We all watch TV shows, and which is the “best” is a matter of opinion. With that being said, here are the top 10 best TV police officers of all time. Feel free to check out other lists throughout Thought for Your Penny.
10. Commissioner Jim Gordon “Gotham”
Actor: Ben McKenzie
Aired: 2014-Present, Fox
Gotham is filled with all levels of thugs, criminals, and villains. Keeping the streets is no easy task, but Commissioner Gordon not only does so, he is probably the least corrupt cop in Hollywood.
9. Officer Judy Hoffs “21 Jump Street”
Actor: Holly Robinson
Aired: 1987-1991, Fox
The only college-educated officer on 21 Jump Street, officer Hoffs also had to overcome prejudices against black women. She remained a dedicated member of the force and even helped train the next generation.
8. Detective Virgil Tibbs “In the Heat of the Night”
Actor: Howard Rollins
Aired: 1988-1995, NBC/CBS
Tibbs faced adversity in his life, but he still rose up the ranks of the police force. Eventually he becomes Chief of Detectives and his second-in-command only to the Police Chief of Sparta, Mississippi. He is an effective member of the force until his retirement and subsequent move into law.
7. Jimmy McNulty “The Wire”
Actor: Dominic West
Aired: 2002-2008, HBO
Baltimore is a tough, crime-ridden city, and McNulty does a great job of pursuing justice. He often sidesteps the chain of command, but it’s typically for a greater purpose, like taking down a drug ring or helping the department get more funding.
6. Detective Adrian Monk “Monk”
Actor: Tony Shalhoub
Aired: 2002-2009, USA Network
Adrian Monk was fired as a homicide detective because of his intense OCD. Still, he’s dedicated to law enforcement and becomes a consultant for the San Francisco Police Department. Even as a civilian, he spends several years helping the police solve crimes using his unique ability to recreate crime scenes with little evidence.
5. Joe Swanson “Family Guy”
Actor: Patrick Warburton
Aired: 1999-Present, Fox
Officer Swanson was crippled by a bullet in his spine, but he remains on the force. He’s a fair, yet stern, officer of the law and has no problem arresting his friend’s daughter several times when she commits a crime. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Swanson proves he’s a competent officer who’s fully capable of chasing criminals and engaging in hand-to-hand combat when necessary.
4. Gil Grissom “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”
Actor: William Petersen
Aired: 2000-2015, CBS
Grissom was the night shift supervisor of the Las Vegas Crime Lab. He’s level-headed, highly intelligent, and never seemed to bat an eye when seeing some gruesome and disturbing things. Best of all, he focuses on his job and doesn’t get involved in the often sticky office politics of the police force.
3. Andy Taylor “The Andy Griffith Show”
Actor: Andy Griffith
Aired: 1960-1968, CBS
The Sheriff and Justice of the Peace of the small town of Mayberry, Taylor manages not to let the power go to his head. He only has two deputy, and most of his shift is spent fixing the mistakes of Barney and Warren. He’s also an active member of the community and truly lives up to his oath to protect and serve.
2. Detective Kate Beckett “Castle”
Actor: Stana Katic
Aired: 2009-2016, ABC
Beckett rises through the ranks of the NYPD and is even given a position as a special investigator for the U.S. Attorney General. She has too much morality to stick to that job for long, though. She’s eventually promoted to Captain of the NYPD due to her intelligence and ability to work with consultant Richard Castle in solving some of the most difficult crimes in NYC.
1. John Munch “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “X-Files,” “The Beat,” “The Wire,” “30 Rock,” “Arrested Development”
Actor: Richard Belzer
Aired: 1993-Present, ABC/NBC/Fox/CBS/UPN/Netflix
Munch is the detective you think of when someone says “that detective on TV.” He’s a cynical officer who worked in both Baltimore and New York City. He’s well-respected, even though he clearly believes in conspiracy theories. Still, he proves to be a competent, honest, and professional cop that we can all hope our real-life officers emulate.