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|Law & Order character|
|Last appearance||"Point of View"|
|Portrayed by||Paul Sorvino|
|Time on show||1991–1992|
|Credited appearances||31 episodes (total)|
|Preceded by||Max Greevey|
|Succeeded by||Lennie Briscoe|
|Family||Elaine Cerreta (wife)
Linda Cerreta (daughter)
Cerreta is portrayed as an Italian-American Catholic who, unlike his successor, Lennie Briscoe, uses charm and manners to investigate cases. Little is revealed about Cerreta's personal life, except that he and his wife Elaine (played by Maria Cellario) have five children, and he had served in the military before becoming a police officer. His family has a history in the textile and printing businesses, and are loyal trade union members. He has a 15-year-old daughter named Linda. He became a police officer in 1969.
In Confession, Cerreta's first appearance, Don Cragen mentions that Cerreta has a history of working with Irish police officers, noting that his new partner, Mike Logan, is "another Mick; your lot in life, Phil."
In the Law & Order universe
Cerreta joins the 27th Detective Squad after Sgt. Max Greevey (George Dzundza) is murdered. Greevey's partner, Det. Mike Logan (Chris Noth), is initially very critical of Cerreta, who was originally brought in to lead the investigation into Greevey's murder and hence is seen by Logan as an interloper. In later episodes, however, the two develop a close working relationship.
Like most detective characters on Law & Order during the early seasons, Ceretta carries a Smith & Wesson Model 36 revolver as his duty weapon. In one episode, he mentions that he has never fired his weapon on duty in his entire law enforcement career.
Cerreta goes undercover to broker a deal with gun dealer George Lobrano (Mark Margolis) in order to break a Colombian drug ring that had ordered a murder. However, during the course of the transaction, the hyperactive dealer panics and shoots Cerreta in the stomach. Cerreta survives, but the bullet damages some nerves and weakens his legs. Believing that he could no longer function as a street cop, Cerreta reluctantly tells Logan that they can no longer work together. Cerreta accepts a desk job that the Chief of Detectives offered at the 110th precinct. He is succeeded by Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach).
- "The Working Stiff". Law & Order. Season 2. Episode 22. May 12, 1992. NBC.
- "Wedded Bliss". Law & Order. Season 3. Episode 5. October 21, 1992. NBC.
- "Self-Defense". Law & Order. Season 3. Episode 7. November 11, 1992. NBC.
- "Prince of Darkness". Law & Order. Season 3. Episode 8. November 19, 1992. NBC.
- "Confession". Law & Order. Season 2. Episode 1. September 17, 1991. NBC.
- "Point of View". Law & Order. Season 3. Episode 9. November 26, 1992. NBC.