Fictional Cops I Love, Ranked By How Guilty I, As An Anarchist, Feel For Loving Them

Detective Jack Robinson

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

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So, so guilty. Maximum guilt. This guy is just a standard stereotype of what people who say “most cops are good, it’s the bad ones who ruin things” believe a “good cop” to be, and I am an absolute ass for accepting and loving this character just because he wears sharp 1920s suits and because I want him to make out with Phryne Fisher. You do not get a pass on being part of an oppressive colonialist law enforcement agency just because I think it’s cute when you get flustered by a flapper’s free-spiritedness. So much agonizing guilt here.

Should you suffer from the same guilt, I highly recommend constructing a parallel narrative to the show in your head, where Bert and Cess never gave up on being communists and are quietly plotting a 1920s Australian revolution in the background of literally every scene in which they are not actively helping Phryne stop murders. If you like, you can also pretend that Jack knows about this, and is turning a blind eye or even helping them, but I honestly don’t know if my imagination can stretch his character that far; he is a cop, and I feel bad for liking him. I feel bad for liking Phryne too, if it comes down to that, but Free-Spirited Flappers Who Are Also Imperialist Aristocrats I Guiltily Love is a much shorter list so it doesn’t get its own article, I just thought I’d mention it.

Guilt levels: so high.

Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle

Foyle’s War

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You can get away with a lot, in my book, if you fight fascists. Not everything, but a lot. That said, I think Foyle, who in the show is a police detective on the home front during World War Two, gets a lot more leeway from me for being terse, witty, and easily irritated in an endearing manner than he does for occasionally coming up against actual Nazi sympathizers. My love of Foyle is way less about the fact that he happens to be on the right side of history than it is about how understated and enjoyable Michael Kitchen’s performance is. I really can’t excuse myself at all here.

I think I can like a guy who once basically ordered a rich and powerful British fascist to shoot himself in the head

Oh, oh wait, I just remembered how shockingly chill he is when he realizes that the suspect who is currently confessing that yes, he was the one who killed that person this episode, and who is a man, is in love with Foyle’s son. I feel like the Venn diagram of cops who fought in World War One and people who are totally fine with the fact that a guy is in love with their son is a pretty small overlap filled mainly with Chris Foyle. You know what? I think I can like a guy who once basically ordered a rich and powerful British fascist to shoot himself in the head if I want to. Get off my back.

Guilt levels: high, but defensive.

Seth Bullock

Deadwood

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I feel like I can mostly justify this by making some vague statement about the sheer quality of the writing, set design, photography, etc that made Deadwood so amazing. Surely I don’t have to feel bad for liking a character from such a ground-breaking, intelligent show?

For every other cop on this list my overwhelming favorite thing about them is the fact that they’re fictional.

I do, though. Seth Bullock is a sheriff on the American frontier, on land stolen from indigenous people through acts of genocidal violence. Not only that, he’s not even truly fictional; he’s based on a real historical figure, so THAT sucks, because for every other cop on this list my overwhelming favorite thing about them is the fact that they’re fictional. Goddamnit. What excuse do I have for my deep affection for this jaw-clenching, morality-questioning lawman?

Once again, it’s his relationships that make me really love Seth, primarily with his “pardner” — as they consistently refer to each other, in a very Old West and also very gay way, — Sol Star. The internet fandom used to refer to the two of them as Clench and the Mensch and that was fucking adorable.

Guilt levels: sigh

Detective William Murdoch

Murdoch Mysteries

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Ok, first of all, why is this show not more popular? It’s delightful. A steampunk mystery show set in turn-of-the-century Toronto with female scientists and a steadfast refusal to take itself too seriously. It’s great. That said, I think one of the things it does well is that the police force (or “constabulary” as it is I-assume-historically-accurately-and-hilariously-quaintly is referred to on the show) is not overly romanticized. Corruption, racism, homophobia, sexism, colonialism, and that basic cop tendency to be an asshole because you can are all showcased quite consistently. In one particularly strong episode, scenes of the male protagonists squaring off against waterfront gangs are intercut with the female protagonists at a women’s suffrage rally, having the shit kicked out of them by different, but pretty much identical cops. We’re not expected to like the Toronto Constabulary, so that’s good.

Buuuuut boy do I like William Murdoch. How are you not going to like William Murdoch, she said, desperately flailing for excuses to like a guy who, in reality, is at best mildly perturbed by all of the worst shit the police force does? I feel like once again I’m giving a fictional cop a pass primarily because of his love interest, in this case, Toronto’s first female coroner, pioneering psychologist, and relatively sexually liberated ghoulish punster, Doctor Julia Ogden. My guilt is slightly lessened by the way their relationship goes, because William actually becomes a better person and a better feminist through her influence. But at the end of the day, Murdoch is a cop, and yes, I do have to feel bad about that, no matter how cute it is when he gets excited about a new invention.

Guilt levels: moderate. In honor of the show’s setting, I will describe my attitude towards my love of William Murdoch as “aggressively apologetic.” I’m sore-y.

