"Ralph, friends who want to stay friends don't discuss religion or politics. In my case, you can add the war to that."
A 27 year old marine turned cop from a wealthy San Francisco family. Cole distinguished himself in the Pacific theatre, earning the Silver Star for his conduct. After the war, he moved to Los Angeles with his family, joining the LAPD. He quickly rises through the ranks, becoming something of a "golden boy", a visually pleasing, talented face that the public can admire.
Cole speaks fluent Japanese (though somewhat accented) to two captured Japanese soldiers during the Battle for Okinawa.
In one particular Homicide case, he is recalled back to Central Station for the purposes of analysing a poem left by the murderer. He quickly deduces it is not an original and identifies it as written by Shelley. One of the Technical Services guys even mentions, "That's why we asked for you."
Et Tu, Roy?: Definitely his reaction when the latter reports his affair with Elsa to the corrupt officials.
Everyone Loves Blondes: During the "A Slip of the Tongue" case Bekowsky asks him what kind of women he likes, after some coaxing he says he has a thing for blondes.
This is also a bit of Foreshadowing: Cole's wife isn't a blonde. Then again, neither is Elsa.
Expy: Of Detective Ed Exley from L.A. Confidential. Both of them are Glory Hound war heroes whom saw action in the Pacific during World War II whom initially earn the distrust of their fellow officers. Both of them are By The Book Cops who eventually learn to break the rules a little. And both of them only earned their medals - a Distinguished Service Cross for Exley and a Silver Star for Phelps - because they were the only survivors from their units due to cowardice.
Fake Ultimate Hero: Cole actually didn't do anything worthy of earning the Silver Star, he merely was the last man standing (or, more accurately, sitting in a foxhole all night in shock from his close friend being indirect-fired to pieces) after a big battle, and the CO in charge just recommended him for the medal thinking he was a badass for managing to live through it. Cole is very much aware of this and knows that many of the men in the battle died because of his orders, so he has a lot of atoning to do.
Lieutenant Failure: Most of his men seemed to wish they weren't serving under him in the war.
To an extent, though, this is largely because he is perceived as a Bad Luck Charm and overly sympathetic to the enemy. As an officer, Cole is certainly cautious and has a stick up his ass, but isn't really a bad leader (note: he is not a good one either).
Glory Hound: He went into the War as this, and still retains traits of it through most desks. It's not until the Arson desk that he truly wants justice for more than personal gain.
He's more concerned with protecting the city more than his reputation, though. When the same MO keeps popping up over and over again, although he wants to solve a big case, while Rusty is more concerned about his career during the final murder case, Cole is concerned about putting a murderer in jail.
Good Cop/Bad Cop: He plays the good cop routine with almost all of his partners.
In many interrogrations, he's both. He responds in a good cop manner if you choose "truth" and a bad cop manner if you choose "doubt".
The search for the Black Dahlia killer is literally Cole figuring out everything and finding the clues on his own. Funnily, considering all the stuff breaking down in that case, Rusty following close behind likely would have resulted in killing them both
Lawful Stupid: Cole demanded being saluted like an officer and having orders followed to the letter regardless of the current situation while he was a Marine. Needless to say, his brothers-in-arms found it taxing.
Meddlesome Patrolman: His willingness to go the extra mile in a few cases that may not actually concern him is what gets him promoted to the Traffic Department so fast.
Semper Fi: He served as a First Lieutenant in the USMC during World War II.
Shell-Shocked Veteran: Cole is haunted by the civilian casualties he inadvertently inflicted during the Okinawa campaign, which indirectly led to Ira Hogeboom's breakdown and Courtney Sheldon's motivation for the morphine scheme.
Sympathetic Adulterer: Yes, he did end up having an affair, but given what he has been through and not to mention the manner in which the secret was betrayed by his own partner only makes you feel sorry for him.
Ralph Dunn does make a brief appearance in the DLC case "Nicholson Electroplating", however, the only interaction he has with Cole is to address him as "detective." This could either be developer oversight, or he cuts his association with Cole after the affair goes public, as others have. Ralph is also present during Cole's funeral.
Actor: Sean McGowan
"I've heard all about you, Phelps. You go easy on me and let me earn the odd citation, then maybe we'll get along."
A detective working in LAPD's Traffic Desk, and Cole's second partner.
