The last Black female detective, Monique Jeffries, was played by Michelle Hurd, who left the NBC drama more than two decades ago, notes Princess Weekes. "Following the Black Lives Matter movement and discussions about police brutality during the pandemic, the show has tried to maintain a balance between addressing that there are issues with police brutality—while also highlighting the trouble that good cops have from a hyper-critical public eye," says Weekes. "For all that talk, however, Black women are largely absent from prominent roles in the series. Melinda Warner (Tamara Tunie), the go-to medical examiner for the squad, was, after Michelle Hurd’s Jeffries, the only Black female face in the opening credits. Her presence on the series has shrunk since season 13, with some occasional appearances." As Weekes points out, new New York City Mayor Eric Adams has tapped Keechant Sewell, a Black female, as the next NYPD commissioner. "While I do not fully believe that more diversity of cops makes for an inherently better system, as a show, Law and Order: SVU has done its best to present the illusion of at least one department that cares about victims, no matter where they come from," says Weekes. "Yet, jarringly, they have no one reflecting some of the most vulnerable populations in the city—Black and Brown women and femmes."
TOPICS: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, NBC, African Americans and TV