Commander Samuel Vimes

The Discworld Books

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NO GUILT HERE WHATSOEVER. The Commander of the Ankh Morpork City Watch is one of my favorite fictional humans.

Sam Vimes is the best and I refuse to feel bad about liking him so there.

I know I know but hear me out. Sam Vimes believes that his role is to protect the powerless from the powerful, and to annoy rich people. And he does those things consistently, and works hard to keep the Ankh-Morpork police force more or less in line with that role. He’s not perfect, but we’re not supposed to think he can be, because Terry Pratchett is too awesome for that.

Sam motherfucking Vimes though. When the revolution came, he was on the barricades. Awesomely, through the power of time travel, HE WAS ON THE BARRICADES TWICE. Sam Vimes, fresh-faced young copper, joins an uprising as a young man, SEES THE REVOLUTION FAIL and then, as an older man thrown back into that era through time travel he JOINS THE REVOLUTION A SECOND TIME EVEN THOUGH HE KNOWS IT FAILED AND HELPS TO MAKE SURE IT SUCCEEDS. He BEATS UP A GOVERNMENTAL TORTURER AND BURNS DOWN THE HEADQUARTERS OF THE SECRET POLICE. He once showed up where two armies were squaring off to go to war and ARRESTED BOTH ARMIES FOR CONSPIRACY TO CAUSE A BREACH OF THE PEACE. SAM. VIMES.

Oh oh oh and then there’s his deep-seated hatred of monarchy. Sam Vimes is just WAITING for Ank-Morpork to somehow have a king again, so that he can personally chop that king’s head off like his ancestor did before him. Vimes lives in a fantasy world, a world where there are, you know, dragons, and trolls, and most importantly, narrative conventions, where Rightful Kings can show up in The City They Were Born To Rule carrying A Mysterious Magic Sword, but when that rightful king shows up, he ends up working for Sam Vimes, and understanding (because Terry Pratchett is just wonderful) that even if he IS the Once and Future King in some kind of mystical, genetic, narratively significant way, KINGS ARE STILL NEVER-THE-LESS A TERRIBLE IDEA. So he just, you know, keeps doing his thing and tries to make life better in the city without being in charge of it. Everyone KNOWS Carrot Ironfoundersson is the rightful heir to the throne, and everyone also knows he will never do anything about it, because Vimes just won’t let there be kings. Another attempt to reinstate the monarchy failed solely because the would-be king pointed out to his supporters that Vimes would be really really mad.

Someday there should be a movie where Sam Vimes is played by Samuel L Jackson.

Sam Vimes is the best and I refuse to feel bad about liking him so there.

Guilt levels: So low they’re past the elephants and sinking to the level of the turtle’s shell. I refuse to feel bad about liking Sam Vimes. Fight me.

9 thoughts on “Fictional Cops I Love, Ranked By How Guilty I, As An Anarchist, Feel For Loving Them”

  1. I know almost nothing about most of the people on this list, but this is still one of my favourite things for all the Vimes-love. I’ll join you on the barricades of that fight.

  2. ‘The provenances of many splendid old families went up in smoke, Commander. Of course, the Heralds will do what they can, and the families themselves keep records but frankly, I understand, it’s all going to be patchwork and guesswork. Extremely embarrassing. Are you smiling, Commander?’
    ‘It was probably a trick of the light, sir.’
    ‘Commander, I always used to consider that you had a definite anti-authoritarian streak in you.’
    ‘Sir?’
    ‘It seems that you have managed to retain this even though you are authority.’
    ‘Sir?’
    -The man the myth the legend…
    ‘That’s practically Zen.’

  3. All dudes, eh? Great post idea! I can’t evaluate most of these except Bullock (agreed: hate to love), but women typically make more likable cops, if likability is what we’re going for.

    What about the amazing Gillian Anderson’s character Inspector Stella Gibson from The Fall? She’s hunting a rapist murderer, she uses male colleagues for sex the way traditional detectives treat women (minus the misogyny), and she’s smart as hell.

    Not to mention Dana Scully from X-Files. FBI special agents are cops, right?

    Or Catherine Willows, played by Marg Helgenberger in the original CSI — single mom, ex-sex worker, solving crimes like a boss. I think she’s technically not a cop, but she had a badge and a gun.

    Marge Gunderson from Fargo. ‘Nuff said.

    For dude cops, I like Detective Kevin Corcoran from Copper, patrolling the Civil War-era Five Points, chasing Confederate spies, exposing and opposing wealthy elites, rescuing a 10-year old girl from sex trafficking (repeatedly), treating black people as equals in a time of Irish/black conflict, etc.

  4. Oh my Spock I love you forever for your Vimes love. He’s the greatest ever and you making me think of him just makes me so unbearably happy.

  5. I think you should include Jimmy McNulty from The Wire on this list.
    Probably on of the most enjoyable anti-authority cowboy cops ever put on television.
    Hell, there are a bunch of cops on the show who I found endearing. Lester Freamon is another good choice.
    If you’re looking for a good lady cop, check out Kima Greggs.

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