Created By: Discar on August 29, 2011 Last Edited By: StarSword on August 7, 2013
Troped

No Badge, No Problem (PAGE ACTION CROWNER)

Character who is not an officer oversteps their authority and acts like one.

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Page Type:
Trope
Sprang from this TRS discussion, revived by this one, both regarding systemic* misuse of Impersonating an Officer (transplant proposed with YKTTW currently dubbed Cop Guise).

* At last count, 77.4% misuse for literal impersonation of a law officer.

PAGE ACTION CROWNER

Up for Grabs, No Launching Please

Rick Castle: (to the New York Ledger over the phone) Yes, I would like vacation hold information on two of your subscribers, please. Who am I? I... (to Beckett) I sometimes forget I'm not actually a cop.
Detective Kate Beckett: I don't. (takes the phone) Hi, this is Detective Kate Beckett with the NYPD. I'd like to speak with your supervisor, please.

A wide variety of characters behave as if they are actual police officers and detectives or otherwise overstep their bounds, particularly the Amateur Sleuth and technicians. These people tend to be hired consultants, lab techs, or other characters attached to the department, and are allowed to act as police because of their investigative skills that are usually some branch of science anywhere from psychology to forensics. Regardless of their job description, however, in reality they would not have power to arrest, interrogate, execute warrants, and so on.

Real police tend to take a very dim view of this practice. However, as was once said of Star Trek's habit of sending the command staff into dangerous situations, if you're paying for the stars, you damn well better use them.


Related but different tropes:
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: The character acts as though they have some authority that they don't, but never actually claims that they do. Anyone who does what they say to do is acting on their own assumption.
  • Impersonating an Officer (currently under discussion here and a previous thread here) : The character pretending to be an official dresses appropriately for the role they are claiming, and actually says that they are a police or other Law Enforcement official.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Unrelated unless the character continues to investigate and act like a cop after losing the badge.

Examples

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Film]]
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Ex-police officer (and current private investigator) Eddie Valiant is brought along to the Acme Factory crime scene by his friend Lieutenant Santino. While there he tries to steal a piece of evidence: the joy buzzer in Marvin Acme's hand. He's caught red-handed by Judge Doom but Santino explains away his action by saying that Valiant was just getting the item for Doom.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Literature ]]

  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: Dirk does this as part of the workings of his Holistic Detective Agency when he has a mystery that actually interests him rather than one that involves tricking old ladies into letting their cats loose. The local inspector Sergeant Gilks takes a rather dim view of this... along with Dirk's tendencies to be involved in highly peculiar situations that Gilks does not like very much in the first place, as well as his habits of removing or obscuring evidence...
  • Men at Arms offers the Discworld example of Lance-Constable Carrot Ironfoundersson, who in the absence of Captain Vimes assumes command not only of the night watch, but also the whole City Watch and an increasingly large and well-weaponed Citizens' Militia. He does this by force of personality and the (unspoken) fact that he is the heir to the throne of Ankh-Morpork. Effectively he is assuming a police rank he has no official title to, but he is only called out twice: once when Sergeant Fred Colon attempts to re-assert his superior rank (but Fred bows to the inevitable and ends up calling Carrot "sir" and taking his orders). A second attempt is made by the soon-to-be-disgraced Captain Quirke, but Carrot deals directly with this. The next morning, even Lord Vetinari is certain Carrot is out to usurp his rank too...

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Live-Action TV ]]

