Law and Order

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 until his retirement in 2004.


Briscoe was perhaps most famous for his sarcastic (at-times snarky) sense of humor. At a crime scene, he typically had a wisecrack or joke about the victim or circumstances of death; with the joke usually exhibiting a very deadpan delivery while at the same time being highly "on target". Briscoe also had a rather cynical view about people. His cynicism was especially pronounced around marriage and fidelity, and he would frequently make bitter references to divorce, the "futility of love", and lawyers.

Though he had his fair share of flaws in life, he remained an honest cop his entire career and was well-liked by his various partners and colleagues over the years; this included Mike Logan, Don Cragen, Benjamin Stone, Paul Robinette, Anita Van Buren, Claire Kincaid, Jack McCoy, Rey Curtis, John Munch, Jamie Ross, Abbie Carmichael, Ed Green, Elliot Stabler, Olivia Benson, Tracey Kibre, and Hector Salazar.

Personal life[]

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

He grew up in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan and, like his father before him, attended PS21. (L&O: "Kid Pro Quo") At some point, Briscoe 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. (L&O: "Tabula Rasa") 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". (L&O: "Slave") He was also an excellent pool player (a real life skill of Jerry Orbach's), and often used this skill to hustle people he dealt with on the job. (L&O: "Wager"; "Everybody Loves Raimondo'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 eventually died from Alzheimer's disease. (L&O: "Golden Years") Lennie 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 became friends with fellow Jewish police officer, Detective John Munch, despite Munch's initial resentment when he discovered Briscoe had slept with Munch's first wife. (L&O: "Charm City"; "Baby, It's You")

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.

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. (L&O: "Burned") 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, Detective Ken Briscoe. He mentioned being a grandfather, and Cathy was shown to have no children so they were most likely Julia's.

Police Force[]

After leaving the Army, Lennie Briscoe joined the NYPD in the 29th Precinct in Manhattan (TBJ: "41 Shots") 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. (L&O: "Marathon") Briscoe's detective shield number was 8220.

Logan Briscoe Consoltation

Briscoe and Logan

Briscoe first joined the 27th Precinct in 1992, after Detective Mike Logan's partner Sergeant 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 first served under Captain Donald Cragen at the Two-Seven, until Cragen was replaced by Lieutenant Anita Van Buren in 1993.

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

While Briscoe remained an overall honest cop throughout his career, many of his former partners and colleagues from before he joined the Two-Seven were or ended up becoming corrupt. These included detectives Brian Torelli (L&O: "Jurisdiction"), Ted Parker (L&O: "Kids"), John Flynn (L&O: "Corruption"), and Tommy Brannigan, (L&O: "Amends") though Brannigan eventually confessed to the bribery he had taken years ago that got him promoted, to which Briscoe forgave him for. Other more honest former colleagues of Briscoe's would often be looked up by him and his current partners during his various cases for the Two-Seven.

Van Buren Briscoe Act of God

Briscoe and Van Buren

In 1994, Briscoe and Logan dealt with multiple unrelated homicide cases in a single day; one of which they were unable to solve as they arrested the wrong suspect (Scott Hexter), who was then killed by a fellow inmate in prison before they found out he was innocent. Briscoe had floor-seat tickets to a Knicks-Rockets game that night that he had been looking forward to all day; he ended up missing the game as a result of the hectic day he and Logan had, though likely also out of guilt for what happened to their innocent suspect. (L&O: "Mayhem") However, Briscoe would eventually get to re-open this unsolved case when the real murderer (Arthur Pruitt) supposedly struck again six years later. (SVU: "Entitled")

In 1996, Briscoe and Curtis witnessed the execution of murdering rapist Mickey Scott (whom they had apprehended), along with ADA Claire Kincaid and EADA Jack McCoy (who convicted Scott). All four were disturbed by the experience, and it ruined Briscoe's reunion with his daughter Cathy later that day. 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. Briscoe felt very much guilty for what happened to Kincaid and he remained sober for the rest of his life. (L&O: "Aftershock")

Briscoe Bratt Baby, It's You 2

Briscoe and Curtis

Later that same year, Briscoe's former partner Detective John Flynn falsely implicated Briscoe 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. Briscoe finally got Flynn to admit the truth into a hidden wire, but Flynn committed suicide before he could be prosecuted further. Although Briscoe was ultimately cleared, defense attorneys exploited the allegations for the rest of his career. (L&O: "Corruption")

