Chris Meloni Leaving “Law & Order: SVU”

Christopher Meloni is turning in his badge as Detective Elliott Stabler on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Meloni, 48, has starred as the loose, but loving, NYC cop on NBC’s veteran crime drama since its premiere in 1999. But after 10 years, Chris is ready to leave the sometimes mean streets of Manhattan. The actor — who previously appeared on HBO’s prison epic Oz — is hoping to pursue film and theater roles once he leaves SVU at the end of his current contract in 2011. Meloni has routinely sparred with network suits over contract negotiations, but did not cite the feud as a mitigating factor in his decision to call it quits.

“I think 12 years is enough, a good number,” Meloni remarked with speaking to The Courier Mail on Friday. “The writers will have fertile ground to figure out how to arc [Stabler] out to another place – whether it’s this world or the next,” he added.

Meloni’s SVU co-star Mariska Hartigay plans to remain on the show for the foreseeable future.

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