Women of the Badge: My Favorite Female Television Cops

Source

When I was a kid I said I wanted to be alot of things. Among the most popular I remember is lawyer and president. Thankfully, I have since changed my mind. For one reason or another I never wanted to be a cop. I think that has to do with the fact I was always a scaredy cat.

However, I did always enjoy watching cop shows. Many of them usually involved a lead male cop but there was the occasional female leader. And what I admired most was the ability for these shows to weave themselves back and forth between the professional and personal lives of the police officers. Now, things have changed.

In 2005, a little show starring Kyra Sedgwick (then known to most audiences as Kevin Bacon's wife) broke the door wide open and gave us a new kind of female officer who was not only brave and bold. But she was in your face to the point she was almost obnoxious. And as we say goodbye to one of television's all-time great cops I would like to dedicate this hub to great women of the badge of the past few years.

Source

Brenda Leigh Johnson: The Closer

I will admit, I was not on the Closer bandwagon for a while. The first season started the summer before my senior year of high school and at that point in time I did not know too much about the joys of cable series during the summer.

However, I caught an episode while on break one year during college and I understood what the fuss was about. Sure Brenda Leigh Johnson, was a fish out of water as well as a tough cookie. I also enjoyed the fact that she was southern and unapologetic about who she was. Not only was she educated and independent she also had an affair with Chief Pope while working with him in DC.

All of this made a great stew for what I consider a great character. Her flaws were noticeable- messy purse, touch and go relationship with her parents, an ex-fling for a boss where there was unresolved tension, and a recovering alcoholic love interest.

And her flaws made her who she was which is why as a viewer it was easy to agree or disagree with what she did as an officer. While her tactics were morally and ethically questionable, they did provide results.

I also enjoyed the fact that the writers did not hide that she was a woman. One of my favorite moments is when she is told that she is experiencing early menopause but then gets a surprise proposal from her boyfriend, Fritz. Not only did they address the elephant in the room- they managed to make it look relateable.

While it will be hard for me to imagine television without Brenda Leigh Johnson, I am glad that we at least have great episodes to keep her alive in pop culture for several years to come.

Source

Olivia Benson: Law & Order: SVU

As much as Law and Order has been important to television in the past two decades, it was in need for a strong female lead. Sure the original serious had the Lieutenant Van Buren but she was really a supporting character to the antics of Lenny and company.

But thankfully for us in 1999, Law and Order got its first and most successful spinoff- Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. And we were introduced to one Olivia Benson. Olivia was unlike any other female cop we had met at the time. Right from the beginning she wore her past and her emotions on her sleeve.

Her mother was a young rape victim and her father was a rapist. Her childhood was marred by the fact that her mother drove herself to alcoholism and Olivia was forced to raise herself. And in that maturity, there was also a vulnerability she was able to share with victims.

In some cases, Olivia is too close to the victim. She grows in emotional attachment by becoming more of their friend than their protector. But in her own way she gets the job done.

Olivia represents a layered character that many women relate to. Her career has served as her life and in many ways the younger victims represent the kids she never had. And Elliott for lack of a better phrase was her work husband- they became each other's lifeline.

But what most people respect about Olivia is the fact she is unapologetic in solving the crime at any cost. And in one episode she risks sexual abuse in order to catch a dirty prison guard. While she does not always play by the rules at least she is consistent in pursuing justice.

The Women of The Division: Raina Washington, Kate McCafferty, Jinny Exstead, etc.

If you do not recognize this next show, I will be glad to give you an introduction. The Division premiered back in 2001 on Lifetime. It was not a big hit but had enough of a following for eighty-eight episodes.

The Division focused on a police precinct in San Francisco that was ran by a female captain and had several female officers. The story lines were the same as in any cop show but had the distinction of featuring a mostly female chain of command. Bonnie Bedelia played Captain Kate McCafferty and had the responsibility of reigning in the younger cops and their antics. The show also dealt with the issues of the policewomen on staff including family, relationships, drug abuse, and sexual harassment.

