Harry Dresden describes him as a blocky man in his late fifties, comfortably overweight, with a frosted grey beard contrasting with his coffee-colored skin and looking about as soft as a Brink's[Footnote 1] truck. He wears a weather-beaten overcoat and an off-the-rack suit.
Rawlins is married, with children. He is a good cop who gets in trouble with his superiors by following his instincts instead of police procedure. He has a droll sense of humor and is one of the few on the force who believe in the supernatural. A uniformed cop in Dead Beat, he has been a detective twice. Both times he was demoted on account of his attitude.
There are indications Rawlins knew Karrin Murphy as a little girl, having been a friend of her father, and he's assumed to be the only person alive allowed to call her Karrie.
In the series
In Dead Beat, Harry Dresden first sees Rawlins while Listening to him talking the security man downstairs, though it wasn't his job to that. Rawlins used to be a detective, it comes natural to him. Rawlins catches Dresden surreptitiously examining a crime scene at the Field Museum of Natural History. Rawlins recognizes him, knows that he works with Murphy, and compliments him on his work. He shows him a relevant news clipping about Corpsetaker and Li Xian. When Dresden asks why Rawlins is helping him, he tells him a story of when he was a young cop; he had interrupted a "thing" attacking a woman, and it had turned on him, about to kill him, when Collin Murphy had appeared and killed it with a shotgun loaded with rocksalt.
In Proven Guilty, Rawlins was on the scene of the initial attack at SplatterCon!!! with a name tag reading An Authority Figure. He had arrested Nelson Lenhardt for the crime, because there were no other suspects and he hoped the boy knew something that could help the investigation, though he believed him innocent. He lets Harry Dresden look at the crime scene through the door.
Later in, he helps Dresden and Karrin Murphy with the phobophage attacks. He ends up being kidnapped by Darby Crane, soon identified as Madrigal Raith, along with Dresden, and gets a bullet shot through his foot. Thomas appears out of the dark to stop Crane from killing him.
In "Down Town", Rawlins accompanies Karrin Murphy on a stakeout on Hendricks when she's been called to the Laundromat owner's crime scene. He's not very enthusiastic about the job. The two of them try to prevent the kidnapping of a third victim, but fail.
Later on, he is the first of the police party appearing at the Damen Silos and picks her up where she had fallen in her fight against Puck. He is at the hospital when Murphy wakes up and blurts about the existence of an agent manipulating the events and pushes her wheelchair when she checks out. In the end, he joins the raid to the Silos.
In Changes, he is mentioned only twice. The first time, Rawlins calls Murphy in the night letting her know about Harry Dresden's building exploding. Murphy thought some baddy finally got to Dresden. The second time, he and Stallings search Murphy's place.