The unexpected release of a suspect in a hate crime case leaves Benson and Barba caught between two families seeking justice for their loved ones. As public protests escalate to violence, Benson goes to desperate lengths to make an arrest.
The drama follows Det. Elliot Stabler, a seasoned veteran of the unit who has seen it all, and his partner, Olivia Benson, whose difficult past is the reason she joined the unit.
Overseeing the team is Capt. Donald Cragen. Cragen's tough but supportive approach to the team's complex cases guides the squad through the challenges they face every day. Also featured is Det. John Munch, a transfer from Baltimore's homicide unit, who brings his acerbic wit, conspiracy theories and street-honed investigative skills. Munch is partnered with Det. Odafin Tutuola, whose unique sense of humor and investigative experience make him a formidable match for Munch.
Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot, and her successor, ADA Casey Novak add a legal component to the series through their efforts to bring closure to the intense investigations. Also aiding the detectives is forensic psychiatrist Dr. George Huang, whose insight into the minds of the accused often provides significant clues that lead to the resolution of a case, and M.E. Melinda Warner, who helps the detectives get the evidence they need from the bodies they find.