Also, adding to the cast was the original former Pink Ranger Amy Jo Johnson and standout actress Lisa Vidal. But what may surprise you most was the fact that there were two now heavy hitters on the show. Jon Hamm, yes Don Draper was a cast member during the last season. And Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson was also a cast member near the end of the series.

This show only lasted three seasons but to me it deserved more. Perhaps it was the Lifetime label that steered viewers away or the fact that it did not get the publicity it deserved. It was just as gritty as any other police drama but the reviews did not reach enough people. Whatever, the case this show deserves a second look. Unfortunately, it is not in syndication or on DVD but hopefully that will get worked out soon.

More by this Author


Comments 42 comments

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Yay for Olivia Benson! My favorite! I was hoping she was included. I could seriously watch Law & Order marathons 24/7. Ok, even I need sleep, but I love Olivia! :)


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I love Brenda Johnson's role and her character. She is savvy and has a lot of charm. Great review on the shows. Glad that TV highlights women more often in positive roles.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

I agree Olivia is one of the best parts of SVU and I hope she doesn't leave anytime soon. Thanks Sunshine!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you teaches12345! I agree Brenda Johnson's character is awesome and it'll be hard to imagine television without her.


Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

I love strong female characters. Going back to my era, Cagney and Lacey were great and today I watch Rizzoli and Isles. You gotta love The Closer. Awesome hub and a really good idea for one.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Glimmer Twin Fan! I've seen Cagney and Lacey and I think Rizzoli and Isles works similarly to it. If I hadn't mentioned Jane Rizzoli in another hub, I would have included her. Thanks so much for coming by and commenting!


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Alecia, great hub. I am a tad older than you so my fave female officers were always Cagney and Lacey but I liked The Closer for the first two series and stopped watching so I need to rewatch it when it comes to reruns. We watch CSI- Special Victims Unit cos my daughter is a big fan. I have never seen The Division so I will watch out for it; we get Lifetime on UK tv so there's a reasonable chance I will get to see it. I also liked the female cops on Hill Street Blues. It is always better when you get to see their personal lives as well I think.


jeolmoz2 profile image

jeolmoz2 4 years ago from Florida, USA

Going to miss "Brenda Leigh Johnson: The Closer" saw final episode...Hope "Major Crimes" turns to be a good spin-off


lindalou1963 profile image

lindalou1963 4 years ago from Texas

The Closer is good, and so is SVU, but I've never seen The Division. One show I like is Chicago Code with Jennifer Beals (from Flashdance), she plays Police Chief Teresa Colvin. She's a very strong character who doesn't put up with BS from anyone. Good show!


lindalou1963 profile image

lindalou1963 4 years ago from Texas

Although it did last only one season! I was hooked from the beginning!


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK

Great list here Alecia, I have seen a few episodes of Closer and Law and Order.. One of my all time favorite female cops is DCI Jane Tennison in 'Prime suspect' series. It s a masterclass in suspense and acting and tight story lines and has won many awards and makes the list of 100 best British TV programmes. Helen Mirren makes a career defining role her own... Many American Critics view the role of Brenda Leigh Johnson in 'The Closer' as an uncredited americanisation of 'DCI Jane Tennison'/ If you get a chance catch the original.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Jools99! I saw a few reruns of Cagney and Lacey and Hill Street Blues but not that much. I think you would like The Division but Lifetime in the US hasn't aired reruns in nearly five years and it's not on DVD. But I agree personal lives of any character gives you more dimension to them.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

I agree jeolmoz2- I hope Major Crimes works out as well.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Gone too soon I know!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Lindalou,

I never saw the Chicago Code while it aired but yeah I love strong female characters too. Thank you so much for coming by and commenting!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hey Docmo,

I haven't seen Prime Suspect UK. The US tried a remake of it recently with Maria Bello and it bombed quickly- in less than half a season. I've heard Brenda Leigh Johnson is based on DCI Tennison- wouldn't be surprised. Thanks so much for coming and commenting!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi, I love these programs! I used to love cagney and lacey too, such a long time ago but still remember them, we do have a few over here in England but they seem to have disappeared lately, its all men cops!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Nell! That's interesting there's no female cops i the UK since you all pioneered Prime Suspect. Maybe you'll get something soon :).


