Lieutenant Anita Van Buren
Introduction Scene: L&O Episode 67, "Sweeps" (9/15/93)
First Lines: Speaking to Lennie Briscoe and Mike Logan as they enter the squad room: "How did the father get there?"
Exit Scene: N/A
Final Lines: N/A
Work Information
Office Address
27th Precinct 
10 Police Square, New York, NY 10001* 

Professional Idiosyncracies/Quirks
  • Stern, not adverse to being forceful with her detectives, even yelling at them or threatening them. Intolerant of roughing up suspects or trampling on their rights. [Episode 114, "Savages" (10/18/95) and worries about Green using excessive force; reprimands Curtis for letting a suspect’s father use force on him. Episode 130, "Slave" (4/21/96)]
  • Intolerant of anything remotely resembling perjury, e.g. "You were an inch away from perjury! … One of my detectives lying under oath is enough!" Episode 175, "Stalker" (4/15/98)
  • Can be very tough and suspicious with women suspects or witnesses. Often plays a tough "mom." Episode 102,"Performance" (2/8/95); Episode 137, "Good Girl" (10/7/96), Episode 178, "Bad Girl" (4/29/98)
  • Can be sarcastic with her detectives, especially when she feels they aren't doing their jobs [Episode 118, "Humiliation" (11/22/95), or aren't taking their jobs seriously, Episode 122, "Corpus Delicti" (1/17/96)].
  • Takes part in interrogations and stakeouts. Episode 130, "Slave" (4/21/96), Episode 158, "Thrill" (9/24/97), Episode 116, "Hot Pursuit" (8/11/95)

Career History

  • Worked in Narcotics before moving to Homicide. Episode 67, "Sweeps" (9/15/93)
  • Was promoted to her rank because of a case that later turned out to have been mishandled. The men convicted of the crime were innocent, but were convicted on evidence that was found out to have been fudged by the fingerprint expert, Episode 260, "Myth of Fingerprints" (11/14/01)
  • Was denied a promotion, which went to a white woman with the same qualifications. Sued the department for discrimination and had a very hard time professionally.* Her detectives were put to work doing menial tasks [Episode 177, "Burden" (4/24/98)], her precinct denied manpower [Episode 181, "Monster" (5/20/98), Episode 179, "Damaged" (5/6/98)], eventually she was told she would need to resign if she didn’t want her precinct to suffer, Episode 181, "Monster" (5/20/98)

Medical/Psychological History
  • Has had two children, probably both delivered vaginally since she says, "I've been through two births. I remember every push and squeeze. I'll tell you what -- passing out is the impossible dream." Episode 79, "Breeder" (1/19/94)
  • Declares that there are "…Two kinds of women in this world: Those who have breast cancer and those who are scared to death of getting it. Articles you skip on the way to the sports page, I cut out and keep in a drawer next to my bed." Episode 89, "Second Opinion" (9/21/94)

Personal Information/History

Other Aliases/Nicknames:

Lieu (Briscoe)
Lieutenant Anita (Logan)
LT (Curtis)

Childhood Events/Family Issues

  • From Brooklyn. Episode 70, "Profile" (10/13/93)
  • Married to Don Van Buren, with two children, Stefan and Rick. Episode 94, "Competence" (11/2/94)
  • Husband owns a hardware store. *
  • Once shot at a mugger in an ATM and killed him when he tried to get money from her, as her children waited in a car outside. Another mugger was in the vicinity. Episode 94, "Competence" (11/2/94)
  • One child was accused of some kind of petty crime, possibly tagging a car. *
  • One of her children was eight in 1994. Episode 92, "Family Values" (10/12/94)
  • Has at least one sister who couldn't have a baby although they tried for years. Episode 187, "Scrambled" (11/11/98)

Formerly friends with fingerprint expert Lisa Russo. Episode 260, "Myth of Fingerprints" (11/14/01)