  • In Torchwood, they do have authorization to be at crime scenes, but the police aren't happy about it (it doesn't help that they're not quite sure what Torchwood actually does). In one episode, Jack has to call the police for help when everyone but Gwen winds up locked in the base with no power; the officer who takes the call puts it on speaker and calls the entire station over to mock them.
  • The guys on Hustle do this with some regularity, as does the team on Leverage. ZERO CONTEXT EXAMPLE
  • In Castle, although merely a shadowing writer Castle has been given a lot of responsibility within the unit, including questioning witnesses and examining evidence and crime scenes (albeit always with Beckett observing him). Lampshaded in one episode where he excitedly calls a newspaper to acquire confidential information after a brainwave, only to stop when they ask him who he is and hand the phone over to Beckett, sheepishly admitting that "I sometimes forget I'm not actually a cop."
  • New Tricks: Brian, Jack and Gerry are retired police officers and are usually pretty good at identifying themselves as such. However, they do work for the police department as investigators so they have the official authority to question people and access police records.
  • Patrick Jayne of The Mentalist will usually inform people that he is merely a consultant and not an actual police officer. However, when he deems it necessary he has no qualms about letting people think that he is a full CBI agent.
  • In the Blue Bloods episode "The Uniform" Danny Reagan's Case of the Week involves an auxiliary officer, a part-time patrolman who is not issued a gun and is usually supposed to call in the real cops. The auxiliary in question brought along his own gun and fired on a suspect. It was eventually ruled a good shoot, and the auxiliary even got into police academy later.
  • Bones:
    • Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who studies the bones of human remains. She works with Special Agent Seeley Booth to work on cases which require her expertise, and frequently helps interview witnesses and conduct interrogations. In the pilot she even went to arrest the murderer by herself, kneecapping him in the process. (The show admitted this was technically assault with a deadly weapon and she was chewed out both for the crime and general foolhardiness, but no charges were filed.)
    • A Victim of the Week was a data analyst for the CIA. When his superiors refuse to investigate a possible diamond smuggling operation he discovers, he investigates it himself despite having no field experience, training, or authority.
  • Midsomer Murders: One episode has Barnaby be removed from a case because his wife is tangentially connected to it. His replacement being a perfectly intolerable little dipstick, Barnaby gets to the witnesses first without mentioning he's not on the case.
  • CSI Verse:
    • The original CSI gets Flanderized into this in parodies but it's not as prevalent as it's made out to be. While the CSIs tend to do things that the police would be the ones to do in real life (like interviewing suspects or capturing them, though the latter tends to happen only when someone they plan to just speak to runs away), Grissom often reminds civilians he isn't a cop, and at one point was told to leave the scene by Brass when it became apparent that a suspect was still there.
    • Averted for the most part in the spinoffs, as the characters actually are full-fledged cops. However one Csi Ny episode had Mac do a technical one of these when he follows his stalker to Chicago, and tries to throw his badge to get into the Tribune building. Chicago PD had to remind him that badges only work in their jurisdiction and he had no power in Chicago.
  • Shawn from Psych will often tell people he's "The Head Psychic for the SBPD" as if he's an actual officer, when he's actually a consultant/hired on Private Detective. Doesn't stop him from investigating everything and everyone vaguely connected to a high profile or interesting case, even cases he hasn't actually been hired for it. Da Chief puts up with it because he gets results. It's to the point cops from other jurisdictions have assumed Shawn is the boss and Detective Lassiter is supposed to answer to him, rather than the other way around.
  • Due South: Benton is a police officer in Canada, but the show is set in Chicago. He does frequently remind people that he is acting purely as a private citizen, but acts as if he does have police powers.
  • In The Listener, Toby is a consultant for the IIB because of his mind reading powers. As a consultant, he's at the IIB's beck and call, but sometimes it seems like he is just another law enforcement officer: he often directs other police officers, executes warrants, leads interrogations, etc.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Video Games ]]

  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Phoenix does this constantly, and often swipes evidence from the scene of the crime. However, it's implied that the law in his world differs from real-world law on this point; on several occasions he's shown receiving assistance from the police during his on-scene investigations. There's a very odd line late in game 1 where Phoenix says that he's not supposed to do that. Really? Because it didn't seem to cause you any trouble with the police all the previous times you did it. Quite often, he even ends up doing their work. Especially including using the nifty gadgets for them.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
  • In one episode of Spongebob Squarepants, Spongebob is made a prefect by Mrs. Puff. He then thinks that he can use the authority to help people outside of his boating school, so he goes to the Bikini Bottom city and finds that the traffic light's broken. Then he steps up as a traffic police and helps the boats cross the crossroads in his usual haphazard fashion. Nothing seems to be bad, until he goes off and it's revealed to the audience (unbeknownst to him) that those cars he helped are piling up in a giant crash. He's then wanted by the police for this.
[[/folder]]

Indexes: Crime and Punishment Tropes

Community Feedback Replies: 46
  • August 30, 2011
    somerandomdude
  • August 30, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    A pair of episodes of Dr Phil had the guest display videos of a demonstration he did where a man dressed as a guard or an officer and told passers-by to do weird things. Every subject in the videos complied with him fully, even allowing him to eat a woman's apple he took from her bag. The point of the demonstration was to show that merely dressing in uniform is enough to control what other people might do.
  • August 30, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    In a pair of episodes of Dr Phil, the guest showed a demonstration of a man dressed as a security guard or police officer in a park who told people do do weird things. In each video, the subject complied completely, including allowing the man to take an apple from her bag and eat it. The point of the demonstration was to show how people can be controlled by merely wearing a uniform.
  • August 30, 2011
    Shnakepup
    • Cartman's brief impersonation of a police officer in an early episode of South Park. He dressed like a police officer (complete with aviator sunglasses) and pulled people over in his big wheel. When they inevitably figured out that he wasn't a real cop, he'd start beating them with a baton.
      "RESPECT MY AUTHORIT-AH!"
  • August 30, 2011
    TonyG
    When SpongeBob SquarePants is made hall monitor, he decides that he can be helpful outside the classroom as well. He just ends up causing more mayhem.
  • February 3, 2012
    pittsburghmuggle
    An aversion in Kindergarten Cop?: when John Kimble arrests a man in a salon he isn't wearing a uniform but produces a badge. The guard phones the badge in to verify its authenticity.
  • February 4, 2012
    Arivne
    One common element I've seen in these situations: if the person is friendly with a cop, the cop will allow them into a crime scene, often saying "He's with me" to other cops in the area.