Cowboy Cop / Reasonable Authority Figure: Tends to be pretty by the book and honest, even if he's snarky about it, but he's more than willing to insult mafia henchmen to their faces, no matter how life-endangering this is.
Also he has a small rant in the third homicide case about how Hollywood chews and spits women out.
Noble Sexist With A Badge: He's largely dismissive of women, but admits the killings you investigate with him are horrible and cares about keeping the streets safe, no matter what underhanded tactics have to be used.
Vitriolic Best Buds: He and Cole constantly bicker and trade insults, but after a rocky start they both respect each other a great deal and save each other's necks numerous times.
What Happened to the Mouse??: Subverted, in that much like Bekowsky, he actively appears during Cole's time in Vice, including one of the DLC cases.
Actor: Adam John Harrington
"Everyone has their vices. Even you, Phelps."
A detective working in LAPD's Vice Desk, and Cole's fourth partner. Knows all there is to know about the shady businesses the Jewish Mafia conducts in Los Angeles, and is openly racist towards the city's black and hispanic populations.
Expy: Bears a resemblance to Detective Jack Vincennes from L.A. Confidential. Both men are familiar with the Hollywood and Mafia scene and both are Dirty Cops. The only difference is that Vincennes is actually likeable and fairly pleasant.
Pet the Dog: Allowing the boxer to escape and agreeing with Cole's cover story directly afterwards, when he could easily have screwed Cole over, had the boxer caught, and gotten his money back. Which arguably makes the way he rats Cole out about Elsa even more of a Player Punch. Sure, he's a JerkassDirty Cop, but we thought he was ourJerkassDirty Cop.
"Go soak your head, Phelps. This hero business is a full-time obsession with you."
An old and bitter detective working in LAPD's Arson Desk, and Cole's fifth partner. A veteran of World War I and a long standing member of the police, Biggs has seen just about all there is to see, and has a cynical outlook on his work as well as life in general.
Hidden Depths: Well, nearly everyone in the game is presented three dimensionally, but Biggs in particular seems like a complete Jerk Ass but eventually becomes the Ensemble Darkhorse. He's essentially a burnt out cop whom Phelps gets to actually give a shit once more.
I Work Alone: He isn't too happy about being assigned a partner.
Knight in Sour Armor: He clearly thinks his job is a waste of time and isn't doing anyone any good, yet he keeps doggedly trying to solve the case anyway.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's not exactly a sociable person but he ended up standing up for Cole in some occasions, and in the end helped him in the final mission which had them going against the entire LAPD.
Narrator: He narrates the opening of the game, as well as the intros to all the patrol missions, but for some reason not any others.
Not So Stoic: Loses it after seeing Mr. Morelli's charred corpse literally crumble apart. Granted, what he saw was incredibly disturbing.
Shell-Shocked Veteran: He fought in World War I, and was horrified by what he saw during his time there. He explains this is part of his reaction to Mr. Morelli's charred corpse crumbling apart in front of him.
Actor: Andrew Connolly
"God's mill may grind slowly, but it grinds finely, son!"
Captain of the Homicide Desk. Responsible for promoting Cole to detective.
Expy: He pretty much IS Dudley Smith from LA Confidential.
First Name Basis: With Rusty. He is the only person who can call him Finbarr without making him angry.
Hair-Trigger Temper: For the most part, Donnelly maintains a calm and professional tone, but one wrong sentence is enough to have him yelling in the face of the poor sap (Cole or Rusty) who dared to speak up.
Knight Templar: When he allows Cole to do his first interrogation at the station, he tells him that if he can't get a confession through questioning, Cole shouldn't be afraid of using violence to extract one. He's also rather enthusiastic about sending men to the gas chamber. In the first Homicide case he encourages Cole to convict their only suspect even though they have a better lead just to get the press off the LAPD's ass, and at the crime scene in the second Homicide case he even tells the journalists that are looking for a story that the LAPD are "doing God's work".
Further shown in cases where you have a choice of who to convict, wherein he will tend to want the one conviction over another but only on political/religious/moralistic terms. He praises Cole if the latter charges Eli Rooney with the murder in "The Golden Butterfly," but berates him if he charges Hugo Moller; in the case, the evidence points more towards the latter, but he wanted Rooney charged in order to punish him. A similar instance happens with Grosvenor McCaffrey, whom Donnelly wants taken down because he's a "red" no matter where the evidence points.