"My college's idea of sex and literature was Jane Eyre." Episode 117, "Paranoia" (11/15/95)
Political Opinions/Affiliations
  • "A black kid doing a school shooting like this just doesn't fit the profile. Drugs, sneakers, gangs--that I'll buy. But a black kid shooting up a lunchroom....". Episode 251, “School Daze” (5/16/01)
  • "I used to hear the whispers in the chatter behind my back. 'She got it 'cause she's black. She got it 'cause she's a woman.' And I never listened to that crap because I knew I had earned it. Episode 260, "Myth of Fingerprints" (11/14/01)
  • Affirmative action: Conflicted on it. Doesn't believe she got there because of it, but her lawsuit and others say otherwise (Abbie Carmichael: "I'd like to think I got where I am based on merit." Van Buren: "So would I, but I've got 2000 pages of legal documents to prove the contrary.") Episode 203, "Admissions" (5/19/99)
  • Seems a bit ambivalent about the death penalty. Is not among the group of Lennie Briscoe, Rey Curtis, Claire Kincaid and Jack McCoy when they witness an execution. Later, she says, "You know, Claire, if I thought I could get some kind of divine guidance by watching them run poison through that bum's veins, I woulda made the trip."...  "A crowd of people stood and cheered when he raped her. They were supposedly good people, and they did absolutely nothing. Then he beat her to death with a tire iron, and today, the state of New York got its revenge. It's not enough, and it's too much." Episode 134, "Aftershock" (5/22/96)


  • Knows a little bit about poetry – recognizes Langston Hughes when Lennie quotes it. Episode 130, "Slave" (4/21/96)
  • Knows a bit about fashion or at least makes jokes about it. "I'm no Donna Karan, but I know the right fashion for solemn occasions." Episode 115, "Jeopardy" (11/1/95), "When you do find the girls, I want you to add a charge of felony bad taste -- wearing white after Labor Day.". Episode 231, "Turnstile Justice" (10/25/00), "Make sure you have some basic black to change into." Episode 245, "Bronx Cheer” (3/14/01)
  • Cognizant of tabloid newspaper contents, to her detectives' amusement. Claims she only reads them in the checkout lines. Episode 180, "Tabloid" (5/13/98)
  • Knows a fair bit about her children's computer games, and is able to converse knowledgably about them with Curtis, much to Briscoe's confusion. Episode 141, "Deadbeat" (11/13/96)

Catch Phrases/Personal Quirks
  • Can be crude. "With women, it's not just 'Didja jam it to some stray.' " Episode 201, "Empire" (5/5/99) "When a guy's getting his knob polished, he'll do anything." Episode 148, "Working Mom" (2/26/97). "Put them back in your pants, gentlemen. There's enough work to go around." Episode 125, "Custody" "I don't need to play slap-and-tickle with the US Attorney. The only leak you should be concerned about is the one to the press if you don't cooperate." "I'm not into all this piss-and-mark-your-territory crap." Episode 172, "Faccia a Faccia" (2/25/98)
  • Pokes fun at superiors (e.g. "I'm sorry, I'm late for my daily spanking at One Police Plaza.") Episode 235, "Burn, Baby, Burn" (11/25/00) and police procedures (eg. Green: "I switched my major twice in college. That make me a terrorist?" Van Buren "No, but you don't fit the profile. The dirty little secret of law enforcement.") Episode 277, "Patriot" (5/22/02)
Repeat Offender?
Merkerson appeared as Denise Winters, mother of a young victim of shooting in L&O Episode 17, "Mushrooms" (2/26/91)
Other Relevant Appearances
As Van Buren:
CI Episode 20, "Badge" (4/28/02)
Web Pages
* = denotes information yet to be confirmed
H:LOTS = Homicide: Life On The Streets
L&O = Law & Order (the original series)
SVU = Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
CI = Law & Order: Criminal Intent
Character Editor: Cirocco Jones
Know something we don't? Have a correction?
Email us at Please give as much information as you can. Thanks!