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Andy Sipowicz

Played by: Dennis Franz

  • Abusive Parents: His father.
  • The Alcoholic: In the first 3 seasons.
  • Bald of Awesome
  • Berserk Button:
    • He is a veteran of The Vietnam War. So please, do not lie to him about having fought in that war if you weren't actually there.
    • Amoral Attorney James Sinclair acts as a living Berserk Button to him.
    • He and John Clark, Sr. tend to press each other's berserk buttons a lot. When Clark finds out that his son is partnering up with Sipowicz, he packs his son's bags and throws him out of their apartment.
  • Big Good: By the end of the show, after becoming Sergeant. His first walk in the new uniform elicits applause from everyone in the precinct. His position as this is also what inspires Sipowicz to take on the role of Squad leader. He reasons that the officers have been through so many command changes over the years and that each new boss has provided different policies that they have to inevitably adjust to, momentarily distracting them from case work. So it would be better for him to spend his last few years making sure that the officers were in the hands of someone who knew how things should work and function.
    Sipowicz: Commanding this squad. Teaching them. Keeping them out of harm's way. That's my last job. I don't want to go anywhere from there. I'm not looking for any more promotions. There would be nothing else I would ever want to do.
  • The Big Guy: Considered the best detective in the squad In-Universe. The fact that he is sometimes brought in to get confessions from suspects when other detectives fail is realistically irritating to those detectives.
  • Breakout Character: Started out second banana to John Kelly and ended up as one of the most famous TV detectives of all time. (Dennis Franz's four Emmys for the role certainly didn't hurt.)
  • Characterization Marches On: It can be a little strange, after watching the later seasons, to look back at season one and behold a Sipowicz who frequents prostitutes and strip joints. He even smiles, which later on seems to nearly break his face.
  • Chilly Reception:
    • When Simone replaces Kelly, Sipowicz gives him an extremely cold reception. This was intentionally engineered by the writers — they figured that if Sipowicz took an immediate, irrational dislike to Simone, it would leave the audience saying "Come on, Andy, give the guy a chance." It worked.
    • After serving under Lt. Fancy for over seven years, Sipowicz is extremely suspicious of Lt. Rodriguez, interpreting everything he says or does in the worst possible light and even taking an irrational dislike of his non-regulation beard. After Sipowicz confronts Rodriguez about interfering with his interrogation, and Rodriguez backs off and agrees to let him do things his way, Sipowicz starts warming up to him.
  • Deadpan Snarker: When he's in a good mood.
  • Dead Person Conversation: In one season 12 episode, Sipowicz is experiencing a crisis after being forcefully reminded of his mortality (in the previous episode, he's shot in the shoulder, and then he narrowly escapes being shot by a perp whose gun misfires). In his agitated state he first thinks he sees his late ex-partner Simone lying in a hospital bed that then turns out to be empty; a bit later Simone again appears to Sipowitz, and now carries out a whole conversation, talking about life and death and encouraging him to be a father figure to his new partner.
  • Deus Angst Machina: He has had a dead wife, a dead son, two dead partners (and a third resigning in disgrace), and TWO cancer scares (his own and his youngest son's).
  • Dislikes the New Guy: When Bobby Simone joins the squad, he dislikes him as of his first line. This is specifically done to make the audience sympathetic to Simone, who replaces the very popular John Kelly. Andy warms up to Simone eventually, even having him be the best man at his wedding.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Whilst the final episode makes it very clear that life and work will go on as usual for Andy Sipowicz, he is not only far better off at the end than he was at the beginning (both professionally and in his personal life), but also a better person.
  • Iconic Item: His famous short-sleeved shirt and tie combo.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He can be very abrasive even to people he respects and likes, but he is a loyal friend and willing to help people in need.
  • The Lancer: To John Kelly and Bobby Simone in the first six seasons. Becomes The Hero after Bobby Simone's death.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Though this is toned down in the later seasons. This is shown as character development: he comes to realize that his dislike of African-Americans is based on a traumatic incident in his past and manages to re-direct his anger at the actual bad guy rather than into general racism.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Dennis Franz's Chicago accent coming from Brooklyn boy Sipowicz.
  • Off the Wagon: Twice.
  • Police Brutality: Even when he doesn't actually use physical force, he often threaten suspects with violence to intimidate them.
  • Rabid Cop: He learns to control his aggressiveness over the course of the series, but woe those suspects who talk back at him.
  • Recovered Addict: Seen in the first episode as a rude, racist alcoholic and borderline drug addict. Early in the first season he stops drinking, but later falls off the wagon. After he joins AA he remains sober - even going so far as to initially refuse pain medication during a surgery - and generally becomes a much nicer person. He even helps a few others stop drinking.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Twice, with Sylvia and Connie. His first wife (ex-wife already when the series starts), while not bad-looking, looks more like you'd expect the wife of a middle-aged detective to look like. Not only are both Sylvia and Connie quite good-looking, but they are also considerably younger than Sipowicz.

