In Defense of Law & Order SVU

I was driving through Crown Heights, Brooklyn today on my way home from a session at the recording studio and I saw a sign in someone’s window: “BLACK LIVES MATTER – DEFUND NYPD.”

Defunding or outright abolishing the police has become a rallying cry on social media, and in the country at large as of late, largely in response to the unjust killings of Elijah McClain and George Floyd by law enforcement officers in recent months. Police-facilitated deaths of young, innocent black men and women are not new in this country, but even after the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Eric Garland, and Michael Brown (among many others) over the last six years, this is the strongest push towards eliminating police departments I have seen in my lifetime. I understand why these calls are being made, and in many ways I support them. But I’ve also begun to notice a curious effect that these demands are having, in conjunction with one of my favorite television programs of all time: Law & Order SVU.

SVU, one of several spin-offs of Law & Order (often referred to affectionately as “the mothership"), has recently with its 21st season, surpassed the records of its parent show and Gunsmoke, to become the longest running live-action primetime series in American television history. As the opening to the show proclaims, “In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit. These are their stories.” SVU focuses mainly on the capture and prosecution of perpetrators of sexual assault, but often takes on issues of child abuse as well.