, only to take a bullet in the alley in which they busted the perpetrator.
Little is known about Mackey's early life, although he once mentioned that his father was a bricklayer. In Season Five (circa 2006), he told Lt. Jon Kavanaugh that he had been a cop for 14 years, suggesting that he joined the force sometime between 1991 and 1992. Also, in one of the DVD commentaries for Season Four, Michael Chiklis mentions that the main characters on the show are from the same areas as the actors who play them. This would mean Vic Mackey hails from Boston.
Mackey was married for a little over 12 years to his wife, Corrine. However, problems between the two resulted in the marriage disintegrating. Though he had often cheated on his wife, he was devastated when she left him. He loves his three children very much and would do anything for them. At the end of Season 6, he refused to parade his autistic children in front of a department review board, despite the fact that Aceveda told him that it could save his job.
In season one, his son Matthew was diagnosed with autism. Later, his youngest daughter was diagnosed with autism as well. These family problems, and the necessary financial support, are major rationalizations Mackey gives for continuing to pursue money illegally.
The pilot episode closes with Vic murdering Terry Crowley during a drug raid for being a federal informant. Vic is quickly cleared by the department because they are unaware of Terry's status as a federal informant and because of Vic's friendship with Assistant Chief Ben Gilroy. Enraged that Mackey got away with killing a cop in cold blood, Aceveda becomes determined to bring him down.
The Strike Team steals some drugs from a bust in order to sell on the street, but are seen by Officer Julian Lowe. Furthermore, the truck with the drugs is stolen from Shane when he stops at a girlfriend's house. When Aceveda learns of the skim from Lowe he becomes determined to recover the drugs and bring down the strike team. Eventually the team manage to recover the drugs and Vic blackmails Julien into recanting his statement.
The lost drugs are the latest incident in Shane's spiral out of control and Vic is advised to let him take the fall if anything goes wrong. However when Mackey's son is diagnosed with autism, Mackey realizes that both his son and his teammate need help and decides to work with them instead of sacrificing them. Vic then tries to enroll his son in a special school but they hear of the skimmed drug allegations and decide not to accept him. Vic manages to convince the admissions officer to change her mind by recovering a stolen ring for her.
Vic's wife Corrine becomes increasingly frutrated with him and his antics. Although she defends him when questioned about his questionable activities, she seemes to realize that he makes some money illegally and that he cheats on her. When she sees Vic with a baby, she immediately assumes that he has a love child.
The Strike Team's illegal activities generally consisted of protecting drug dealer Rondell Robison, in exchange for reduced violence and a cut of the profits. By allowing Rondell to maintain a monopoly over the farmington drug trade, Vic was able to line his pocket while making himself look good to the department by keeping gang violence down. The drugs that Vic skims off busts generally goes to Rondell to sell. However Rondell becomes incredibly unreliable. He is unable to come up with money to pay the supplier, threatens Officer Sofer, starts a turf war with the Nation of Islam and brags that he has police protection. Mackey eventually grows tired of Rondell and allows his subordinate Theadore Osmond (T.O.) to replace him.
At the end of the series, Vic discovers that Ben Gilroy has begun a real-estate scam by manipulating police resources, resulting in the brutal murders of two women which itself leads to people firing at police using fake 911 calls. Ben threatens Vic's family, effectively ending their friendship, and Vic forms an alliance with Aceveda. Eventually Vic brings in both the shooters and Ben, earning the respect of Aceveda who drops a bogus gun warrant that Gilroy had manufactured. However when Vic returns home, he learns that Corrine has left and taken his kids, realizing that the suffering she's going through is due to his mistakes.
Vic spends his time searching for his family, and has kept the news of their departure secret. He also has to deal with an internal auditor, Lanie Kellis poking around as well as brutal crime lord Armadillo Quinterno who is trying to set up in Farmington.
Vic is horrified to learn that Shane has invested all the Strike Teams illegal savings withT.O. and is now heavily involved in drug running. Furthermore the money is lost when a drug shipment of T.O.'s is poisened by a supplier. Vic and the team go to Mexico to extort their saving from the supplier (who is Armadillo's brother) and then kidnap him and bring him to the U.S. so that he can be arrested. Upon returning home, Vic tells the team that they are no longer allowed to handle the money. As the pressure of his missing family and Armadillos antics pile on, Vic lashes out at the team and Shane in particular which causes a rift to form.
Armadillo manages to consolidate the Mexican gangs in farmington by burning any opposition alive. The gangs, which had previously been at each other's throats, unite to take control of the drug game. Armadillo furthers his sadistic reputation by raping the girlfriend of a rival gangster and then tatooing her with a dove sign. He also rapes a 9-year old girl who was a witness to one of his crimes and tattoos her as well. Vic warns Armadillo to leave farmington, and Armadillo responds by burning T.O. alive. Vic manages to track down his family and tries to reason with them, but a private investigator they hired assaults Vic and they escape. Vic then gets the call about T.O. and frustrated by the recent events goes to Armadillo and burns his face on a stove.
Vic meet with his mentor Joe Clark, a disgraced former officer who was kicked off the force for brutality. Vic realizes that he may end up like Joe, alone without friends or family. He reconciles with Corrine and promises to move out of the house if she returns. He also makes amends with Shane.
Armadillo returns with a vengeance and continues to expand his drug-empire.