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

I like your picks. I do not watch much tv while it is in the current season...but I do catch up when the seasons reach DVD. I just finished season 4 a few months ago....so I am 3 years behind currently. But the highlight of the Closer is Kyra Sedgwick as she is awesome in the role...a smaller round of applause to J.K. Simmons too. Olivia Benson is awesome in L&O as well. Not as familiar with the Division but I will check it out when I see it on DVD....voted up and awesome.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Cogerson,

Thanks for coming by and commenting. Yeah the Closer is awesome and I agree the chemistry between Kyra Sedgwick and JK Simmons is definitely a highlight. I love Law and Order SVU but it's not the same without Elliott to counter Olivia. The Division as far as I know isn't on DVD yet but if it does become available I'm sure it will be popular.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

pretty amazing. they have strong characters indeed. I think i might want to see more of these. I never saw any movie listed.hehe very un-updated.. :)


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks unknown spy! They're all worth checking out :).


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Its obvious there are many women in 'police' rolls on TV and have been over the years but you have chose three strong candidates and done a great job of introducing them. I would have say Olivia is my favorite. There were times when I didn't agree with her tactics but I always knew they came from her heart...a strong lady and yet a good cop.

I enjoyed reading this Alecia. Voted up, useful, and interesting.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you Tilllsontitan! I agree about Olivia, sometimes she goes overboard in crusading for the victim- especially in that episode where she posed as a prisoner, but she does have a great heart :).


Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

feels so good to see women in power :)

I don't watch TV much but, will try to catch up on one of the shows depending on the airing time in my time zone.

Great hub, Alecia.

Sharing it across


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

My Favorite.. oh by the way agreat hub here.. well my favorite of all time including guy television cops is Olivia from Fringe.. She in my opinion really fits the role for law enforcement..


Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 4 years ago from Oklahoma

Great hub! I only started watching cable last year. Seriously. And one of the first shows that I found was SVU. I liked Benson's character because even though she was a strong female lead, the writer's didn't go out of their way to make her an in-your-face feminist statement.

She was natural, and her relationships with the male characters were natural. One of the few time I have seen a female lead and male lead be equals, rather than trying to one-up each other constantly.

Unfortunately, I had just gotten really into The Closer when it went off. Now I have to try to record all the re-runs in order.

Voting up!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Ruchira,

Thank you so much! I think you would like The Closer best of all these shows that I listed.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Frank,

I've never seen Fringe but I know it's going into its final season this year. Maybe I'll check it out. Thanks!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Sharkye,

I agree with you about Olivia, she's probably one of the first completely equal female characters on television. And you should definitely go rent the Closer DVDs; I know it also is in syndication in some markets.

Thank you so much for coming by and commenting!


midget38 profile image

midget38 4 years ago from Singapore

I don't have a specific favorite, but I do admire women of action! My favorite show is Law and Order SVU. Well acted and the actresses rock. Thanks for the share and I'm sharing, Alecia.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Michelle! SVU is an awesome show :).


Rfordin profile image

Rfordin 4 years ago from Florida

I'm a total Olivia Benson fan. I love that series so much and am proud to say I have spent many nights watching and rewatching Law and Order: SVU. I have never seen the closer but the character your describing makes it sounds like I should add it to the good 'ole Netflix que.

~Becky


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Becky,

You should definitely check out The Closer. Unfortunately, it just ended this year but I'm sure it will be big for a long time. Thanks so much for coming by and commenting!


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

Here's another vote for Olivia Benson -- it's one of my favorite shows and I'm sorry that she's leaving after the season. Hopefully, the new characters there will be able to carry on. Voting this Up and Interesting. Shared.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hey alocsin,

That's so sad! I didn't know she's leaving after this season. I hope the show will still have the same heart. Thanks for coming by, commenting, and sharing!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Came back for another read! lol! still love these guys, voted and shared, nell


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Nell for the re-read and the share :)!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

My favorite is the same it was 13 months ago...Olivia Benson! She rocks!!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Olivia always rocks! Thank you Sunshine!


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 2 years ago

I knew Law and Order would be on here. Forgot about The Closer since she left the show.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 23 months ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you Poetryman6969!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working