Captian Donald Cragen
Captain Donald Cragen
Time on Show: 1999 - PRESENT
Succeeded: NONE
Preceded: CURRENT
First Appearance: Payback
Last Appearence: N/A
Portrayed By: Dann Florek


Captain Donald 'Don' Cragen is a fictional character played by Dann Florek on the TV drama Law & Order from 1990 to 1993, and its spin-off Law & Order: Special Victims Unit since 1999.
After fighting in Vietnam, Cragen started his career as a homicide detective in the 1960s with partner Max Greevey (George Dzundza), gradually rising up through the ranks to police captain. An alcoholic for much of his early career, Cragen went sober after pulling a gun on a taxi driver in a drunken rage when he was still a detective. He did not touch another drop until 1999, following the death of his wife, Marge, a flight attendant, in a plane crash. While he tries for the most part to downplay his ongoing recovery, he occasionally opens up about its role in his life; in the SVU episode "Slaves," for example, he admitted to a police psychiatrist that he is daily tempted to relapse in order to escape the horrors he sees everyday in his job.

In the 1991 L&O episode "The Blue Wall," Cragen was investigated by internal affairs for corruption; during the investigation to prove his innocence, he discovered that he was being framed by his former captain and mentor, whom he turned in. He has maintained bitter relations with the police bureaucracy ever since. The same year, his former partner and longtime friend Greevey was murdered.

Cragen transferred out of the Homicide Department in 1993, to be replaced by Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson). He went on to head the Anti-Corruption Task Force. As portrayed in the 1998 TV movie Exiled: A Law & Order Movie, Cragen next came into contact with the 27th Precinct while attempting to bust Mafia boss Don Giancarlo Uzielli for the murders of 15 people. During that investigation, he discovered that there was not only a cop in the 27th precinct on Uzielli's payroll, but that his former detective from homicide, Mike Logan (Chris Noth), was interfering with the investigation of the Don by investigating a murder of his own. With Logan's help, Cragen discovered the identity of the corrupt officer: his former detective, and trusted friend, Tony Profaci (John Fiore).

In 1999, Cragen transferred out of the Anti-Corruption Task Force to a new bureau, called the "Special Victims Unit", which investigates sex crimes. The new job was a way to cope with Marge's death.
Cragen is portrayed as a kind of stern, but understanding, father figure to the detectives who work under him, although he had an early habit of haranguing them about the weaknesses of their investigations. He also maintained friendships with Logan (now a member of the Major Case Squad on Law and Order: Criminal Intent) and Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach), his former detectives from Homicide. Cragen and Briscoe became extremely close during their time on the force together, with both men finding common ground in their attempts to stay sober. When Briscoe died, Cragen was one of his most visible mourners at his funeral.

Scenes with a DA

Cragen has thus far shared a scene with a district attorney five times:

  • Adam Schiff (Steven Hill) in "The Blue Wall", "The Fertile Fields", "Conduct Unbecoming" and the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Entitled".
  • Arthur Branch (Fred Dalton Thompson) in the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Gone".
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