    Film
    • Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Ex-police officer (and current private investigator) Eddie Valiant is brought along to the Acme Factory crime scene by his friend Lieutenant Santino. While there he tries to steal a piece of evidence: the joy buzzer in Marvin Acme's hand. He's caught red-handed by Judge Doom but Santino explains away his action by saying that Valiant was just getting the item for Doom.
    • Constantine. LAPD detective Angela Dodson takes Constantine to the Hennessy death scene. While he's there he tampers with the crime scene by getting a bloody copy of the symbol Hennessy carved into the palm of his hand.
  • February 4, 2012
    JoeG
    This seems to be two tropes merged together:

    1) Amateur investigator overstepping his bounds and acting like a police officer.

    2) A person pretending to be a police officer for nefarious purposes.
  • February 4, 2012
    Rognik
    different from when the detective has to turn in their gun and badge from the force for overstepping their bounds in a case?
  • February 4, 2012
    chicagomel
    • Rampant on CSI, but only the original-in the others, the characters are cops.

    • Although, on CSI NY, Mac does a technical one of these when he follows his stalker to Chicago, and tries to throw his badge to get into the Tribune building, where the stalker's 3-d puzzle had directed him to. Chicago PD had to remind him that badges only work in their jurisdiction and he had no power in Chicago.
  • February 4, 2012
    Bisected8
    Actually, while CSI tends to be flanderised into this in parodies, a distinction is made between the actual cops and the CSIs in the original and both spinoffs, although the CSIs do tend to do things which the police would be the ones to do in real life (like interviewing suspects or capturing them, although that tends to happen only when someone they plan to just speak to runs away). It also varies depending on the series; Mac seems to be an actual police officer as well as head of the crime lab for example and Horatio does everything anyway, Grissom often reminds civilians he isn't a cop (and at one point was told to leave the scene by Brass when it became apparent that as suspect was still there).
  • February 4, 2012
    Dawnwing
    • In the Savannah Reid Mysteries, Savannah, a Private Investigator, does this. It kind of helps that she used to be a cop in the city, and that her best friend still is one.
  • February 4, 2012
    Chabal2
    Frank Castle often does this with nothing more than a quickly-flashed fake badge and a longcoat over his skull shirt.

  • July 22, 2013
    paycheckgurl
    Shawn from Psych will often tell people he's "The Head Psychic for the SBPD" as if he's an actual officer, when he's actually a consultant/hired on Private Detective. Doesn't stop him from investgating everything and everyone vaguely connected to a high profile or interesting case, even cases he hasn't actually been hired for it. Da Chief puts up with it because gets results.
  • July 22, 2013
    DAN004
    There's a YKTTW called "Cop Guise" which can be related to this trope.
  • July 22, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Actually Cop Guise would be transplanted into what is currently titled Impersonating An Officer. This is Impersonating An Officer's current definition. The current effort sparked by Cop Guise is not the first attempt at literalizing Impersonating An Officer.
  • July 22, 2013
    StarSword
    Did some tidying of the draft (namespaces, mostly).
  • July 23, 2013
    lexicon
    The title looks good but a number of the examples don't fit the description of someone being allowed to "behave as if they are actual police officers." Angel and Doctor Who are Bavarian Fire Drill and The District is pretending to be an official. Torchwood is played straight but says that it's averted.
  • July 23, 2013
    undefined
    ^ I've removed those examples. I've also removed one of the hats. This is nowhere near ready to release into the wiki.
  • July 25, 2013
    StarSword
    ^What would you do with it? (For example, I'm not sure I like snowcloning No Plot No Problem.)