John Kelly

Played by: David Caruso

  • The Hero: From the pilot until "Dead and Gone."
  • Put on a Bus: In "Dead and Gone."
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Delivers a particularly awesome one to a judge in "4B or Bot 4B."
  • The Stoic: In contrast to Sipowicz, Kelly was cool as a cucumber and rarely ever raised his voice, even in the worst situations.

Janice Licalsi

Played by: Amy Brenneman

  • The Chick: Until "For Whom the Skell Rolls".
  • Corrupt Cop: Not because she actually wants to be, but her father was a cop on the mob payroll and she's desperate to keep that secret.
  • Fair Cop

James Martinez

  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: When his girlfriend Nina is slashed and nearly raped in "Alice Doesn't Fit Here Anymore", the squad find a street thug who she can identify as the assailant. She doesn't want to go through a trial, though. Sipowicz is given free reign to beat a confession out of him so that a guilty plea will be entered without publicity.

Bobby Simone

Played by: Jimmy Smits

Greg Medavoy

Played by: Gordon Clapp

  • Butt-Monkey: Medavoy usually gets the "odd" case of the week. He doesn't usually suffer any major setbacks, but has a lot of bad luck, sometimes falls for scams, and tends to end up in situations where he's slightly out of his water. He sometimes makes a rather naive impression and has a talent for stating the obvious, which often elicits snide comments from Sipowicz.

Adrienne Lesniak

Played by: Justine Miceli

Diane Russell

Played by: Kim Delaney

  • Abusive Parents: Her father beats her mother and brother, and during a particularly bad case of withdrawal, is forced to confront the fact that her father sexually abused her when she was 12.
  • The Alcoholic: Similar to Sipowicz.
  • The Bus Came Back: After leaving the precinct near the end of Season 8, she shows back up for a one-off appearance in Season 10 and a four-episode arc in Season 11. She also manages to be there for Andy's marriage to Connie.
  • Fair Cop
  • Iconic Sequel Character: Doesn't appear until Season 2 but is one of the most remembered characters of the show along with Sipowicz.
  • Near-Rape Experience: When Diane goes undercover to investigate violent psychopath Jimmy Liery, he slips a pill into her drink. She gets dizzy and he carries her out of the bar, after which she wakes up naked in bed with him with no memory of how she got there. When she confronts him (armed), he admits he drugged her with the intention of raping her, but he couldn't go through with the latter part.
  • Rape as Backstory: Diane's undercover operation with Jimmy Liery (see above) sends her into a serious mental tailspin, causing her to finally confront the fact that her father molested her when she was twelve.

Jill Kirkendall

Played by: Andrea Thompson

  • Fair Cop
  • Mama Bear: Is extremely protective of her son when it's discovered that he's been the witness to a homicide, and appeals to Russell to find a way to get a conviction without requiring a testimony from him.