In 1998, Briscoe was reunited yet again with his daughter Cathy, but this reunion turned out to be even worse than their last one, as she had become a meth addict and been arrested for selling drugs. (L&O: "Bad Girl") Cathy was forced to testify in court against the drug dealer she worked for, Danny Jones, but she was later found murdered by Jones. (L&O: "Damaged") Briscoe was deeply saddened by his daughter's death, blaming himself for her death due to his estranged relationship with her. However, he found closure when Jones later died from a heroin overdose. (L&O: "Hate") It was implied (although never explicitly stated) that Briscoe may had been involved in Jones' death. Eddie Soto, an old snitch of Briscoe's, had offered to kill Jones, if Briscoe could get his charges reduced. Briscoe was later seen talking to the arresting officer about Soto, but it was never confirmed if Briscoe did Soto the favor. (L&O: "Monster")

Briscoe Green White Lie

Briscoe and Green

Shortly after Green was assigned as Briscoe's partner in 1999, the two nearly came to blows during a particularly difficult investigation of a robbery-homicide. Their primary suspect, Bobby Sabo, 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 regards to the confession. Sabo ultimately got away with a deal of six to twelve years in exchange for information about a local notorious rapist. However, McCoy managed to get Sabo to repeat his confession, thus vindicating Briscoe once again. Briscoe and Green went on to rebuild their professional rapport with each other, eventually ending up as a close friendship between the two. (L&O: "Marathon")

In 2004, after twelve years at the 27th Precinct and more than thirty years in the NYPD, Lennie Briscoe retired from full-time active police duty. (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 after only a couple of months at that post.

In 2007, Mike Logan mentioned that although Briscoe had died, he still sees him alive in his dreams. (CI: "Renewal")

In 2008, Ed Green revealed that he returned to gambling briefly after Briscoe died, as a way of dealing with the unexpected pain of his retirement and subsequent death. (L&O: "Burn Card")

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, who revealed to Van Buren 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 revolver[]

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.


  • Briscoe is the longest-serving police detective to be featured on the original Law & Order series, as well as the third longest-serving regular character on the show (behind Anita Van Buren and Jack McCoy).
  • Briscoe died at the age of either 64 or 65, sometime between 2004 and 2005 (in real life, Jerry Orbach died on December 28, 2004 at age 69).
  • Briscoe's death is unique in the sense that he was the first L&O character to be killed-off (off-screen) due to his actor's passing. It also brings up the question of whether four other main characters (Joe Fontana, Arthur Branch, Adam Schiff, and Phil Cerreta) are considered deceased due to their actors' deaths.
  • Briscoe's death, and therefore his official departure from the franchise, was originally slated to be confirmed in the Trial by Jury episode "Baby Boom", in which members of the DA's Office attend a memorial service for him after dying from an illness. This scene was in fact filmed, but it never actually made it into the episode before its airing, leaving Briscoe's whereabouts after his last appearance in the episode "41 Shots" unknown. However, in the bonus features of the Trial by Jury DVD set, "A different look at Law and Order", after it mentions Jerry Orbach's death, a scene is played where the characters walk down the halls talking about Briscoe's death and Hector Salazar noting how he knew that Briscoe was being treated for something.
    • His death would later be first mentioned, albeit implicitly, in the October 2005 Criminal Intent episode "Diamond Dogs", when Logan states that one of his old partners was a great pool player, a real-life skill of Jerry Orbach's which was occasionally shown in Briscoe.
  • Lennie Briscoe was voted the 30th greatest television show character of all time by Bravo TV.
  • Lennie Briscoe was voted Law & Order's third greatest detective on the Hallmark Channel poll in 2010; beaten only by Olivia Benson (who came in second) and Robert 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.

TV appearances[]

Video game appearances[]

Icon L&O Law & Order - Main Characters

Senior Detectives: Max GreeveyPhil CerretaLennie BriscoeJoe FontanaEd GreenCyrus LupoKevin BernardFrank CosgroveVincent Riley

Junior Detectives: Mike LoganRey CurtisEd GreenNick FalcoNina CassadyCyrus LupoKevin BernardFrank CosgroveJalen Shaw

Commanding Officers: Captain Donald Cragen • Lieutenant Anita Van Buren • Lieutenant Kate Dixon


Executive Assistant District Attorneys: Benjamin StoneJack McCoyMichael CutterNolan Price

Assistant District Attorneys: Paul RobinetteClaire KincaidJamie RossAbbie CarmichaelSerena SoutherlynAlexandra BorgiaConnie RubirosaSamantha Maroun

District Attorneys: Adam SchiffNora LewinArthur BranchJack McCoyNicholas Baxter


Elizabeth OlivetAlfred Wentworth

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

Characters: Arthur BranchLennie BriscoeKelly GaffneyTracey KibreChris RavellHector Salazar