    Stuck in an example from Blue Bloods, though as it's been a while since I saw the episode can someone check my facts?
  • July 25, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Bones: A Victim Of The Week was a data analyst for the CIA. When his superiors refuse to investigate a possible diamond smuggling operation he discovers, he investigates it himself despite having no field experience, training, or authority.
  • July 26, 2013
    Chabal2
    Midsomer Murders: one episode has Barnaby be removed from a case because his wife is tangentially connnected to it. His replacement being a perfectly intolerable little dipstick, Barnaby gets to the witnesses first without mentioning he's not on the case.
  • July 26, 2013
    StarSword
    Running Rolling Updates. Frank Castle disqualified for being literal Impersonating An Officer, which is exactly the kind of misuse that belongs over on Cop Guise.
  • July 26, 2013
    lexicon
    Castle doesn't dress like a cop or say that he actually is one and he's is allowed to help with the investigations. He counts.
  • July 26, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Just to be clear, you're talking about Frank Castle, The Punisher, not Rick Castle, Castle? I disqualified the former but the latter counts.
  • July 26, 2013
    lexicon
    Sorry, I was confused. I was thinking of the murder mystery writer Rick Castle.
  • July 26, 2013
    maxwellsilver
    I not so sure about the Who Framed Roger Rabbit example fits. It's not clear what Eddy was doing with the hand buzzer. It's unclear if he actually was trying to steal it or if he was just picking it - Doom accused him of removing evidence and Santino explains that he's picking it up, we never hear Eddy's side.
  • July 27, 2013
    StarSword
    ^I've never seen the movie (though I probably should). Can anyone corroborate?
  • July 28, 2013
    StarSword
    We've got enough examples for a launch, but what do people think of the description?
  • July 29, 2013
    DAN004
    Better description plz.
  • July 29, 2013
    StarSword
    ^What would you do with it?
  • July 29, 2013
    paycheckgurl
    Maybe you should add a line or two talking about how in fiction the people most likely to this are hired on consultants or CSI workers with no arresting power? (You kind of got a line about it now, but it's very brief. Fluff it out a bit).
  • July 29, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Done. Turned out what we had before was a straight copy from what is currently titled Impersonating An Officer.
  • July 29, 2013
    CrypticMirror
    Due South, Benton is a police officer in Canada, but the show is set in Chicago. He does frequently remind people that he is acting purely as a private citizen, but acts as if he does have police powers.
  • July 29, 2013
    maxwellsilver
    Anyone care to add their thoughts on the Who Framed Roger Rabbit entry?
  • July 29, 2013
    DAN004
    Launch plz.
  • July 29, 2013
    DAN004
    Does this count?
    • In one of Spongebob Squarepants episodes, Spongebob is made a prefect by Mrs. Puff. He then thinks that he can use the authority to help people outside of his boating school, so he goes to the Bikini Bottom city and finds that the traffic light's broken. Then he steps up as a traffic police and helps the boats cross the crossroads in his usual haphazard fashion. Nothing seems to be bad, until he goes off and it's revealed to the audience (unbeknownst to him) that those cars he helped are piling up in a giant crash. He's then wanted by the police for this.
  • July 29, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Based on the private eye genre, it's likely he was going to keep the buzzer to himself as he investigated the murder. "Removing evidence from the scene of a crime", exactly what Doom was accusing him of.

    But most of the plainclothes are his friends, so they made an excuse for him.

    The question is if a Private Detective counts for this trope, or not.
  • July 30, 2013
    StarSword
    @DAN 004: That looks more like the other trope, Cop Guise. Also, suggest potholing Reality Ensues in the last sentence.

    As for launching, we're waiting on Cop Guise to be ready so we can Trope Transplant it into Impersonating An Officer. Flagging as No Launching Please.

    @crazysamaritan: I'm inclined to allow. A quick Google search shows that in real life private investigators are not allowed to access crime scenes until the scene has been processed.
  • July 30, 2013
    lexicon
    I think for context the examples should each say what the person does for investigative skills attached to the department.

    • Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who studies the bones of human remains. She works with Special Agent Seeley Booth to work on cases which require her expertise.

    "The guys on Hustle do this with some regularity, as does the team on Leverage," says nothing about how it fits. It should be taken away unless someone can say what happens.
  • July 30, 2013
    jthayne
    In The Listener, Toby is a consultant for the IIB because of his mind reading powers. As a consultant, he's at the IIB's beck and call, but sometimes it seems like he is just another law enforcement officer — he often directs other police officers, executes warrants, leads interrogations, etc.
  • July 30, 2013
    StarSword
    ^^Yeah,the Hustle/Leverage one is definitely a Zero Context Example.
  • July 30, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Suggestion for works like Rodger; pothole "investigate crimes" on Private Detective to this trope, and add a sentence at the end to "see also". Do the same thing to Amateur Sleuth.
  • July 30, 2013
    StarSword
    Planning on it when we get the crosswicking going. Just waiting on the TRS to tell me what the procedure is for actually executing the Trope Transplant.
  • July 31, 2013
    StarSword
    Ok, so looks like the Spongebob example belongs over here after all.

    Ask The Tropers advised us to recrowner to confirm that Trope Transplant is still the preferred solution for Impersonating An Officer (old crowner was two years old).
  • August 7, 2013
    StarSword
    Crowner called for Trope Transplant. Last call for examples; launching at 1 PM EST.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=cjihb51poohhb26cnjwcudbm