Potentially subverted in "The Quarter Moon Murders" where he refuses to publicly expose Garrett Mason as the Werewolf due to his relation to a high level nationally known politician.. In reality, Connolly's Templar behavior is mostly show: he wants convictions because it makes him and his department look good, not out of a thirst for justice.
Large Ham: Delivers his every word with the gravitas of a Shakespeare tragedy. Except when he shouts. Then he just becomes frickin' intimidating.
Officer O'Hara: Played by a native Irishman, who is implied to be one in-game as well.
Lieutenant of the Vice Desk and Earle's former partner.
Dirty Cop: He's on the SRF's payroll, and has an "arrangement" that lets Victor Sanders off the hook in Reefer Madness.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He tends to praise Cole and Roy for doing a fine job on a case, but as the intro for The Black Caesar shows, he's not afraid to get firm when Roy's being his usual douchey self.
Roy: We got better things to be doing than wasting our time on two dead junkies.
Colmyer: Did I ask your opinion, Detective? Two men dead on US Army issue morphine. That makes it an Ad Vice case! Beat it!
Actor: Randy Oglesby
Captain of the Arson Desk. Has a low tolerance for failure and a low opinion of Cole.
I Warned You: When Cole plans on investigating Elysian Fields Developments.
Jerkass: He never overlooks an opportunity to yell at Cole, and he doesn't treat Biggs much better.
Dr. Malcolm "Mal" Carruthers
Actor: Andy Umberger
Chief forensics expert for the LAPD. Mal is one of Cole's most useful and trusted allies throughout the course of the game, providing him with forensic evidence and autopsy reports crucial to solving his investigations. The most recurrent character in the game next to Cole himself, since he's present at pretty much every crime scene in the game, and he's most certainly earned his place amongst the fandom.
The way he dismisses his personal feelings about Cole's adultery charge in favor of just doing his job and helping him investigate during Cole's time in Arson is also a perfect example of how professional he is. You can't help loving Mal after that moment.
The Dragon/The Heavy: For the SRF, in a way, considering that the SRF has the entire force in their pocket by extension. During A Different Kind of War, he sends a veritable army of corrupt cops to try and stop Phelps and Kelso in their tracks.
Karma Houdini: In the end, it is strongly implied that he has struck a deal with the Assistant DA, allowing him to go scot-free from his involvement in the Fund.
Hero of Another Story: Jack Kelso actually has more in common with the traditional Film Noir hero then Phelps does. He's rough-edged, noble while still being quite cynical, a private detective, and not afraid to work way outside the law to get some justice if he needs to do so, has difficulty reading "dames", and is quiet but fierce when provoked. This is probably why he ends up being the primary protagonist with Cole's death.
Knight in Sour Armor: Kelso spends much of his time feeling frustrated and disappointed in just about everyone, but he tries his best to help them anyway.
Fake German: She's actually played by an Australian actress.
Possibly also in-game. Judging by her German dialect (where she rolls R's and has overall a very slavic expression of words - "Untersturrmfurrer"), she may in fact be Sudeten-German (orthesuch).
Femme Fatale: A subversion; she initially comes off as standoffish when Cole interviews her during Manifest Destiny, but in later cases she ultimately helps him out.
A former Marine who was also part of Cole's unit in Okinawa. He is now a medical student at the University of Southern California under the tutelage of Doctor Fontaine.
Beware the Nice Ones: Initially set up as a well-meaning but naive kid who gets in way over his head. The last two flashbacks reveal that he attempted to murder Phelps for the blunder in Okinawa, and was the instigator behind the morphine theft that began the whole spiral of events in the first place.
For that matter, in the flashbacks he's described as charging through oncoming artillery fire to reach injured soldiers as a field medic.
Good Is Dumb: Sheldon is extremely brave, and wants a fair break for his fellow veterans. He also completely lacks common sense. Among his more suicidal actions are mouthing off to a dangerous mob boss, selling easily traceable morphine, and trusting the Obviously Evil Harlan Fontaine.
Too Dumb to Live: This becomes glaringly obvious in the 11th newspaper cutscene.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Courtney's theft of the morphine and his medical career later all have one thing in common: he wants to compensate and alleviate his fellow Marines for all the bad shit they had to go through during the war. He just wants his fellow brothers in arms to have wealth and health he believes they've won twice over. Sadly for him, the road to hell and you know the rest.
