The Lopsided Arm Of The Law YKTTW Discussion

The Lopsided Arm Of The Law
Where were all these cops during the well-established Crime Wave?
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(permanent link) added: 2011-08-24 00:37:40 sponsor: Sterling7 edited by: marcoasalazarm (last reply: 2013-09-25 17:09:44)

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Do We Have This One?? * Needs More Examples

A sub-trope of the Police Are Useless trope; Related to Arrested for Heroism.

The city is in chaos. Crime is rampant, surging, and shows no signs of diminishing. Bad guys walk the streets openly, assuming they don't masquerade as upstanding pillars of the community to get away with bigger crimes. The police are outnumbered, out-gunned, and completely powerless to even begin to address the city's crime problem.

That is, until the hero shows up. No, they're not going to help him. They're going to chase him down as either a traitor, a vigilante, or a loose cannon.

In the process they're going to display such a show of force and numbers that it becomes truly baffling that the crime problem has reached these levels.


Comic Books

  • Justified in several Garth Ennis stories about The Punisher, where gangsters pay off the police or blackmail politicians to ignore them and focus on catching the Anti-Hero Frank Castle. Also subverted in that most of the police actually side with the vigilante and don't exactly work overtime trying to catch him.

  • Zig-zagged during Marvel Civil War: some comics had the "Cape Killers" ignoring actual villains to go after heroes violating the Super Registration Act, while the main series and some other comics claimed that the heightened presence of both registered and unregistered heroes was causing a record roundup of supervillains. The fact that villains joined both sides probably confused matters even further.

  • In The Dark Knight Returns the Mutant Gang practially controls the entire city, killing whoever they want whenever they want. The Mayor goes to the leader to negotiate, and the leader kills the Mayor by ripping his throat out with his teeth. The new Mayor still is open to negotiating. Meanwhile Batman, the one person standing up to the crimewave, is wanted by the police for his vigilante activities, and after he is mistakenly thought to have killed the Joker a full scale SWAT Team manhunt is on for his arrest.


  • The Death Wish series of movies depict the police as having given up on controlling gang crime, yet hounding citizens who actually defend themselves.

  • Batman: The Joker is able to murder a man in broad daylight and walk away with minimal henchman intervention. But when the Batmobile guns through the streets, the Gotham City Police Department remembers how to make roadblocks.

  • The Crow: Detroit has a one-night surge of arson the cops can't do a thing about. A double-murder of a public advocate and her boyfriend rates a couple of squad cars that only show up long after the violence. Start killing off criminals, though, and we have multiple squad cars, a large armed response, a _helicopter_...

  • The Dark Knight Rises had a particularly bad example. Batman is chasing Bane's men and the police go after him instead. Robin John Blake actually calls out his superior on it.

  • Justified in The Film of the Book Kiss Me Deadly, where the police go after Mike Hammer and ignore the true villains because Hammer is unwittingly complicating matters related to a miniature A-bomb...and because the police hate him with good reason.

  • In Last Action Hero the villain realises he is in "the real world" because this suddenly applies. He can shoot someone and then yell that he has shot someone with no consequences.

  • Robocop: The second-worst beating poor officer Murphy gets during the course of the movie is from the armory's-worth of guns of his own fellow officers when the Big Bad declares him a rogue. The same officers who are mysteriously absent during the crime wave in Old Detroit.

  • Sin City: The police are incredibly corrupt and as such, pretty useless. However, they sure shouldn't be able to send off 20-30-plus-men kill squads in full SWAT gear so freely...

  • Terminator: Salvation: Though not technically cops, the human resistance has a similar problem, barely able to summon a poorly-armed token force to deal with the machine incursion but sending out a battalion to deal with the mistakenly-villified hero.


  • In the magazine Cracked, a bunch of baddies are about to rob a bank. A Clark Kent lookalike thinks it's a job for "Cracked Man" (non-recurring character). "Clark" enters a phone booth to change costumes. But when an older lady sees Clark in his boxers and screams, two cops immediately appear on scene and arrest him.

Western Animation

Video Games

  • In Earthbound the Onett Police do nothing about local gang the Sharks, but they zealously oppose Ness after he defeats the Sharks by arresting him under false pretenses and forcing him into a Mook Chivalry battle.
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