Law and Order

Lennie Briscoe

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Briscoe Right to Counsel
Name Leonard W. Briscoe
Title Detective
D.A. Investigator
Affiliation New York City Police Department
District Attorney's Office
United States Army
Division Homicide Department
Precinct 36th Precinct, 27th Precinct
Family Cathy Briscoe (daughter) (deceased)
Julia Briscoe (daughter)
Unnamed grandchild
Ken Briscoe (nephew)
Harry (uncle) (deceased)
Unnamed ex-wives
Status Deceased
Actor Jerry Orbach
First Appearance Point of View
Last Appearance 41 Shots
Detective Leonard W. "Lennie" Briscoe was a member of the New York City Police Department for more than thirty years, starting as a so-called "beat cop" in the late 1960s.


Briscoe typically had a wise-crack or joke about the victim or circumstances of death at the close of the opening scene, with the joke usually exhibiting a very deadpan delivery while at the same time being highly "on target." Briscoe had a rather sarcastic view about people. His sarcasm was especially pronounced around marriage and fidelity, and he would frequently make bitter references to divorce, the futility of love, and lawyers.

For all his character flaws, he remained an honest cop his entire career.

He also maintained good relationships with his former partners and colleagues such as Mike Logan, Don Cragen, Anita Van Buren, Jack McCoy, Rey Curtis, John Munch, Jamie Ross, Abbie Carmichael, Ed Green, Elliot Stabler, Olivia Benson, Tracey Kibre, and Hector Salazar.

Early life and familyEdit

Lennie Briscoe was born on January 2, 1940 (L&O: Virus).

He grew up in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan. At some point, Lennie parked cars at the Atwater Hotel (L&O: Censure). He liked music, but mostly music that was popular in his youth. Rey Curtis once chided Briscoe's musical taste for stopping with Bobby Darin. Briscoe used to read Langston Hughes back when he was a beatnik "for about five minutes" and "it used to work pretty good on Jewish girls." He was also an excellent pool player (a real life skill of Jerry Orbach's).

Briscoe was raised Catholic, but was Jewish on his father's side and occasionally attended Jewish services as a courtesy to his first wife (L&O: Blood Libel). His father served in the United States Army during World War II and helped to liberate a Nazi concentration camp in German occupied Poland (L&O: Night and Fog). Briscoe's father suffered from Alzheimer's and had died by 1994 (L&O: Golden Years). Briscoe did not get along with his father and once described him as a "schmuck". Nevertheless, he took several days off when his father died (L&O: Hitman). During Prohibition, Lennie's grandfather brewed gin in his bathtub and sold it door to door in milk bottles (L&O: High & Low).

Though not actually Jewish according to the traditional definition, Briscoe was sometimes the target of antisemitism from criminals and even some of his own colleagues. Briscoe also develops a friendship with one of the few featured Jewish police officers during his tenure, Det. John Munch, despite Munch's initial resentment when he discovers Briscoe had slept with his first wife.

Like his father, Briscoe served in the military; he was at one point a corporal in the United States Army. On several occasions he referred to his service in the Vietnam War.

After leaving the Army, Briscoe joined the NYPD in the 29th Precinct in Manhattan and walked a beat there with stops at the 31st and 33rd Precincts, also in Manhattan, and the 110th and 116th Precincts in Queens, at some point reaching the rank of detective. He also spent three years in the Anti-Crime Unit. Briscoe's detective shield number is 8220.

A veteran of two failed marriages, Briscoe had two daughters, the elder Julia and the younger Cathy. Lennie was a recovering alcoholic. He often made references to being a "friend of Bill W." which is a reference to his having attended Alcoholics Anonymous. His alcoholism harmed his family; he was often absent from his daughters' lives, and they have distant, fractious relationships with him as adults.

He also had a nephew, Det. Ken Briscoe (played by Orbach's son, Chris). He mentioned being a grandfather and Cathy was shown to have no children so they were most likely Julia's.

Law and OrderEdit

Briscoe first joined the 27th Precinct in 1992 after Det. Mike Logan's partner Sgt. Phil Cerreta was shot by a black-market arms dealer and transferred to a desk job at another precinct (L&O: Point of View). Briscoe's initially served under Capt. Donald Cragen at the 27th Precinct, until Cragen was replaced by Lt. Anita Van Buren in 1993.

