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.
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.
- 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: 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: 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.
- 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: Crime Scene Investigation 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: 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.
- 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.