The Major Crimes Division Wiki

If I liked being called a bitch to my face, I'd still be married!

— Brenda (“The Closer (Pilot)”)

Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson is the Commanding Officer of the LAPD's Major Crimes Division (formerly known as the Priority Homicide Division and even earlier as the Priority Murder Squad) during The Closer.

She is intelligent, determined, relentless, and exacting. She may offend some people involved in her cases, or, rarely coworkers, but this has no impact on her -- until she lands into potential serious legal trouble over the death of Turrell Baylor. She has powerful skills to determine the facts of a crime, compel confessions (by almost any means necessary including bullying, threatening, lying, and feigning empathy) and to close cases. Thus, she is "the closer".

Character Information[]

An expert at interrogations, Brenda has a long history in law enforcement. She worked for the police in Atlanta, where she was born and raised, and later for the U.S. State Department as well as the CIA. She was married at one point to a co-worker in Atlanta, but it ended in divorce under acrimonious circumstances.

In March of 1997 in Washington D.C., Brenda met Will Pope for the first time when she was assigned as the US Department of State liaison officer to the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPDC) where Pope was the Deputy Chief. They got along well and Pope convinced her to leave her job at the State Department and she subsequently joined the MPDC. This was around the time when the two began their affair. Brenda did not know at the time that Pope was married.(“Help Wanted”)

In “Manhunt”, Brenda is attacked by serial killer Danny Jones, also known as the PCH Killer, whom she is forced to shoot in self-defense. He died of his injuries. At the same time, she learns that she is in early-onset menopause. Fritz Howard then proposed to her. In “Blindsided”, she is put on leave by a psychiatrist due to her traumatic experience with Danny Jones and her refusal to deal with it. While doing a ride-along with a pair of journalists, Brenda's car is shot up, killing one journalist, wounding the other, and nearly hitting her and Sergeant David Gabriel. After a confrontation with the killer in an elevator, Brenda finally accepts that she is NOT all right and later tells her parents about her engagement, learning that her mother had already guessed.

In the fifth season, Brenda allows her niece, Charlene "Charlie" Johnson (portrayed by Kyra Sedgwick's real life daughter Sosie Bacon), to stay with her for awhile at the request of her family due to Charlie's misbehavior. In “Maternal Instincts”, Brenda tapes her niece, whose phone and I-Pod she had previously confiscated over Charlie's marijuana-laced brownies (three of which the always sweet-toothed Brenda unknowingly ate, getting high), to get information from Jake Burrell, a victim of a school shooting. Charlie and Fritz are both angry when they learn Brenda had taped Charlie and Jake, creating new strains in all of these relationships. Jake later develops a fatal infection from his gunshot wound. Brenda, informed about the boy's perilous health, gets the information needed to catch his killer, who turns out to be the brother of Jake's girlfriend, Vanessa. Vanessa, excoriated by her father as a whore for becoming pregnant (by Jake), claimed she had been raped. Her brother killed Jake for that reason. With Jake's mother too far away to reach him in time, Brenda stays at his bedside all night long and in the morning pretends to be his mother to comfort the delirious Jake in his final moments. Jake dies with Brenda at his side and his death deeply affects Brenda and Charlie, who both cared deeply for the boy.

In “The Big Bang”, the Major Crimes Division moves into the new LAPD headquarters, the Police Administration Building. Brenda is less than pleased with the new accommodations, stating that it had been designed by someone who had no understanding of police work. When Brenda began modifying the building, for instance changing their visitors conference room to a interrogation room, Chief Pope was less than pleased and told Brenda to adapt to the building, not adapt the building to her. Pope's "wise words" were somewhat hypocritical as Brenda noted that Pope himself had removed a wall separating his conference room and his office. Pope distracts Brenda temporarily by telling her there is going to be a big announcement soon. At the end of the episode, Chief Edward Thompson announces his retirement from the department and the Major Crimes squad believes Pope is going to be the new Chief of Police, which is most likely the reason he likes the new building so much.

Starting in “Help Wanted”, Captain Sharon Raydor starts interviewing Pope's direct subordinates, including Brenda, as a background check for the job as Chief of Police. Unbeknownst to Pope, Capt. Raydor interviewed Brenda because the Mayor and the Police Commission want a strong female candidate in the search for the new Chief. As Brenda is the highest ranking female in the LAPD, she is being given the opportunity to run for Chief. In “Jump the Gun”, Pope is devastated to learn his name was NOT on the shortlist for the new Chief but Brenda's name was, even though he had worked his entire career for the opportunity. In “Executive Order”, Deputy Chief Thomas Delk is appointed as the Chief of Police and he is going to demote Pope to Captain, although Brenda would remain as a Deputy Chief and in charge of Major Crimes.

In “Drug Fiend”, while struggling with her father's post-cancer surgery, Brenda is able to get a cancer specialist, formerly a suspect in a case, to take him on as a patient in a quid pro quo. Subsequently, in “Last Rites”, Brenda struggles to balance taking care of her father and searching for a killer. As a result, she puts off her mother's repeated attempts to speak with her. The next morning, she found her mother had died in her sleep.

In “Armed Response”, Brenda returns from bereavement leave early to investigate the murder of a decorated war hero. Annoyed that DDA Claire Baldwin is always hanging around, Brenda learns that an DDA being attached to Major Crimes is one of the compromises Pope had made to keep the division and Brenda. Additionally, Pope reveals that Brenda was originally meant to take the Assistant Chief's job but her often controversial actions have resulted in it going to Taylor. After David Gabriel's fiancé is revealed to be Peter Goldman's leak in the office, Brenda is forced to confront her actions regarding Turrell Baylor and refuses to let Gabriel quit, admitting she is starting to feel she spends more time caring about what murderers have to say than the living. After finally returning home for the first time since her mother's death, Brenda breaks down in Fritz's arms.

