A lot of cops in media have a history in the military. Maybe they're a former Marine, or a soldier in the Army Reserves. You don't usually see a cop who was in the Air Force, Coast Guard or the Navy (excluding Navy SEALs). This trope is very much Truth in Television since police departments routinely recruit from the military because of the overlap in training at a police academy and military basic training. Basically, this trope applies to all members of law enforcement who've done a stint in the military, including the Reserves and National Guard. Note: this trope is not specific to only America, other countries' militaries also count. Contrast with From Camouflage to Criminal, when outlaws have an ex-military background.
Some examples separated by service branch:
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- The Andy Griffith Show - Both Andy Taylor and Barney Fife served in World War II, however neither saw combat, and Barney admits that he was not allowed to leave the States.
- Bones - Seeley Booth (Ranger)
- The Bridge - Inverted and then played straight in one episode. A police officer took leave from work and joined the army so he could serve in Afghanistan. He was wounded and had his foot amputated. When he returns he tries to become a police officer again despite his disability. Frank and the police union end up supporting him after he proves that he is still capable of doing the job even with a prosthetic foot.
- Dexter - James Doakes (Ranger)
- Dragnet - Bill Gannon and most likely Joe Friday
- Flashpoint - Sam Braddock (Canadian Army)
- Happy Days - Officer Kirk
- Justified - Deputy US Marshall Tim Gutterson was a sniper with the US Army Rangers
- The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed - Vladimir Sharapov was a former Red Army scout, now in Moscow Criminal Police.
Marine Corps, Royal Marines, etc
- Barney Miller - Wojo is a Marine and a Vietnam vet.
- Blue Bloods - this show is made of this trope: Henry Reagan was in Korea, his son Frank was in Vietnam, and Frank's son Danny served in the second Iraq War. Plus it's also mentioned that Henry's father was in Normandy on D-Day and knowing this family, was almost certainly also a cop.
- Criminal Minds - David Rossi
- CSI - Jim Brass
- CSI: NY - Mac Taylor
- L.A. Confidential - Ed Exley is a former Marine who served in the Pacific during World War II.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Elliot Stabler
- NCIS - Gibbs
- Dexter - Albert Doakes
- L.A. Noire - Cole Phelps was a Marine in WWII. His past and that of the rest of his former unit plays a major role in the plot.
- Fatherland - German police officer Xavier March and reluctant SS police major is also, or has been, a Kapitan zur See in the Kriegsmarine - one of Doenitz's U-Boat commanders. Also applies to the book.
- Tag Team, a Pilot Movie starring Jesse Ventura & "Rowdy" Roddy Piper as two former wrestlers who become cops: During the target practice portion of the Police Academy Ventura's character displays remarkable marksmanship skills; he mentions that he was a SEAL (as he is in Real Life)
- Hawaii Five-0 (2010 remake) - Steve McGarrett (SEAL)
- Hawaii Five-O (the original) - Steve McGarrett, the head of the Five-O police unit, is a former U.S. Navy officer and a commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Several episodes had references to his past career.
- Magnum, P.I. - Magnum was in Vietnam as a SEAL. This pops up occasionally.
- NCIS: Los Angeles - Sam Hanna (SEAL)
- President Theodore Roosevelt was essentially the Acting Secretary of the Navy when the Spanish American War broke out and he joined the Rough Riders in the Army's Cavalry. He was also the Police Commissioner of New York City.
- The Choirboys - Sergeant "Sperm-Whale" Whelan of the LAPD is also a USAF reservist. He therefore spends weekends and down-time from the police in flying transport and logistic missions from the USA to Vietnam and back ('The Choirboys'' is set in the early 1970's). This has humorous consequences. When on Monday morning the other cops are discussing where they went at the weekend and are coming out with things like "Took the kids to Venice Beach. Some rain." Whelan can laconically reply "nowhere much. Da Nang. Some flak. how about you?" When late getting back once, Whelan went straight to the station house in his USAF uniform. As a Major in the USAF, he out-ranked his commanding oficer in the police force. (A man who hates Whelan and everything he stands for). As both were in uniform, the police lieutenant had to salute the Air Force Major. (Whelan's Crowning Moment of Awesome ?)
- London's Burning - one of the firemen was also a reservist in the Royal Air Force and trained by the RAF to deal with aircraft fires or crash-landings. Which came in useful in the big series finale concerning a plane crash in London.
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