Briscoe remained partners with Logan until 1995, when Logan was expelled to Staten Island for assaulting a corrupt politician (L&O: Pride). Briscoe was subsequently partnered with Det. Rey Curtis until 1999, when Curtis went into early retirement to take care of his MS-sticken wife and was replaced by Det. Ed Green.

Many of Briscoe's former partners and colleagues from before he joined the 27th Precinct were or ended up becoming corrupt. In 1993, Briscoe's friend Lt. Brian Torelli forced a confession from a mentally challenged man; Briscoe was later present when Internal Affairs arrested Torelli for suborning perjury and obstruction of justice (L&O: Jurisdiction) .

In 1994, the son of Det. Ted Parker, a former colleague of Briscoe, was arrested for shooting another teenager. Parker and Briscoe had a private conversation where Parker used hypothetics to virtually confess to Briscoe that his son only shot in self-defense. Later, Parker tacitly admited to Briscoe that he used his contacts in his old precinct to engineer the shooting death of a key prosecution witness in his son's case, which resulted in a mistrial (L&O: Kids).

In 1996, Briscoe witnessed the execution of a murdering rapist he helped apprehend, along with Rey Curtis, ADA Claire Kincaid, and EADA Jack McCoy. All four were disturbed by the experience, and it ruined Briscoe's lunch date with his daughter Cathy. That night, Briscoe fell off the wagon while at a bar and was driven home by Kincaid. However, Kincaid's car was struck by a drunk driver, injuring Briscoe and killing Kincaid. The incident deeply affected Briscoe and he remained sober for the rest of his life (L&O: Aftershock).

Later in 1996, another of Briscoe's former partners, Det. John Flynn, falsely implicated him for taking seized drugs from the 116th Precinct evidence room (given to him by Flynn) during their stint there several years before. Flynn made this allegation partly to throw off the Hellman Commission, which had been convened to investigate police corruption, including the questionable shooting death of a suspect by Flynn himself during a sting, and partly as revenge against Curtis, who refused to falsely defend Flynn. Briscoe, however, had an alibi—he was having an affair with Officer Betty Abrams, a married woman. Against Briscoe's wishes, Abrams testified before the commission to exonerate him. Because of the affair, however, the commissioners questioned her credibility. Although Briscoe was ultimately cleared, defense attorneys exploited the allegations for the rest of his career (L&O: Corruption).

There were moments in Briscoe's career where his decisions were controversial. In 1998, a stalker accused of murdering a woman could have gone free because the police concluded that the victim had earlier lied to the police about previously being attacked by the stalker, thereby undermining the victim's credibility. However, after the victim was found murdered, Briscoe went to McCoy and told him that he now believed that the victim did not lie to the police of the stalker's earlier attacks and that he was willing to take the stand and state that the original police report was incorrect. Curtis would be called by the defense to testify that he thought the original police report was correct. At the end of the episode, the stalker was found guilty; outside the courtroom, Curtis and Briscoe reconciled (L&O: Stalker).

Later in 1998, Briscoe's daughter Cathy was murdered by a drug dealer after she testified against the dealer in court (L&O: Damaged). Briscoe blamed himself for his daughter's death. However, he found closure when the drug dealer died from a heroin overdose (L&O: Hate). It was implied (although never explicitly stated) that Briscoe considered having the dealer killed. An old snitch of Briscoe's had offered to kill the dealer if Briscoe could get his charges reduced. Briscoe was later seen talking to the arresting officer about the snitch, but it was never confirmed if Briscoe did him the favor (L&O: Monster).

Shortly after Ed Green was assigned as his partner in 1999, he and Briscoe nearly came to blows during a particularly difficult investigation of a robbery-homicide. Their primary suspect confessed as he was being arrested, but because Briscoe was the only officer within earshot, Green, Van Buren, and McCoy were placed in a difficult position with regard to the confession. Again, Briscoe was eventually vindicated, and he and Green worked to rebuild their professional rapport and what eventually ended up as a close friendship (L&O: Marathon).

Briscoe retired in 2004 after 12 years at the 27th Precinct and more than 30 years in the NYPD (L&O: C.O.D.).


