- "Yeah. It happens. But what happened to [Cheung]... it's what got the department to support a task force to deal with these monsters. That's why a patrol officer was able to save that girl from becoming a walking blood bank."
- ―Detective Dowling to Buffy Summers[src]
Detective Robert Dowling was the leader of the San Francisco Police Department Vampire Task Force. He was an ordinary homicide detective until a case involving vampires brought him into contact with the Slayer, Buffy Summers.
- "Have you been watching reality T.V. lately? 'Cause I was thinking... what if these bodies belonged to vampires?"
- ―Detective Dowling to his partner[src]
Robert Dowling was a homicide detective in the San Francisco Police Department. While he and his partner, Miranda Cheung, were investigating a series of murders, in which the bodies were unmarked and unwounded, Dowling himself theorized that the bodies were those of vampires. During this investigation, Dowling and Cheung came across Buffy Summers and arrested her after witnessing her stake a vampire. However, Buffy escaped police custody and thus became the target of a manhunt. When Buffy battled Severin, the real culprit behind the murders, someone anonymously tipped Dowling off to Buffy's whereabouts. Dowling arrived as Buffy and Spike were being drained of their powers by Severin and saved them by shooting Severin three times in the chest. In the aftermath, Dowling told Buffy that, while she would not get a public apology for the misunderstanding, she was nonetheless cleared of all charges.
Curious to know more about vampires and demons and how to defeat them, Dowling approached Spike to come on a ride-along with him. During their conversation, Spike suspected that Dowling was attracted to Buffy, and told him about his own past relationship with her. When Buffy called Spike for help, Dowling drove Spike to her house and, realizing that Spike still held a torch for Buffy, encouraged the vampire to talk to her about his feelings.
- "I mean, I see some nasty $#%& all the time. Cops lose partners. But the way they got her... Miranda... the way she looked... they drained her blood..."
- ―Detective Dowling to his partner[src]
Later, Dowling and Cheung investigated a massive nest of zompires; Cheung was killed but Dowling was rescued by Buffy and Spike, and managed to slay his first zompire. Later, Cheung reanimated as a zompire herself, and with the help of Xander Harris and Dawn Summers, Dowling managed to overcome his grief at his partner's death and stake her. Afterwards, he decided to resign from the police force, unable to face his colleagues and planning to join Buffy as a freelance vampire hunter. Instead, his sergeant convinced him to lead their new task force dedicated to hunting zompires.
- "These things are becoming a big problem, Dowling. Finally turning the tide of public opinion on the goddamn vampires. The mayor's talking to us about a new task force to deal with them. About time, you ask me. Y'know, it occurs to me we'll need someone to take point... you got any ideas?"
- ―Dowling 's sergeant offers him a new position[src]
Supernatural task force
As part of the task force, Dowling began routine patrols for zompires, often aided by Buffy and sixteen-year-old trainee vampire hunter Billy Lane. When Buffy's friends started to gossip about them, Buffy seemed to express some attraction to him. He, in a roundabout way, asked her out on a date. She remained slightly cautious but agreed to "breakfast later."
While on a patrol, Buffy was magically whisked away from San Francisco. Dowling was shocked and immediately slightly panicked. Seeing this moment of weakness, he was quickly bit by a lurking zompire.
Grievly blessed, he wake up at the hospital. Allied with Billy Lane and the Slayer Anaheed, he discovered that the zompire was a sired Slayer Tessa Freer, a result of Simone Doffler's experiment to become a Slaypire herself.
After the return of magic on Earth, he was visited by Buffy, telling him that she didn't desire a romantic relationship with him due to the danger of her life. Dowling gradually respected this decision and continued to help the Scooby-Gang, such as searching for information on the whereabouts of The Mistress and The Sculptor.
Buffy Season Nine
- On Your Own
- Apart (of Me)
- Guarded, Part One
- Billy the Vampire Slayer, Part Two
- Welcome to the Team, Part One
- Welcome to the Team, Part Two
- Welcome to the Team, Part Three (Only in flashbacks)
- Welcome to the Team, Part Four
Angel & Faith
- Death and Consequences, Part Four (Only mentioned)
Buffy Season Ten
- New Rules, Part Two
- I Wish, Part One
- I Wish, Part Two
- Love Dares You, Part One
- Love Dares You, Part Three