Law and Order

Donald "Don" Cragen (born April 1, 1947) was a captain in the NYPD who, over the span of 25 years, served as commanding officer of the 27th Precinct and the Special Victims Unit.


Cragen served as a Green Beret during the Vietnam War. After the war, he became a police officer. In the 1970s, as a patrolman, he once arrested master thief Frank Hagar.

Cragen was a recovering alcoholic. He quit drinking in the early 1980s after pulling a gun on a cab driver in a drunken rage, and has been sober ever since. (L&O: "Prescription for Death") Though he remains sober, he does keep alcohol in his office and is seen offering it to Detective Olivia Benson (SVU: "A Single Life") and serving it to Assistant district attorney Alexandra Cabot. (SVU: "Closure (Part II)") He once admitted to a department psychiatrist that he was tempted daily to drink to escape the horrors he witnessed in his job. (SVU: "Slaves")

Cragen eventually was promoted to homicide detective and partnered with Max Greevey, and made the captain of the 27th precinct in 1989. There, he worked with Greevey, Mike Logan, Phil Cerreta, and Lennie Briscoe. He was investigated for being part of money laundering scheme within the department, but was exonerated after he exposed his mentor Peter O'Farrell as the real culprit. (L&O: "The Blue Wall") This incident made him many enemies within the NYPD's bureaucracy, who prevented him from being promoted above the rank of Captain.

He transferred to the Anti-Corruption Task Force in 1993.

His wife Marge was a flight attendant. In 1999, she was killed in a plane crash. (SVU: "A Single Life") Shortly afterward, Cragen became the commanding officer of the Special Victims Unit. Over the next 15 years, he worked with Benson (to whom he had become a major mentor to), Detectives Elliot Stabler, John Munch, Odafin Tutuola, Brian Cassidy, Monique Jeffries, Dani Beck, Chester Lake, Amanda Rollins, and Nick Amaro.

His experiences with addiction led him to have a more understanding attitude when his subordinates made mistakes; when Rollins' gambling addiction began interfering with her work, for example, he got her into a rehab program rather than firing her. (SVU: "Home Invasions")

In 2012, he was falsely accused of murdering a prostitute named Carissa Gibson; he was being set up by Delia Wilson, a sex trafficker whom SVU had been investigating. (SVU: "Rhodium Nights") He was eventually exonerated, however, and once again took command of SVU. (SVU: "Above Suspicion")

Cragen officially retired from the Special Victims Unit in 2014, leaving Benson in charge. (SVU: "Amaro's One-Eighty") Shortly before retiring, he began dating a woman named Eileen Switzer. The two of them took a trip around the world together.

Cragen later helped Benson and Rollins' reinvestigation into a rape that occurred around the time he ran the 27th Precinct. (SVU: "Perverted Justice")

When true crime podcaster Burton Lowe tried to exonerate the incarcerated Ian Ridley from the murder of his high school girlfriend, Benson, Rollins, and Amaro called him via videoconference to ask about what he remembered about the case. He also mentioned how proud he was that Benson was now a captain. (SVU: "The Five Hundredth Episode")

Stabler reunited with Cragen at his residence while looking for answers about his father's legacy. Cragen told Stabler that most police officers were corrupt back in the day, but his father was a good cop. (OC: "Can't Knock The Hustle")

Officer-involved shootings

  • Bulgarian mobster (SVU: "Ace")



  • At the time of his retirement, Cragen was one of the longest-running Law & Order characters, appearing in both Law & Order and SVU's entire run.
  • The Law & Order universe is inconsistent on the issue of whether Cragen had any children. He made references to having a son in Law & Order, but in Special Victims Unit he stated that he had no children.
  • Cragen was suspended three times from SVU. The first was in Season 9's premiere, after the events of the Season 8 finale "Screwed", where it was revealed the many illegal actions of his detectives. The second time was in Season 11, during the Nikki Sherman investigation, as a result of Stabler's actions. The third time was in Season 14, when he was being tried for the death of a prostitute, when it was revealed that he was framed, he was temporarily placed until he returned several episodes later.
  • Cragen is the first of seven characters from the Law & Order franchise and the first of five from the original Law & Order to be moved from the show to another spinoff. The others are Lennie Briscoe, Mike Logan, Connie Rubirosa (all of whom moved from the original Law & Order to other shows), Arthur Branch (who actually appeared on Law & Order and Law & Order: Trial by Jury simultaneously), Alexandra Cabot (who moved from SVU to Conviction) and Elliot Stabler (who moved from SVU to Law & Order: Organized Crime). Cragen was moved from Law & Order to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
  • Upon being cast in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Dann Florek and the show's producers created a backstory for Cragen in which he began drinking again and frequenting prostitutes to numb the pain of Marge's death, and decided to join the Special Victims Unit as a way to escape that downward spiral. This backstory is never explicitly stated in SVU, but Florek used it as subtext for his portrayal of the character.
  • Cragen is the only former main character from the first twelve seasons of SVU to appear on Law & Order: Organized Crime (from the time when Elliot Stabler was a main character on SVU) as well as one of two former main characters to appear on OC, the other character being Rafael Barba. This excludes Christian Garland who was a main character at the time of his appearance and Elliot Stabler who moved to OC as a main character. Alongside that, he is the only character who was a main character on a show other than SVU (in his case, Law & Order) to appear on OC.

Icon SVU.jpg Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Main Characters

Senior Detectives: Elliot StablerJohn MunchOdafin TutuolaOlivia BensonAmanda Rollins

Junior Detectives: Olivia BensonMonique JeffriesOdafin TutuolaChester LakeAmanda RollinsNick AmaroDominick Carisi, Jr.Katriona TaminJoe Velasco

Squad Supervisors: John MunchOlivia BensonOdafin Tutuola

Commanding Officers: Donald CragenOlivia BensonChristian Garland

Assistant District Attorneys: Alexandra CabotCasey NovakKim GreylekRafael BarbaPeter StoneDominick Carisi, Jr.

Others: Melinda WarnerGeorge Huang

Icon L&O.jpg Law & Order - Main Characters

Senior Detectives: Max GreeveyPhil CerretaLennie BriscoeJoe FontanaEd GreenCyrus LupoKevin Bernard

Junior Detectives: Mike LoganRey CurtisEd GreenNick FalcoNina CassadyCyrus LupoKevin BernardFrank Cosgrove

Commanding Officers: Captain Donald Cragen • Lieutenant Anita Van Buren • Lieutenant Kate Dixon


Executive Assistant District Attorneys: Benjamin StoneJack McCoyMichael CutterNolan Price

Assistant District Attorneys: Paul RobinetteClaire KincaidJamie RossAbbie CarmichaelSerena SoutherlynAlexandra BorgiaConnie RubirosaSamantha Maroun

District Attorneys: Adam SchiffNora LewinArthur BranchJack McCoy


Elizabeth OlivetAlfred Wentworth