There’s been a lot of controversy with the police lately with Black Lives Matter and their counter argument Blue Lives Matter and it can be easy to forget that we do rely on the police to keep us safe from crime, and despite a couple of bad eggs, they are on the whole upstanding people who have chosen to dedicate their lives to fighting for good. Television will keep reminding us of that with great cop characters. Here are 10 officers of the law from the small screen who you would want protecting the streets of your town.
10. Carl Winslow
Before Urkel took over the whole show, Family Matters was a touching and relatable sitcom about a blue collar working class family. Reginald VelJohnson had become famous for playing the cop character of Al Powell in the first couple of Die Hard movies. He was a friend of John McClane’s who acted as his outside eyes and ears on the other end of a walkie talkie during the terrorist siege. So, it was only natural that the character he played in his blue collar family sitcom, Carl Winslow, would be a police officer, too. In fact, a problem that would often get in the way of Carl’s family life was that he would focus too much on his life as a cop and less on his position as a father. When he found out his son Eddie had been drinking beer at frat parties, Carl put on his law enforcement hat and took him to task for it. This led Eddie to tell him, “It’s time you stopped acting like a cop and started acting like my dad!” It’s a shame that Urkel took over in the later seasons and made the show a shadow of its former self, because it used to be such a real and relatable and wonderful sitcom.
9. Vic Mackey
Okay, Vic Mackey is a dirty cop. In the pilot episode of the show, he shoots another cop in the face. He’s not perfect, not by a long shot. But he is also a dedicated cop. He’s so dedicated to his job that it cost him his wife and kids. He’s out there on the streets, fighting the most dangerous gangs in town to keep other people safe. He will do what’s right for people, too, on occasion. If he sees someone in a dangerous situation, like a prostitute with a kid who can barely scrape by and is constantly under threat from her pimp, he’ll watch over her. He’ll give her money when she needs it and he’ll look out for her. He’s a much better guy than he appears to be. The finale episode of the show hints that Mackey can’t stay away from wanting to protect people and enforce the law. We see him facing the worst punishment of all for his crimes: he’s not stuck behind bars, he’s stuck behind a desk. And he can hear sirens in the distance, calling to him, tempting him to do the right thing, and he seems to answer the call with a brave face, ready for action.
8. Jimmy McNulty
The Guardian have described Jimmy McNulty as “irresistibly charming, a classic anti-hero; a modern day Rockford.” He has also been praised for the easy chemistry that he shares with his black colleagues, showing no signs of prejudice or intolerance. David Simon created the character based on real detectives he had seen. Unlike other TV detectives, McNulty was never motivated to solve a crime by a personal connection to the victim, but rather because he saw the crime as an “insult to his intellectual vanity.” McNulty has been described as a delightfully ironic character on the show, since he’s one of the few main characters who is on the right side of the law and he’s also a “boozing cop who pisses on authority and order.” He’s also been called the “heart, soul, and oft-impaired nervous system” of what was intended to be an ensemble show. He slowly became the show’s central character, as he is one of the smartest and coolest and most wicked in the cast. Fun fact about McNulty: when Dominic West first sent in an audition tape for the show, he was the only one in the video and had left gaps for the other characters to speak to him, which amused the producers so much that they gave him the role, just like that!
7. Chief Wiggum
Chief Clancy Wiggum is not the best cop around, because he never seems to be able to catch Snake Jailbird and he never seems to do anything about the repeated robberies that happen at the Kwik E Mart or the graffiti sprayed all over town by El Barto or the financial crimes that go on inside Mr. Burns’ organization. But you can cut him some slack, since he seems to be policing the whole town of Springfield all on his own, with barely any help at all. He has Eddie and Lou and he did briefly have Santa’s Little Helper on the canine squad. And Wiggum isn’t all bad. He’s been shown to have some confidence on occasion. In “Marge on the Lam,” when Homer was worried about Marge and she had gone missing, Wiggum helped him to find her. In “Homer Alone,” when Maggie went missing, Wiggum found her and brought her home. He can actually be a good cop sometimes. Also, the fact that his face and body look like that of a pig has been described by the animation team as “a conscious pun,” while the name Wiggum was taken from series creator Matt Groening’s mother’s maiden name, so the character is pretty close to his heart.
6. Rick Grimes
Rick Grimes’ dedication to his job as a police officer ended up being what helped him to survive through the outbreak of the zombie apocalypse. Long before the beginning of the zombie apocalypse began, he was involved in a shootout with some criminals and he ended up getting shot, which put him into a coma that took him through the first part of the zombie uprising. So, by the time he woke up into the world when it was infested by zombies, a lot of the initial heat had died down. And that’s because he was brave enough to get in the line of fire to protect others. Rick even had a job as a cop after the apocalypse had broken out. When he and his group of survivors managed to find salvation at a gated community where they were safe and everyone pitched in, he was appointed as one of their police officers, so he could settle right back into what he was born to do. Okay, he has had a couple of mental breakdowns in this time and endangered people, but on the whole, he just wants to protect the people that he cares about, who are important to him.
