Law and Order

John Munch

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John Munch
John Munch, Fashionable Crimes
Name John Munch
Title Sergeant (2007-2013)
Detective (1983-2007)
Affiliation Manhattan District Attorney's Office (2013-)
NYPD (1999-2013; retired)
Baltimore Police Department (1983-1999; retired)
Division DA Investigation Unit (2013-)
Special Victims Unit (1999-2013; retired)
Cold Case Unit (2012-2013)
Homicide Unit (Baltimore; 1983-1999; retired)
Precinct 16th Precinct (retired)
Occupation DA Investigator (2013-)
Police officer (1983-2013; retired)
Pathology Murderer
Family Pete Munch (father; deceased)
Andrew Munch (paternal uncle)
Bernard Munch (brother)
David Munch (brother)
Lee Munch (cousin)
Gwen Munch (ex-wife)
Billie Lou Hatfield (ex-wife)
Felicia Munch (ex-wife)
Unnamed ex-wife
Status Alive
Actor Richard Belzer
Joseph Perrino (Young Munch)
First Appearance HLOTS: "Gone for Goode"
Last Appearance SVU: "Fashionable Crimes"

John Munch (born July 31, 1951) was a Detective and later a Sergeant assigned to Manhattan's Special Victims Unit. He was previously affiliated with the Baltimore Police Department. As of Season 15, he is retired from the NYPD and is a DA Investigator.

Early LifeEdit

Very little is known about John Munch, and over the years, he has tried to keep it that way. What is known is that his childhood was not a happy one. He and his brother (who now works as a mortician) were physically abused by their father, who was apparently bipolar. One night, after getting a beating "for being a wiseass", John told his father that he hated his guts. That was the last thing he ever said to his father; the elder Munch killed himself with a gunshot to the head shortly after. (SVU: "Painless") As if that wasn't traumatic enough, when he was in high school, Munch began to see a little girl watching him from the porch across the street from his house, always looking at him with an expression that he didn't recognize. He became accustomed to seeing her every afternoon when he got home from school, but then, one afternoon, she stopped appearing; the poor girl had been killed by her abusive mother, who had shoved her through a plate-glass window (SVU: "Legacy").

In the sixties, Munch went through a free-love hippie phase. One of his girlfriends during that period photographed him naked one night; that girlfriend later became a successful artistic photographer, and in the 1980s the photo ended up in a public exhibition, much to his chagrin.


As an adult, Munch became a homicide detective in Baltimore. During his time, he met his first wife, Gwen, who was mentally unstable. Munch loved her, but she refused to take medication and wouldn't see a therapist, and finally, her mental illness became too much of a strain and they divorced. Little is known about the second and third marriage, but he eventually married a final time, to Billie Lou, a bartender at the Waterfront Bar, which Munch owned with fellow detectives Tim Bayliss and Meldrick Lewis. However, by late 1999, the couple had broken up after Billie Lou (supposedly) slept with another officer from the Baltimore P.D. and was in the process of getting divorced. Sometime before his fourth marriage, he and his fellow officers met Lennie Briscoe and Reynaldo Curtis, who had come to investigate a murder that had happened in New York, but whose roots appeared to trace back to Baltimore. Munch disliked Briscoe at first because Briscoe had slept with his ex-wife Gwen ("Baby, It's You"). However, in time, they became good friends and would team up several more times.

During a raid on a suspected child molester and murderer, he witnesses three of his fellow detectives, Stanley Bolander, Beau Felton, and Kay Howard get shot while he escapes without a scratch. It was originally assumed the child molester shot them but he was eventually cleared. The real shooter, Gordon Pratt, was eventually found and Munch's colleagues interrogated him but were forced to let him go. When Gordon Pratt was murdered, Tim Bayliss was assigned to find his killer, much to chagrin of his colleagues. Everyone gave alibis for the time of the murder, including Munch, but Munch's alibi was later proven to be false. Munch dared Bayliss to check his service weapon for ballistics but Bayliss covered for Munch and let the case go unsolved.

While in Baltimore Homicide Unit, on three crossover episodes with Homicide, he and Lennie Briscoe got along well. Also in the unit he had many partners: (first to last) Stanley Bolander (retired), Megan Russert (quit), Mike Kellerman (quit) and Tim Bayliss (quit). Russert quit because she moved in with a French diplomat because she was carrying his baby. Mike Kellerman killed a drug lord out of revenge and he quit so other officers involved could keep their jobs. Tim Bayliss killed a serial killer and took a leave of absence it was implied he killed himself in Homicide: The Movie. In Homicide: The Movie his former boss, Lt. Al Giardello is shot and killed so he comes back to aid into the investigation. He has a minor role in the movie. Though he was partnered with 20 year veteran Stanley "The Big Man" Bolander.

Munch Trials

Munch in 2008

On SVUEdit

Munch took early retirement from the Baltimore P.D. in 1999 and moved to New York, swearing he would never step foot in Baltimore again. While living off his pension from Baltimore, Munch joined the NYPD and was assigned to the Manhattan Special Victims Unit. He has had three partners there over the years: Brian Cassidy, Monique Jeffries, and Odafin Tutuola.