The season mainly revolves around the aftermath of the Money Train Heist and its effects on the Strike Team, as the Armenian mob and also David Aceveda begins to suspect the Strike Team. In order to save the team, Lem (Curtis "Lemonhead" Lemansky) burns a majority of the money, ultimately leading to a confrontation which causes the Strike Team to split up in the season finale. The Armenian mob sends Margos Dezerian to wipe out the Strike Team. Dezerian leaves a trail of murders, resulting in his own execution at the hands of Mackey.
The season dealt with the fallout from the Strike Team disbandment. Vic and Ronnie are still at the Barn which is now headed by captain Monica Rawlings (Glenn Close) who has replaced Aceveda following his move to the City council, Lem has moved into juvenile and Shane moves back to Vice where he partners with Armando "Army" Renta , a former GI. Before long Shane is deeply involved with One-Niners leader Antwon Mitchell who he tips off and eliminates competition in exchange for cash and busts.
Rawlings implements a policy of seizing the assets of known gang members and despite Aceveda's objections, enlists Vic to head up the team to oversee this. Although successful the policy proves very unpopular in the community and starts to hurt the gangs badly, particularly the One-Niners, and Mitchell - who is tired of Shane's cockiness - blackmails him and Army into helping him keep one step ahead of Vic by shooting an innocent teenage girl with their guns and promising to release the body if they don't co-operate. Mitchell then later orders Shane to kill Vic, but while Shane wavers between the threat from Antwon and his loyalty to Vic, Vic gets wind of the order and confronts Shane first.
The police were outraged after two officers were kidnapped and subsequently found murdered. In the end, the Strike Team is re-formed and manages to successfully put Antwon in prison.
The fallout from the asset foreiture policy continues with Rawlings eventually being forced out after a dispute with the DEA.
The season revolved around Internal Affairs Department Lt. Jon Kavanaugh's (played by Forest Whitaker) investigation into the Strike Team, representing one of the greatest threats the team has ever faced. As a result of Kavanaugh turning one of Vic's informants, IAD became aware of Lem stealing heroin which he never turned in. Having found the heroin, IAD is capable of arresting Lem, but Kavanaugh wants him to incriminate the whole team and has him wear a wire, which he warns the team of and they use it to embarrass IAD. Kavanaugh applying pressure to the team in any way he can, finds out about Mackey's share of the Money Train money, and ultimately arrests Lem having made a deal with Antwon Mitchell, a gang leader the team had put in prison. to put Lem in prison with him if convicted. Mackey supports Lem and gets bail, while Shane is worried he will give evidence against the team. Claudette finally gets her opportunity for promotion as the captain of the Barn, which she reluctantly accepts. The season concluded with Shane Vendrell, fooled by Aceveda that Lem was going to turn on the Strike Team, murdering his friend and fellow team member Lem with a hand grenade.
Continuing directly after season 5, Vic and the Strike Team are distraught over Lem's death. Shane has been overcome by guilt and becomes reckless and suicidal. Kavanaugh refuses to let the case die and resorts to planting evidence and coercing witnesses to lie about the Strike Team and specifically, Vic. Dutch and Claudette begin to suspect his integrity and Kavanaugh finally confesses to his actions and finds himself under arrest. Vic learns from Claudette that the Chief plans to force him into early retirement — and vows to wreak bloody vengeance on Lem's killer before losing his badge. Claudette learns that the Barn could be shut down if no improvements are made by the time quarterly crime statistics are released. The season concludes with the breakdown of Vic and Shane's friendship and Shane getting in over his head with the Armenians.
Vic's ex-wife Corrine has learned of his many crimes and agrees to work with Dutch and Claudette to try to send him to prison. Ronnie is also implicated in the process. Shane, Mara, and Jackson go on the run, and Dutch has problems of his own while dealing with a teenage serial killer. As part of an immunity deal with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Vic admits to every crime the Strike Team has committed and implicates Shane and Ronnie enough to send them to jail for life. After learning that there is no way to escape prison, Shane poisons his pregnant wife and two-year old son and then commits suicide just as the police arrive. Claudette reveals the terminal status of her illness to Dutch, who promises to stand by her as a friend. Ronnie is arrested in front of Vic at the barn. Desperate to escape Vic, Corrine and the children disappear into the witness protection program. Aceveda stands on the verge of being elected mayor. Meanwhile, Vic is reassigned to a desk job at ICE, presumably loathed by his co-workers, including Agent Olivia Murray, and ostracized by his fellow cops, who want nothing to do with him now that his many crimes have been exposed. The show's final moment depicts Vic picking up his gun and leaving the ICE building, following police sirens in the distance.
- On Bravo TV's countdown of the 100 Greatest Television Characters, Michael Chiklis described Mackey as "a cross between Hannibal Lecter and Dirty Harry."
- Mackey appears to favor a Smith & Wesson Model 4506-1 pistol in .45 ACP and carries a snub-nosed revolver as a backup gun.
- Mackey wears a Cartier SA Must 21 Chronograph watch.
- Mackey's sunglasses are Polo Ralph Lauren|Polo Sport 1048 H4A (silver frames), though The Shield newsletter states the 1071s are a close match as well.
- In the final season, Mackey carries a Magnum Research Desert Eagle when he is forced to turn in his badge and police issue firearm.