Elliot Stabler

Detective Elliot Stabler is a fictional character on the TV crime drama series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit portrayed by Christopher Meloni.


Stabler is a police officer with Manhattan's 16th Precinct, also known as the Special Victims Unit, which investigates sex crimes. He is dedicated to his job, but this dedication can occasionally turn into obsession, as he often takes cases personally, affecting his judgement. He lives in Glen Oaks, Queens with his family. His wife is named Kathy (played by Isabel Gillies); they have three daughters (Maureen, Kathleen and Elizabeth) and one son (Dickie). Stabler is a devout Catholic. There is some speculation, after a conversation between Stabler and his wife in season 1, that they were in high school when their eldest daughter Maureen was concieved. This trivia, while unproven, is generally widely accepted by fans.

Stabler came from an Irish-American family with three brothers and two sisters. His father was also a policeman who lost his pension shortly before his retirement. Stabler had a difficult relationship with his father, who was physically abusive at times. Stabler served in the U.S. Marines and has an USMC tattoo of an eagle, globe and anchor on his forearm. There is some confusion over his years of service, however. In the season 5 episode "Shaken", Stabler says that his eldest daughter Maureen was a toddler when he returned. As she was approximately fifteen in the 1999-2000 season, this would mean he had been discharged by 1987 or 1988. In the season 6 episode "Goliath", however, one of his colleagues mentions his service in the Gulf War, meaning he was not discharged until at least 1990. He attended Queens College where he earned his Bachelors degree. He became a police officer mostly to follow in his father's footsteps and to help support his new family, but soon grew to like the job.

Stabler often mentions his four children and has displayed mixed feelings about mentioning them to suspects and victims. He sometimes speaks of them to gain trust, but has also become defensive if a suspect asks of his family. Stabler is very protective of his children; he says in "Tragedy" that he helped deliver every one of them, and he sees aspects of them in every child molestation victim, fueling a hatred for pedophiles so intense that he once admitted that he sometimes fantasizes about killing them, which nearly cost him his job. Particularly disturbing to him is when he sees aspects of himself in a child abuser. One such instance was in "Shaken" when an abusive parent reminded him of an episode in which he lost his temper and slapped his daughter, Maureen, who was then a toddler; while he restrained himself from hurting her further, he was frightened by his loss of control.

Stabler often connects with child victims on a fatherly basis, and he often finds himself very willing to use physical force to apprehend a suspect that he believes to have harmed a child. In turn, many victims tend to respond to him very warmly. For example, in the Season 4 episode "Resilience", Stabler successfully reaches out to a 14-year old girl who regresses to child-like state after being attacked by her father.

Stabler is partnered with Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). Kathy is sometimes jealous of Stabler's close relationship with Benson, which, along with the long hours he spends on the job and away from home, has at times strained their marriage. While Stabler and Benson are good friends, however, they have never been romantically involved. Their relationship is not without friction, as the two sometimes argue over the cases they work on. When it comes to controversial cases, Benson is very quick to side with the victims, whereas Stabler is more impartial. This became obvious in a season 3 episode, "Ridicule", where three women were charged with raping a male stripper; Benson and Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March) are quick to come to the aid of the male victim, while Stabler takes a cynical view of the man's claim from the start.

Stabler has been forced to kill a suspect twice. Once, in the episode "Risk", a corrupt police officer raised his weapon at Stabler when he knew he was going to get caught. In the episode "Debt", he shot a suspect who had a gun to another person's head despite the suspect's seeming willingness to work the situation out with Benson.

In "Charisma" during season 6, Stabler was forced by Captain Don Cragen (Dann Florek) to take about a week of sick time in lieu of being suspended for refusing to seek counseling for extended treatment after he and his colleagues were forced to enter a house in which a cult leader had murdered multiple children of his followers.

In another season 6 episode, "Doubt", it is revealed that Kathy has taken the children and moved in with her mother. She still has sole custody of their kids, although they frequently visit their father (once, they all surprised him at the SVU station house on his birthday). Kathy filed for legal separation in season 6 and in "RAW", Stabler tells Benson that she has sent him the divorce papers. As of the season 8 episode "Clocks", however, he had yet to sign them.

In "Ripped", Stabler encountered a former partner, whose son was the prime suspect in an assault case. He was ordered home by Cragen for the remainder of the day for advising the family of the assault victim against filing charges. After the arraignment, which Stabler attended, he witnessed his former partner assaulting his son in the bathroom. He stepped in to defend the young man, but lost his temper and beat his former partner unconscious. He sought counseling from Dr. Rebecca Hendrix (Mary Stuart Masterson), a forensic psychiatrist and former police officer who is occasionally brought in to help with cases. She persuaded him to unload his long-repressed feelings toward his father.

Stabler had a close call in the season 7 episode "RAW" when he was shot and wounded in the arm by a white supremacist during a trial. He has since made a full recovery, although his arm was seen in a cast during "Name".

Stabler had another close call in "Blast" where he was in the middle of a hostage situation. He was held at gunpoint by a 23-year old man, Daniel Hunter, who kidnapped a little girl that turns out to be his sister, but later freed as the boy went on to shoot his father. Hunter was later shot by Melinda Warner, who had accompanied Stabler to the bank.

For a third time in the same season, Stabler was again faced with his own mortality in "Fault", when a suspect held him at gun point for several minutes in a warehouse. Benson refused to shoot the suspect, as doing so would have put Stabler's life in even more danger. The suspect was eventually shot and killed when backup arrived. At the conclusion of the episode, Benson asked to be reassigned due to their increasingly strained working and personal relationship. She was reassigned to Computer Crimes, leaving Stabler to partner in the episode Fat with a Queens SVU detective, Lucius Blaine (played by Anthony Anderson). Benson returned to SVU in "Web", the second episode after she had been reassigned. In the season 8 opener "Informed", Benson teamed up with an FBI agent played by Marcia Gay Harden and eventually went undercover in Oregon to infiltrate an eco-terrorist group. In the next episode, Clock, Stabler gets a temporary partner named Dani Beck (Connie Nielsen), who will presumably stay until Benson returns to the NYPD.


  • Stabler has thus far shared a scene with a district attorney twice - Arthur Branch (Fred Dalton Thompson) in the episodes "Shaken" and "Goliath".
  • Series creator Dick Wolf has a son named Elliot and a daughter named Olivia.
  • Although he is not romantically involved with Olivia Benson on the television series, both Hargitay and Meloni have been asked on multiple occasions whether or not their characters would ever "get together"; they replied that it was more of a brother/sister relationship. Despite this, some fans have paired them up in fan fiction and art, while others (ex. MSN Entertainment) have acknowledged visible sexual tensions between Benson and Stabler on the show.
  • While Det. Robert Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio) from Law and Order: Criminal Intent has been compared to Columbo and Sherlock Holmes by fans of "Law and Order: Criminal Intent", Stabler is often compared to Baretta by "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" fans.
  • Meloni is one of four actors in SVU that also appeared in HBO's Oz, the other three being Dean Winters, B.D. Wong, and J.K. Simmons. Meloni played a serial killer named Chris Keller.
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