Created By: KJMackley on January 14, 2012 Last Edited By: SeanPeden on May 12, 2012

No Police Option

You can\'t call the cops for this one

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(After getting nowhere with the police after his World of Warcraft account was hacked) Sheldon: "Can you at least refer me to a rogue ex-cop?" Police Officer: "...What?" Sheldon: "You know, one who was drummed off the force because he refused to play by the rules and now hires himself out to impose his own brand of rough justice?" Police Officer: "...No." - The Big Bang Theory

Sometimes the police can't help you. They are too caught up in paperwork, legal procedure, jurisdiction and other things that it may be weeks or months before something gets rolling. It's not always their fault, as those same rules are theoretically what protect you from being unjustly harassed by the police.

So sometimes you just don't have the police option when things go bad. Maybe you have a strict time limit, maybe the bad guys are monitoring the police channels and will know something is up, maybe the bad guy is so squeaky clean the regular procedure can't touch him anyway. When that happens your only option is to find someone or a special group of people who operate on the grey side of the law.

If not a basic part of the premise where the heroes are the ones hired out, these guys tend to be fairly shady individuals who you don't want to become friends with.

Compare Recruiting the Criminal.

Examples:
  • Taken operated under the idea that they had a small window of opportunity after Kimmie was kidnapped by a prostitution ring and she was lucky her father Bryan had all the skills necessary to track her down. Bryan does consult some friends in the Paris government for help, only to find some pushback in legal matters as well as some internal corruption.
  • Burn Notice is all about how Michael has the skills needed for extra-legal help and because of being Burned that is about the only job he can get. A lot of the time a client is in a situation where they will face legal problems for taking a bribe or something similar if they go to the police, so often this involves getting the bad guy to do something illegal in front of the police so the client stays clean.
  • The A-Team operated under this, as stated in their Opening Narration.
  • The premise of Leverage, helping people who are normally outgunned or out financed against the bad guys.
Community Feedback Replies: 27
  • January 14, 2012
    dalek955
    You need to give credit for the page quote. I know that it's from Big Bang Theory, but not everyone else will.
  • January 14, 2012
    MyTimingIsOff
    The trope you were trying to pothole in the description is Police Are Useless. I'll fix that for you.
  • January 14, 2012
    Koveras
    Seen It A Million Times but definitive examples elude me...
  • January 14, 2012
    KJMackley
    It's funny how you can do this a hundred times and overlook the simplest things
  • January 14, 2012
    ryanasaurus0077
    Highschool Of The Dead's anime adaptation has Saya specifically imply this when Kohta suggests they call the police. The fact that Takashi and Rei have already tried and failed twice to reach the police via Takashi's cell phone only makes Saya's comments on the matter more realistic than pessimistic in light of the zombie outbreak.
  • January 14, 2012
    Bisected8
    Could someone clarify the different between this and Police Are Useless? I can tell it's different but I'm not quite sure how.
  • January 14, 2012
    chicagomel
    Animorphs, especially book 45. Marco's dad wants to call the cops, but half the police force is controllers, so no good.
  • January 15, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    I think this is yet again a case of Sherlock Holmes did it early. Holmes got involved in "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League" because Jabez Wilson wasn't actually the victim of a crime (he in fact made money out of the deal), so the police couldn't investigate the matter. Of course, it turned out that a crime was involved, but that doesn't come out until the end, when the police do get involved.
  • January 15, 2012
    MyTrainIsOff
    Enemy Of The State was the first thing which came to mind.
  • January 15, 2012
    reub2000
    Pretty much why anyone knocks on the Great Detective's door. Often times the person will be running from the police because all the evidence points towards them, or they escaped from police custody. Or like many Sherlock Holmes examples, there is no crime involved. Also, see Lie To Me where the Lightman Group investigates many matters which aren't criminal, such as the authenticity of a girlfriends love.
  • January 15, 2012
    KJMackley
    Police Are Useless is specifically where "Police are Incompetent." The second paragraph makes it clear, it's for situations where going to the police is not an option regardless of competence. For example someone says "I Have Your Wife and if you call the police I will kill her." So the only option they have is Michael Westen or Mr T.
  • January 15, 2012
    Psychobabble6
    Literature
    • The protagonist in Acceleration finds the diary of a wannabe serial killer and brings it to the police. When he hands it to the policewoman behind the counter, she disinterestedly sets it aside to file away later. He realizes then that the NYPD is far, far too busy with already-committed crimes to focus on one that may not happen. He grabs the diary and runs.
  • January 16, 2012
    nitrokitty
    Another reason for this trope may be The Masquerade: you can't exactly call the cops if a troll just smashed up your car. In that case it goes over to Who You Gonna Call.
  • January 16, 2012
    fulltimeD
    Depending on which parallel world they've landed on, the Sliders may not consider the police an option. Even innocuous seeming worlds can turn ugly once the police get involved.
  • January 16, 2012
    SKJAM
    It can also be because you're pretty sure the police are the bad guys or at least owned by them.