In 2006 his uncle Andrew (played by Jerry Lewis) re-entered his life in New York City, after being found sleeping on a grate. Munch thought his uncle was in Florida at a nursing home and had no idea that he was homeless. While in the squad room Andrew overheard Dani Beck talking to a rape victim. When that case was thrown out for improper procedure Andrew followed the suspect along with Stabler and Beck, and pushed the man onto the tracks of an oncoming subway car. Horrified by his own actions, Andrew said goodbye to Munch, and then had himself committed to a mental facility. (SVU: "Uncle")

More recently, Munch was reunited with Gwen when he discovered that she'd been communicating with a dangerous paranoiac named Peter Harrison. When Harrison's lawyer was murdered during his arrest, the NYPD rounded up everyone else who'd been in regular contact with him, including Gwen. Gwen was infuriated by this and, believing that Munch had sold her out, told him she never wanted to see him again. ("Zebras")

In Season 13, Munch is seen mostly in the precinct helping with interrogations and research, as Tutuola is partnered with Detective Rollins. He continues to act as squad commander when Cragen is absent. In Season 14, Munch is temporarily reassigned to the Cold Case Unit, after solving a decade old cold child abduction case in the episode, "Manhattan Vigil". He returns to SVU in the episode, "Secrets Exhumed", in which he brings back a 1980s rape-homicide cold case for the squad to look into.

Trivia Edit

  • Munch is a huge conspiracy theorist, much to the dismay of many of his fellow detectives, who frequently ignore his ramblings or tune him out.
  • Munch is the only character to have appeared on almost every iteration of Law & Order (except Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Law & Order: LA), and also the only one carried over from another franchise (Homicide: Life on the Street).
  • As revealed in the SVU episode "Care", Munch is Jewish.
  • In addition to English, Munch speaks Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, and Greek.
  • Munch is the first detective in Manhattan SVU to be promoted to Sergeant.
  • According to SVU: "Taken", John has a brother who works as a mortician.
  • Has 4 ex-wives. According to "Zebras", he keeps in contact with one of them, Gwen. In one episode, it is implied that at least one of them may have been Italian. After seeing Detective Amaro's wife angry, he commented, "That's why I stopped marrying Italian women."
  • Although Sergeant Munch does not have much supervisory authority over the other Detectives, in the real NYPD a Sergeant normally is a squad supervisor. Munch mentions that he only took the Sergeant's exam on a dare and did not really want the supervisory responsibility, even when he took over while Cragen was on leave and said that the job "sucks".
  • Munch took the Sergeant's exam on a bar bet (SVU: "Alternate"). He had originally planned to take it in 1996, but failed to show up when he could not find his lucky socks that morning (Homicide: Life on the Street - "Fire").
  • Munch is Romanian. (SVU: "Legacy")
  • Munch's father killed himself hours after Munch told him he hated him and he regretted in ever since.
  • In the Homicide: Life on the Street episode "Kaddish" it is shown he had a crush on Helen Rosenthal who turned out to be a rape/murder victim. Leading Munch to pick up the rapist that killed her and chuck him around in a cell yelling, "WHY DID YOU KILL HELEN ROSENTHAL!!? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?"
  • Munch is based on Sgt. Jay Landsman from the true crime book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets written by David Simon which is also what Homicide Life on the Street is based on. Also, two of Munch's four partners on that show were based on real homicide cops: Det. Stanley Bolander (based on Det. Donald "Big Man" Wordon) and Det. Tim Bayliss (loosely based on Det. Tom Pellegrini, who worked under the command of Sgt. Landsman. Though it seems as if Landsman is far more crazy (insulting a prostitute on the street is fun for Landsman). Munch eventually was on The Wire, an HBO show in which the creator wrote A Year on the Killing Streets, and one characters was called Sgt. Jay Landsman.
  • J.H. Brodie from Homicide argued with Munch most likely because Brodie is based on David Simon who must have mad the detectives furious when they found out in the book about any misdeeds. (Landsman putting empty beer bottles in fellow sergeants desks).
  • Munch joined the homicide unit in 1983.
  • If Munch spent 16 years as a homicide detective out of his 20 year bid with the department that means Munch only spent four years in another division.
  • Munch has stated that he would never step back into Baltimore. The only time we see him in Baltimore is when he returns to help find the shooter (and future killer) of his former Lieutenant.


Icon SVU Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Main Characters

Senior Detectives: Elliot StablerJohn MunchOdafin TutuolaOlivia Benson

Junior Detectives: Olivia BensonMonique JeffriesOdafin TutuolaChester LakeAmanda RollinsNick AmaroDominick Carisi, Jr.

Squad Supervisors: John MunchOlivia Benson

Commanding Officers: Donald CragenOlivia Benson

Assistant District Attorneys: Alexandra CabotCasey NovakKim GreylekRafael Barba

Others: Melinda WarnerGeorge Huang

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