Dr. Harlan Fontaine
Actor: Peter Blomquist
A psychotherapist with an unusual method for treating mental disorders.
Affably Evil: He convinced many important people to partake in illegal activities and has shown a disturbingly casual willingness to kill people. At the same time, he is shown to be rather soft-spoken and polite.
The Unfought: He is met once briefly by Phelps, long before his conspiracy is brought to light. By the time Phelps is in a position to bring him in, he's found dead in his own practice.
Would Hit a Girl: He attempted to kill Elsa by striking her head with a crystal ball.
A former Marine who was once part of Cole's Unit in Okinawa.
Blue and Orange Morality: He has rationalized his killing as sending the victims to a better place and fighting for God. Inconsistently, however, he saved and protected Elsa.
Create Your Own Villain: In the rare example of a villain creating someone even worse - Fontaine uses Ira's pyromania to do his dirty work while fooling him into thinking setting innocent fires would help his psychosis. Ira clearly gets worse as a result, and when Fontaine mistakenly sends sends Ira to houses that still have people in them the mix of Ira's guilt - which Fontaine does not help, as he wants to keep his own agenda - and his preexisting instability turns Ira from an unbalanced and remorseful Anti-Villain into a fanatical serial killer. The look on Fontaine's face as he realizes this is palpable.
Deus ex Machina: Elsa probably would have ended up dead by Fontaine had Ira not appeared to kill him. He also continues to defend her against the thugs sent by the Suburban Redevelopment Fund to kill her for knowing too much.
Fall Guy: Though not directly stated, Ira - a mentally unstable pyromaniacal veteran - was clearly intended to be a guy to take the fall for the fires if anything went bad, in a similar way Courtney was. However, the investigation was done in an unexpected way, making this moot.
Mercy Kill: Jack shoots him dead, with Cole regarding it doing Ira a favour.
The first suspect to be both arrested, interrogated and proven positively guilty by Phelps personally (while still being a beat cop, no less). He was the store owner of Hartfield's Jewellery, Jewish, and had quite a temper problem. Initially, he is accused of shooting and killing Everett Gage, another store owner.
Bavarian Fire Drill: Kalou pulls an inverted Bavarian Fire Drill on Phelps and Dunn as they enter his store for the first time. As the two patrolmen enter, he happens to operate the register at that moment. Therefore, they believe him to be a mere co-worker, and ask him where they could find the real Mr. Kalou. Kalou just plays along and withdraws from the storefront, claiming he wanted to ring Kalou up. Then he starts running...
Motive Rant: Goes on one when he loses his temper at the end of his interrogation. It turns out that Everett Gage, the man he killed, was an antisemetic, self-serving and deceitful member of the Chamber of Commerce, deliberately blocking all propositions that Kalou put forward. As Kalou's rage wears off at the interrogation's end, he first notices that he confessed everything, complete with a "My God, What Have I Done?" expression.
Karma Houdini: Sells out her niece to be molested, commits blackmail, arranges a hit on a man. Receives no comeuppance whatsoever (It's true that her attempted murder is what the case is about, but the attempted hit, in which the police are targeted as well, removes any sympathy she might have had left).
White-Dwarf Starlet: A bit of a subversion, as she seems to know her best years are behind her.
A powerful mobster based in Las Vegas and June Ballard's husband, who gets involved (albeit indirectly) in the later stages of The Fallen Idol.
The Ghost: Never encountered during the game, though his "private army" of goons, as Leary describes them, show up as enemies in The Fallen Idol.
Papa Wolf: Sends his goons to kill Mark Bishop after he learns that he raped McAfee's niece, Jessica Hamilton.
Notable Figures in the Homicide Cases
The Werewolf Killer (aka Garrett Mason)
Actor: Andrew Lukich
The perpetrator of the Black Dahlia murder, and believed to still be targeting women in LA. He's later revealed to be Garrett Mason, a bartender working for a temp agency and using his cover to target female victims. In fact, he and Phelps actually meet face-to-face briefly in the first Homicide case. After five other murders, he's eventually caught by Phelps and Galloway; the former ends up killing him in a final gunfight.