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All The Detectives From 'Law & Order,' Ranked

Updated June 2, 2020 56.8k votes 5.9k voters 82.1k views27 items

List RulesVote up the characters who you think are actually good detectives rather than the ones you like the most

In Law & Order’s 25 year run on network television, it has introduced viewers to a slew of detectives - some good, some great, and some who are kind of terrible at their job. But despite their failings, and because of their triumphs, everyone has a favorite Law & Order detective. Most of the time, viewers tend to ignore a detective’s ability to do their job in lieu of a juicy storyline or the officer’s charisma. But today, it’s finally time to rank the detectives on Law & Order in order of how they do their job. It’s going to be hard to be impartial, but anytime you find yourself feeling conflicted, just remember: it’s what ADA Casey Novak would do. 

The Law & Order cast is ever-expanding, and constantly adding members to its crew of detectives. Trying to remember who has been on Law & Order can be tough if you don’t have some handy graphics in front you of. So now that you’ve got a list of Law & Order detectives staring you down, it' time to decide who's the best at getting the job done. Will it be Detective Odafin Tutuola, who basically ignored his family for the first few years on the job in order to go undercover as a narcotics officer, or do you think Detective Zack Nichols did a better job while making time to play the piano in his downtime? 

Vote up the very best Law & Order detectives below, and be sure to let us know what your reasoning is in the comment section. Be sure to also check out our list of other shows like Law & Order.

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  • Detective Stabler is a no nonsense, take-no-prisoners, Irish Catholic tough guy that you can't help but love. At his core, Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni, Law & Order: SVU) is a straight-up dad, albeit one with a sick arm tattoo from the Marines and no-holds-barred interrogation tactics. If you're a pedophile, watch out; The Stabes has your number, and you're likely to be on the receiving end of his violent temper towards perps. He almost always gets the collar, but sometimes, his anger and frustration gets the better of him.  

    He retires after shooting and killing an armed suspect in the precinct; the suspect was a young girl grieving the death of her mother, and Stabler had to take her out in order to save everyone else in the squad room. 
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    Good detective?

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  • Despite his unorthodox methods, Detective Ed Green (Jesse L. Martin, Law & Order) is a valued member of the NYPD. He often butts heads with his superiors, because he believes in bending the law in order to catch a perp.   

    Green is shot in the line of duty, and takes a hiatus from the police force while he recovers in the hospital. A few years after his return, he is involved in a shooting, and indicted before the Grand Jury. Although he is cleared of all charges, he decides to retire from the force because he has now "broken every rule in the book."  
    1,947
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    Good detective?
  • Detective Robert Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio, Law & Order: Criminal Intent) is probably the most intelligent detective the NYPD has ever seen. He is able to tap into the psyche of even the most complex criminals, and his unusual investigation methods almost always lead him to the right answer. Although his eccentricities sometimes rub his colleagues the wrong way, he always gets the job done.   

    Goren grew up in Brooklyn with a schizophrenic mother and an estranged, homeless older brother. These personal demons occasionally get in the way of investigating - he is suspended when he tries to help save his nephew Donny, and he becomes distraught when his brother, Frank, is murdered. It is later revealed that Goren's biological father is an imprisoned serial killer on death row named Mark Ford Brady. 

    He is ultimately pulled off the Major Case squad after a series of unorthodox investigation tactics cost him his job. In the interrogation room, Goren is most well-known for cocking his head to the side when questioning perps. 
    2,232
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    Good detective?
  • Mike Logan (Chris Noth) is a good detective with a rough past. As a child growing up in a working-class, Irish family, he was physically abused by his Catholic mother, and sexually assaulted by a priest. He now behaves like a misanthropic womanizer to cover up the pain of his abuse.  

    Logan works for Manhattan Homicide for several years, until he is fired for engaging in a physical altercation with a homophobic politician. He is then transferred to the Staten Island Domestic Disputes squad, where he works for several years.  

    After his stint on Staten Island, it is revealed in the made for TV movie Exiled: A Law & Order Movie that he is trying to work his way back onto the Manhattan Homicide unit by solving a murder case. He is instead moved to the Major Case squad on Law & Order: Criminal Intent.  

    Detective Logan works on the MC squad for 25 years, before he develops a sense of injustice and anger against the criminal justice system. The death of his girlfriend, combined with the DA trying to cover up a 16-year-old homicide proves to be too much for him. He retires in order to do something more fulfilling with his life than be a police officer. 
    1,828
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