5. Joe Swanson
Joe Swanson was introduced into Family Guy as the really cool guy who lives next door and everyone loves, which makes Peter jealous. Over the years, he became the loud and aggressive friend of Peter’s who occasionally turned up at the Drunken Clam to yell about stuff. Now, he’s kind of a punching bag. He’s the target of jokes about his disability and his general personality. Peter and Quagmire hate being left alone with him, because he’ll say some lame soft political joke like, “If pro is the opposite of con, what is the opposite of progress?” But one characteristic of Joe has always stayed the same: he has always been a damn good cop. Joe always fights for what’s right. He’s not necessarily into following the rules. If the bank wants to tear down the Clam, Joe will stand there with Peter and Quagmire in an effort to save it. If the guy who put him in a wheelchair is released from prison and skips town, while Joe’s captain has told him to leave the case alone because it’s too personal to him, then he’ll travel to the ends of the Earth to get his revenge. As a man, Joe is constantly being emasculated and undermined, but as a cop, he’s awesome!
4. Kima Greggs
It’s really hard to find characters in the media who are strong women of color. Writers and producers have been trying to be more inclusive and diverse with the casts of their TV shows recently, but they usually won’t include two diverse characteristics in one character. They’ll have a woman and a black man instead of a black woman, or they’ll have a white lesbian and a Hispanic man instead of a Hispanic lesbian. They’ll only do one diverse character trait at a time. So, women of color are often marginalized. But Kima Greggs from The Wire is a strong black female character who is also a hell of a cop. She won’t even let getting shot stop her from ridding the streets of Baltimore or crime. Like a lot of protagonists from the best TV dramas these days, Kima is not without her flaws, but her main flaw is that she’s a workaholic. She’s addicted to her job enforcing the law and that impacts her home life. Oh, and she’s also a member of the LGBTQ community. She’s truly an anomaly in the typically exclusive TV landscape – a good anomaly, of course – and if you look past all that to who she is as a character, she’s really interesting and cool.
3. Frank Columbo
The Columbo character was never actually officially given a first name in the dialogue of the show, but his identification badges named him as “Frank Columbo” throughout the series. He was created as a combination of Father Brown, G.K. Chesterton’s literary creation was a Catholic priest by day and an amateur detective by night, and the Porfiry Petrovich character from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s opus Crime and Punishment, to create the perfect detective character. Peter Falk made the character iconic between the years of 1968 and 2003, when he played him across ten seasons of television, encompassing 69 episodes. As a detective, Columbo was a stone cold genius. He would more often than not be able to talk the suspects into confessing, or use their weakness to get them to give away too much information and end up incriminating themselves. He once explained why he enjoys police work so much: “I like my job. Oh, I like it a lot. And I’m not depressed by it. And I don’t think the world is full of criminals and full of murderers. Because it isn’t. It’s full of nice people, just like you. And if it wasn’t for my job, I wouldn’t be getting to meet you like this. And I’ll tell you something else. Even with some of the murderers that I meet, I even like them too, sometimes. Like them and even respect them. Not for what they did, certainly not for that. But for that part of them which is intelligent or funny or just nice. Because there’s niceness in everyone – a little bit, anyhow. You can take a cop’s word for it.”
2. Amy Santiago
The Atlantic ran an article recently with the title “Brooklyn Nine Nine and the Gift of Amy Santiago,” about how the character of Amy Santiago on the Fox police procedural comedy (which will be moving to NBC, starting with the next season, to avoid cancellation) “has exploded many a pop culture myth about smart, driven women being cold, humorless, and lonely.” The character is dedicated as a police officer and stands her own ground and knows how to hold herself in a fight or an investigation or a questioning of a suspect and also enjoys romantic relationships with ups and downs and has a social life outside the precinct and has some of the funniest lines on the show. It used to be that you couldn’t have a strong female character who had a great career and was also really funny. That all changed when Amy Santiago came along. She is also, along with Jake, at the heart of the most beautiful love story in the series. As far as Captain Holt is concerned, Amy is one of the smartest and most reliable detectives in his precinct (or at least she was, until she passed the exam and got promoted to the role of sergeant recently).
1. Jim Hopper
If there’s one thing that the town of Hawkins, Indiana needs, it’s a good police force. The town is home to a government lab that likes to experiment on children and bring monsters out from other dimensions to wreak havoc and possess kids. It also has a mysterious girl who showed up out of nowhere with an anger problem and telekinetic powers. It also has a bunch of troublemaking kids who like to stir up problems wherever they go. It also has Reagan supporters. There’s a lot wrong with Hawkins, and without the fearless Jim Hopper there, they’d be in a lot more trouble than they already are. Hopper will also challenge authority. If he sees something terrible going on, some miscarriage of justice where children are in danger, then he won’t just lie down and let the government walk all over him with their lies like everybody else. He will go out to the rotten pumpkins and investigate, or he’ll go down to the morgue and find the missing boy’s supposed corpse filled with stuffing. He is dedicated to his job and he isn’t dedicated to his town, and for crying out loud, it is high time that he and Joyce Byers finally got together.