Sometime after his retirement from the NYPD, Briscoe joined the District Attorney's office, becoming a DA Investigator alongside Hector Salazar. However, Briscoe died in 2005, after only a couple of months at that post (coinciding with Jerry Orbach's death from prostate cancer on December 28, 2004).

In 2005, Mike Logan (questioning a burglar's fence in a pool hall) referred to Briscoe when he said that he had a former partner who was a "wizard with the stick" (CI: Diamond Dogs). Later in 2007, Logan said that Briscoe had died but he still sees him alive in his dreams (CI: Renewal). 

In 2008, Ed Green revealed that he returned to gambling briefly after Briscoe died (L&O: Burn Card). That same year, a Catholic priest who was a friend of Briscoe approached Mike Logan after a prisoner's deathbed confession to a 16-year-old double murder in The Bronx. (CI: Last Rites).

In 2009, Rey Curtis returned to New York to bury his deceased wife Deborah, who had finally succumbed to MS, next to her parents. Anita Van Buren was able to come to the tail end of Deborah's funeral and meet with Curtis where Curtis revealed that he had spoken with Briscoe just before his death and that Lennie was his old wisecracking self right up to the end (L&O: FED).

Briscoe's revolverEdit

Lennie Briscoe's duty weapon was a Smith & Wesson Model 36 .38 Special, snub-nosed revolver. He carried the Model 36 as his sidearm since he was a long serving veteran police officer with the NYPD having been a "Member Of the Service" (MOS) prior to 1986.

In 1986, the department started issuing Smith & Wesson Model 64 .38 Special revolvers to MOS. All NYPD officers who were hired after 1986 had to carry stainless steel finished revolvers.

After 1992, the NYPD started issuing 9mm semiautomatic pistols (certain authorized S&W, Glock, and SIG Sauer 9mm pistols) to their officers.

The Model 36 was a very popular revolver with NYPD detectives and plainclothes officers because it is reliable and easy to conceal and the .38 Special cartridge has a good reputation among police officers for reliability.

L&O appearancesEdit

Video Game appearancesEdit


  • Briscoe's departure from the L&O franchise was originally to be in the Trial by Jury episode "Baby Boom" where members of the DA's Office attend a memorial service for him after dying from an illness. This scene was in fact filmed, but never actually made it into the episode before its airing, leaving Briscoe's whereabouts after his last appearance in the episode "41 Shots" unknown.
  • Briscoe died at the age of either 64 or 65, as he was born in 1940 (in real life, Jerry Orbach was born in 1935 and died at age 69).
  • He is the longest-serving police detective to be on the original Law & Order series.
  • Lennie Briscoe was voted the 30th greatest television show character of all time by Bravo TV.
  • Lennie Briscoe was Law & Order's third greatest detective on the Hallmark Channel poll in 2010, beaten only by Special Victims Unit Det. Olivia Benson, who came in second, and Criminal Intent Det. Goren, who won the poll.
  • Lennie Briscoe was ranked #9 on Sleuth Channel's poll of America's Top Sleuths between Sherlock Holmes at #10 and Gil Grissom of CSI at #8.
  • Lennie Briscoe was named one of TV's Smartest Detectives by AOL TV.
  • Lennie Briscoe was ranked 15th on TV Guide's list of the 25 greatest TV detectives.

Icon L&O Law & Order - Main Characters

Senior Detectives: Max GreeveyPhil CerretaLennie BriscoeJoe FontanaEd GreenKevin Bernard

Junior Detectives: Mike LoganRey CurtisEd GreenNick FalcoKevin BernardCyrus LupoNina Cassady

Commanding Officers: Captain Donald Cragen • Lieutenant Anita Van Buren


Executive Assistant District Attorneys: Benjamin StoneJack McCoyMichael Cutter

Assistant District Attorneys: Paul RobinetteClaire KincaidJamie RossAbbie CarmichaelSerena SoutherlynAlexandra BorgiaConnie Rubirosa

District Attorneys: Adam SchiffNora LewinArthur BranchJack McCoy


Elizabeth OlivetAlfred Wentworth

Icon TBJ Law & Order: Trial by Jury - Main Characters

Characters: Arthur BranchLennie BriscoeKelly GaffneyTracey KibreChris RavellHector Salazar

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