Tutuola was raised in the Harlem area of New York City and was six during the 1968 riots following the Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination, making his birth year 1962. He was previously a US Army Ranger and served on two tours. His military background remains sketchy as he rarely speaks of it or only makes vague and indirect references to it; however, in season 10, he explicitly mentions serving on Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia in order to connect with a military rape victim.
Tutuola has a son named Kwasi (nicknamed Ken) with his ex-wife Teresa Randall. Subsequent episodes reveal that he has a strained relationship with his family. As of "Intersecting Lives," he is due to be a grandfather, as that episode revealed that Ken and his husband are expecting a baby via surrogate.
He is an avid fan of first person shooter video games, and is a regular at an annual video game convention. On why he would play such games considering the nature of his job and his military background, he explained to his colleagues that he viewed these games as an escape from the grey areas he faced on the job, and that he found solace in the "black and white" nature of these games where he was the one hunting down a clearly defined "bad guy".
A former narcotics detective, Tutuola joins the SVU squad in the season 2 premiere "Wrong Is Right", as a replacement for Monique Jeffries (Michelle Hurd). He is then paired with Det. John Munch (Richard Belzer).
While in the Narcotics Division, Tutuola worked undercover regularly. He would often spend weeks or even months at a time in various alternate identities. He left Narcotics and transferred to SVU when his partner took a bullet that was meant for him.
Tutuola initially has a rocky relationship with his colleagues in SVU, especially with Munch and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). Unlike them, he views justice in an objective, "black and white" manner and believes that all criminals should be punished according to what they deserve regardless of the circumstances under which they commit the crime. He also tries to separate his private and professional life as much as possible and keeps a tight rein on his emotions, refusing to talk about his problems or to admit that the grisly nature of his work often affects him. For example, it took him nearly a year before he opened up to Munch about the death of his former partner, and he only reveals that he has a son in Season 3.
The following are the medals and service awards worn by Detective Tutuola, as seen in "Dolls".
Over the 17 seasons the character has been featured on the show, Tutuola has come to respect and trust his SVU colleagues, even though they often disagree over the best way to solve cases. An example is his partnership with Munch, that over 13 years grew from icy dislike to mutual respect and good-natured banter, often about politics, as Munch is politically left-wing and Tutuola is a Republican. After Munch is shot in the buttocks by a suspect during a court trial, Tutuola surprises him in the hospital with his favorite fig milkshake.
Tutuola is gravely wounded while attempting to stop a holdup at a bodega; after being released from the hospital, he spends little time recovering, instead throwing himself back into work finding a kidnapped victim and busting a methamphetamine lab. This episode introduces Tutuola's son Ken Randall (Ernest Waddell), a computer science major, from whom he is estranged; Tutuola was always working when Ken was a child, and by his own admission chose work over his family.
While attempting to solve the murders of AIDS victims, Tutuola seeks assistance from Ken, who helps the SVU squad locate the hacker who fraudulently obtained a list of AIDS patients. In the course of the investigation, Tutuola learns that Ken himself is gay. Their relationship is tested again in the episode "Venom", when uniform cops find Ken digging up a city street and arrest him. Ken contacts Benson instead of his father and tells her he is digging up the street to look for a body of a dead woman. The investigation, which first focused on Ken, takes a new turn when DNA evidence shows that Ken's cousin Darius Parker (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) is not only the murderer but also Ken's older half-brother, who had been abandoned by his mother — Tutuola's ex-wife Teresa Randall (Lisa Gay Hamilton). The episode ends with Darius threatening to expose the entire family's secrets in court. Darius goes on trial for the murders and, true to his word, exposes the family's dirty laundry to the public. Teresa at first refuses to testify, forcing the judge to remand her into custody for contempt of court, but she eventually reveals that Darius is the product of incest. Darius is acquitted of all charges, and both Tutuola and Ken disown him. Over the years, Tutuola's relationship with his son has improved, with Tutuola calling Ken "the bravest man I know." When Ken's fiancé is assaulted, Tutuola takes charge of the investigation, and persuades the fiancé's homophobic father to accept Ken into his family.
During an investigation of prisoner sexual abuse, both Tutuola and Benson go undercover to Sealview Correctional Facility, and he saves her from being raped by a guard. In the Season 9 finale "Cold", Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) suspects that Tutuola tipped off his temporary partner Chester Lake (Adam Beach), who is suspected of murder, before he and Benson could take Lake into custody. Stabler checks Tutuola's phones, infuriating him. Near the end of the episode, Stabler apologizes for not trusting him, but Tutuola dismisses his apology because he believes Stabler will still be the same "rat-bastard" tomorrow. Afterwards, he requests a transfer from the squad.
However, three months later, Tutuola's transfer request had become bogged down in red tape, keeping him with SVU. As Captain Don Cragen (Dann Florek) explains it, the person in charge of transfer paperwork is a colleague of Tutuola's in the narcotics unit who holds a grudge because his ex-wife started calling Tutuola after their divorce. Hearing this, Tutuola resigns himself to the likelihood that his transfer will not be effected anytime soon. No further mention of Tutuola's transfer request is made after this point.
After Munch retires from SVU, Tutuola is partnered with Detective Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish). They have a good working relationship, but it is tested when Rollins' gambling addiction begins to interfere with her work. When Rollins loses thousands of dollars at an underground casino, Tutuola gives her some money and tells her to get help, and he is the first to defend her when she becomes a suspect in a corruption case involving the casino. When he learns that she had been cooperating in a sting operation, he is hurt that she didn't tell him, and loses some respect for her. They repair their relationship, however, after she reveals that she had been raped in her native Atlanta, Georgia by her superior officer, and he helps her bring her rapist to justice.
After Benson's promotion, Tutuola resists any attempt to become her formal second-in-command, leading her to embrace the appointment of Mike Dodds as her sergeant. Although relieved (after he warms up to Dodds himself) Fin does express to Olivia that he feels somewhat static in the wake of the recent changes, including Benson's and Rollins's motherhood. While his subsequent attempts at dating and having a personal life don't go anywhere, Tutuola learns that Ken and Alejandro have decided to have a baby via a surrogate. To Ken's surprise, Fin expresses delight that he is going to be a grandfather.
In "Decline and Fall", he takes the Sergeant's exam when Benson made him her No. 2. He studied for the exam by cramming.
The character's name is inspired by the Yoruba author Amos Tutuola. Information about Amos Tutuola, recounted in the book's introduction, states that his grandfather was an odafin, the spiritual leader of a clan, and Tutuola was the given name of the author's father; Odafin literally means "the establisher of laws" or "lawmaker" in the Yoruba language of southwestern Nigeria. Tutuola means "the gentle one."
When Ice-T asked Law & Order series producer Dick Wolf how the part was supposed to be performed, Wolf told him to simply do what Ice-T would do if he were a cop.Law & Order—episode: "Flaw" (2005)
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