Danny Sorensen

Played by: Rick Schroder

Baldwin Jones

Played by: Henry Simmons

  • The Big Guy: Physically the largest detective on the show.
  • Fair Cop: Arguably the best-looking male detective on the show.
  • Iconic Sequel Character: Doesn't appear until Season 7 but is one of the most remembered characters in the show.
  • Odd Friendship: With Medavoy. They are far different, generationally and in temperament, but Jones admits to him at Medavoy's retirement party that he's genuinely learned a lot from working with him, and will miss everything about their partnership.
  • Scary Black Man: Only when he had to be.

Connie McDowell

Played by: Charlotte Ross

  • Fair Cop
  • The Ghost: Becomes this in Season 12, after Charlotte Ross was let go from the show. Rather than kill off yet another one of Andy's loved ones (especially just a short time following their marriage), McDowell is instead frequently referred to by Sipowicz without ever appearing onscreen. His worry about providing for her and their new child becomes a source of concern for Sipowicz as he struggles with the threat of being pushed off the job, and then with where he wants to go with his career after being made Sergeant.
  • Iconic Sequel Character: Doesn't appear until Season 8 but is one of the most remembered characters of the show.
  • Ms. Fanservice: One of the show's sexiest characters. She also provided an infamous Shower Scene which got the show in trouble with the censorship board.
  • Second Love: To Sipowicz.

John Clark Jr.

  • Iconic Sequel Character: Doesn't appear until Season 9 but is one of the most remembered characters of the show.
  • The Lancer: To Andy Sipowicz.
  • Mr. Fanservice: He has had some Shirtless Scenes and ass shots over the series.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: To his father, who doesn't seem to pleased that he's moving to the 15th Precinct to work with Andy.

Rita Ortiz

Laura Murphy

    Captains / Lieutenants 

Arthur Fancy

Played by: James Mc Daniel

Tony Rodriguez

Played by: Esai Morales

Thomas Bale

Played by: Currie Graham

  • By-the-Book Cop: To the chagrin of the older guard at the precinct.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Starts off heavily antagonistic to Sipowicz and Medavoy and seems likely to get them kicked off the job. After Andy goes out of his way to look out for Bale, the two treat each other with much more respect. After getting shot, Bale realizes that he won't be able to recover enough to return to the job, and convinces Andy to take over his position.


    Assistant District Attorneys 

Laura Michaels

Sylvia Costas

Played by: Sharon Lawrence

  • Christianity Is Catholic: One of the show's few exceptions. She's Greek Orthodox, and that's the church she and Andy are married in.
  • For Great Justice: She's personally bothered by miscarriages of justice and is known to dedicate time outside of her work schedule to making the system fairer.
  • Hello, Attorney!: Andy notices even in the early episodes where his view is clouded by recrimination and alcohol.
  • Killed Off for Real: Dies in the crossfire when Dolores Mayo's aggrieved father shoots up the court.

Valerie Haywood

    Police Administrative Aides 

Donna Abandando

Played by: Gail O Grady

  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: With her sister Dana (Debra Messing). It usually stems from Dana's tendency to hit on all of Donna's boyfriends, including Medavoy.
  • Informed Attractiveness: In her first episode, she distracts the squad so much one of them runs into a pole and breaks his nose.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Girlfriend: With Medavoy. She loves him, but his insecurity about dating someone he sees as so far out of his league makes him incredibly jealous and eventually drives her away.

John Irvin

Played by: Bill Brochtrup

  • Camp Gay
  • Mentor in Queerness: In "Welcome to New York" he acts as this to a young gay man (played by Misha Collins) who had been involved with both the victim and perpetrator of a homicide. John told him that this terrible event would pass and that he would find good people who loved and accepted him.
  • Pet Homosexual: May seem like this in the beginning, but this turns into a subversion in that he is portrayed quite respectfully and seriously. Initially he has some difficulty being accepted by some of the detectives, most notably Sipowicz, but ends up being a good friend of everybody in the squad.


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