At the end of The Closer, Brenda wants to capture Phillip Stroh. She shoots Stroh several times in self-defense but does not finish him off despite being implored to do so by Rusty Beck. Fatefully, Stroh survives his injuries. She retires from the LAPD and accepts a new job as the Chief of the District Attorney's Office's Bureau of Investigation. While more administrative, she can still work in the field sometimes. She also has David Gabriel transferred there to act as liaison officer to the LAPD.

In Season 3 of Major Crimes, Fritz tells the squad that Brenda is considering a new job in Washington, DC. However, Fritz gets a job as the Deputy Chief in charge of the LAPD's Special Operations Bureau and she apparently chooses to remain in L.A. She is also unaware that Fritz had suffered a heart attack and needs a pacemaker. (Only Michael Tao knew.)

In “Sanctuary City, Part 1”​, after Phillip Stroh's possible return, protection details are ordered for Brenda as well as Emma Rios, Rusty Beck and possibly Linda Rothman.

In “By Any Means, Part 3”​, while putting on a show for Stroh and his accomplice Dylan Baxter, Fritz states that all security details will be pulled back. The detectives "angrily," as part of the facade, point out that the detail on Brenda is unlikely to be pulled back by her husband.

In “By Any Means, Part 4”​, after Stroh is killed by Rusty Beck, Fritz tells Rusty that Brenda has a hard time processing the news that Stroh is finally gone.

She has no friends (outside her squad), probably because her life is consumed by her work and her parents (and, to a slightly lesser degree, her marriage and pets). Her co-workers, however, appear to be the only friends she needs.

Officer-involved shootings[]

Career information[]

  • When in uniform, Brenda wears four service stripes on her uniform. Each stripe represents five years of service in the LAPD which which would mean 20–24 years of service, even though she had only served for seven years at the time of her retirement at the end of The Closer. Her previous positions in law enforcement throughout the country are most likely the reason for her stripes. (“Repeat Offender”)
    • Interestingly, this same courtesy is not extended to her husband, Fritz Howard, when he was appointed as the Deputy Chief in charge of the Special Operations Bureau in Season 3 of Major Crimes. Fritz had served 27 years with the FBI but didn't receive any service stripes for his uniform.
  • Some of Brenda's previous positions and jobs include:
    • Central Intelligence Agency — Interrogator (7 years) (“Show Yourself”)
    • U.S. Department of State — Liaison officer to the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (years of service unknown) (“Help Wanted”)
    • Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia — Unknown rank (4 years) (“Show Yourself”)
    • Atlanta Police Department — Captain (3,5 years) (“Show Yourself”)

Medals and service awards worn by Brenda[]

As seen in “Repeat Offender”:

Ribbon Award name and description
LAPD-Police-Medal-for-Heroism.png Police Medal

The Police Medal is an award for bravery, usually awarded to officers for individual acts of heroism in the line of duty, though not above and beyond the call of duty, as is required for the Medal of Valor.

  • Goof: Colors were the wrong way round, white on the left and red on the right.
LAPD-Human-Relations-Medal.png Human Relations Medal

The Human Relations Medal is awarded to officers who have in their day‑to‑day activities shown great compassion and have gone above and beyond the call of duty in their response to fellow human beings.

LAPD-Police-Life-Saving-Medal.png Police Life Saving Medal

The Police Life Saving Medal is an award for bravery, usually awarded to officers for taking action in order to rescue or attempt the rescue of either a fellow officer or any person from imminent danger.

LAPD-Sharpshooter-Marksmanship-Badge.png Sharpshooter Marksmanship Badge

Officers must score 340 out of a possible 400 points in the voluntary bonus qualification shoots (held every month). Officers who have qualified as Sharpshooters receive $16 in compensation in their bi-weekly paychecks.


  • Brenda speaks German and Russian and is conversant in Czech.(“Standards and Practices”)
  • In “Help Wanted”, Capt. Raydor noted that Brenda is the highest ranking female officer in the entire LAPD.
    • Real world trivia: at the time of broadcast, the highest ranking female officer in the real LAPD was Assistant Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur who was the Director, Office of Administrative Services.
  • Brenda has three brothers, Clay Jr, Bobby and Jimmy. Clay Jr. is married to a woman named Amy. Bobby is married to a woman named Joyce, and they have a daughter, Charlene, named after Brenda's paternal grandmother. Jimmy lives in a small apartment in New York with his partner Frank.
  • Brenda's niece, Charlene "Charlie" Johnson was sent to her grandparents, Clay Sr. and Willie Rae, when her parents, Bobby and Joyce, became tired of her. When her grandparents also got tired of her, they sent her to her aunt Brenda and her husband, Fritz. She eventually was sent home to her parents, after Brenda straightened her up.
  • Brenda's favorite merlot is a McCray Ridge 1997.(“To Protect & to Serve”)
  • In “Reloaded”​, the Major Crimes series premiere, it's revealed that Brenda left her desk full of snack food. She later sends Fritz to clear it out, though he gives one to Captain Sharon Raydor who later gives it to Rusty Beck.
Characters — The Closer
Brenda Leigh JohnsonFritz HowardWill PopeLouie ProvenzaAndy FlynnMichael TaoDavid GabrielJulio SanchezIrene DanielsBuzz WatsonRussell TaylorSharon RaydorDr. Fernando Morales