    • Pulp novel character The Green Lama decided to act independently of law enforcement when he saw one of the criminals he'd seen kill innocent bystanders and the police supposedly couldn't find...enjoying a fine cigar in the police station with his good friend the police commissioner.
  • January 16, 2012
    AP
    • In Super, the main character tries to call the cops because his girlfriend cheated on him. The man did end up being a criminal but that wasn't the initial reason why the cops were called.
  • January 17, 2012
    PaulA
    • In "Pearls Are a Nuisance", Raymond Chandler's take on the upper-class Amateur Sleuth story, the police can't be called when the pearl necklace is stolen because there are certain facts about the provenance of the necklace that its owner doesn't wish to become public. (It was Chandler's considered opinion that an amateur sleuth in America could only thrive if the police weren't involved, because American cops, unlike their counterparts in English detective novels, would put up with an amateur sticking his nose in for maybe five seconds before throwing him out on his ear.)
  • January 17, 2012
    nielas
    • In the movie Inside Man the police are involved in the bank robbery and hostage taking almost from the beginning but the Corrupt Corporate Executive cannot tell them about the secret safety deposit box he keeps in the bank. Instead he hires a shady but discreet 'fixer' who can use her political connections and plain bribery and extortion to make sure that the contents of the box never become public.
  • January 17, 2012
    reub2000
    Okay, I think this should be broken up into a type I, type II, type of thing. Type I, could be where the protagonist is a suspected criminal, type II could be where the police are the bad guys or controlled by the bad guys.
  • January 17, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    ^...and III would be Masquerade-related?
  • January 17, 2012
    IsaacSapphire
    Any time the police or the government ARE the problem.
  • May 11, 2012
    SeanPeden
    Would the "Bad guys monitoring you" scenario fall under type II or would that get it's own type III?
  • May 11, 2012
    SeanPeden
    Also, Adventure Time had one of these in "Jake Vs. Me-Mow" when Jake had an assassin in his nose forcing him to kill Wildberry Princess threatening him with poison should he ask for help.
  • May 12, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Several cons (such as the black money scam, pigeon drop, etc.) count on the victim not calling the cops, because they knew in the first place that what they were doing was illegal.
  • May 12, 2012
    DracMonster
    • In Little House With An Orange Roof the two protagonists buy the same house from a Shady Real Estate Agent. When they call the police they're told "We can't help you." This makes no sense (the police aren't depicted as corrupt or anything) but there's a lot of Fridge Logic about how the situation could even arise in the first place.
  • May 12, 2012
    TwoGunAngel
    • In Feng Shui, don't expect help from the cops if you're fighting the Ascended. Fifty-fifty, the guys they send after you will be the cops.
  • May 12, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Every time I see this in the list I keep parsing the title as "No Police" option instead of No "Police Option". Can we brainstorm alternatives?
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