There’s an obvious answer for why, in the real world, Stabler would hopefully face serious repercussions for his behavior: namely, that he sometimes physically assaults suspects in the cases he’s working. But as Fleck sees it, the root of the problem is also one of the reasons so many fans love the character: he’s too invested. When we asked Fleck if he’d experienced detectives who behaved similarly to Stabler, he said that he had not, and contrasted the types of detectives he’s used to working with and Stabler: “As a prosecutor, I worked with very professional detectives who did their jobs and did not get emotionally involved in their cases.”
As for what punishment Stabler would be likely to face, Fleck pointed to other cops who’ve stepped out of bounds receiving “desk duty” or being placed on administrative leave “while their conduct is investigated.” Sometimes, of course, members of law enforcement are fired for such conduct. And while Fleck felt that Stabler’s colleagues likely wouldn’t turn a blind eye to his violent tendencies, he made a point of emphasizing that his opinion was based only on his own experiences. “If you were to ask a civil rights lawyer for examples of physical aggression by detectives, I bet they could recount some awful incidents,” he said.
Of course, sometimes members of law enforcement escape repercussions when they step out of line. But, in Fleck’s opinion, a cop who behaves like Stabler shouldn’t get away with it.