"Bad cops, bad cops
Bad cops, bad cops
Springfield cops are on the take
But what do you expect for the money we make?
Whether in a car or on a horse
We don't mind using excessive force"
Some cops are useless
. Some cops are dirty
. And some cops are an amazing combination of the two, with a healthy dose of Lawful Stupid
to go with it. Police suffering from Bad Cop Incompetent Cop are corrupt, useless, unnecessarily violent
, or just complete douchebags
on a power trip.
Unlike just one Dirty Cop
, or a small group of them, Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop describes an entire precinct (or world!)
where police are monolithically terrible. Maybe they're all corrupt. Maybe just a few are corrupt, but the rest are so incompetent that they completely ignore the swath of abuse, violence, and destruction the corrupt cops leave. Maybe they're all just completely insane.
When this is more of an Implied Trope
due to the fact that nobody bothers to involve the police in anything, you have Police Are Useless
Perhaps understandably, their jurisdiction usually ends up being a Vice City
or Wretched Hive
. Depending on where you live, this may even be Truth in Television
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Anime & Manga
- Dominion Tank Police has an entire police force filled with lunatic Cowboy Cop types who see nothing wrong with destroying private property in pursuit of evildoers.
- The police in Black Lagoon is ineffectual, utterly corrupt and unwilling to take even the slightest step towards keeping order in Roanapur... And most of the cast like it that way. At one point the police join in on a manhunt against someone who's got a bounty on their heads by one of the city's mafia leaders, much to her disgust.
- The duo of John "Sleepy" Estes and Daizaburo "Eddie" Ban in Mad Bull 34. Sleepy is an unscrupulous Cowboy Cop who seems to have "kill all suspects" hard-coded into his brain, while Eddie is a meek, cowardly milquetoast.
- Batman: Year One: Gotham PD is almost entirely corrupt, with SWAT teams having no problem in leveling city blocks if they can get away with it.
- There is also Harvey Bullock, who manages to unite both evil AND incompetent (for a corrupt cop whose task is to hinder detective work, this can be an effective combination indeed). (That is before he eventually turns over a new leaf, upgrading into a good and on/off incompetent copper.)
- Gotham Central takes the already-established corruption of the Gotham City Police Department (see above) and places an entire series within its ranks. It deals with the Major Crimes Unit, the portion of the department that is tasked with dealing with "freaks" (supervillains) and other major crimes, and is the only consistently honest branch in the entire department. Each member of the MCU is handpicked by the commissioner of police (originally Commissioner Gordon, and then Commissioner Akins once Gordon retires) to insure a modicum of integrity, and throughout the series they are forced to butt heads (often violently) with other departments who disagree on what constitutes "proper" policework. Even when they themselves are honest they cannot get much accomplished since everybody else is working against them, and they are often forced to accept when police corruption lets a guilty man go free since "it's Gotham."
- Commissaris Bullebas in Tom Poes.
- Nightwings city Bludhaven is even worse than Gotham — its police force is on the mob's payroll.
- Leon / The Professional: All cops seen are violent, corrupt psychos, or jackbooted thugs.
- Only Stansfield and his gang (Malky shows some conscience but is still crooked cop) and they are pretty competent if completely crooked. Other cops are simply following their orders (i.e. they do what you would expect from a cop told to chase dangerous murderer).
- The Fifth Element: All cops seen are idiots or corrupt, and so disorganized that they get in the way of pretty much everyone.
- They also wear bulky armor that is completely useless.
- The Transporter: All cops seen just... don't give a crap.
- Except Frank's French friend, who may well be too busy cooking to fight any crime.
- It seems that Dect. Jim Lipton's main task in Dead Silence is to harass the main character Jamie with every possible ways he can come up to. He claims the protagonists main clue as an evidence, almost stalks Jamie when trying to prove that he killed his wife, tries to arrest him with no reason and when Jamies refuses the arrest, Lipton ends up chasing him - an unarmed man - with a shotgun and probably wouldn't have hesitated to shoot him either. Not to mention, he is Lawful Stupid to the core, refusing to accept the facts around him. Of course, he is useful with his shotgun when it comes up with destroying Shaw's dolls, but I bet we all were happy to see him die
- The Luc Besson film Taken. All cops in the movie are either terrible at preventing anything bad from happening, or are actively supporting the human trafficking ring the protagonist is fighting.
- Well, it's Luc Besson. For the matter, Taxi isn't much better on that respect. The Fifth Element has already been mentioned.
- Lakeview Terrace: The racist cop harasses his neighbors, an inter-racial couple. The rest of the police force ignores it.
- The police force itself (and even the racist officer in question) aren't entirely corrupt, though. They're presumably just turning a blind eye on this particular case of abuse.
- There are elements of this in Batman Begins, as well, as Gordon is apparently the only police officer who isn't corrupt or complicit. (Gotham PD is getting better by the start of The Dark Knight.)
Flass: [after accepting a bribe] Don't suppose you want a taste? I just keep offering, thinking maybe someday you'll get wise.
Jim Gordon: There's nothing wise in what you do, Flass.
Flass: Well, Jimbo, you don't take the taste... makes us guys nervous.
Jim Gordon: I'm no rat! In a town this bent, who's there to rat to anyway?
- However, at the rate in which he does or does not do anything about it, he could be considered by some to be a bad cop for his abiding of corruption. In The Dark Knight, Harvey calls him out on his continued staffing (in order to actually have a staff) of people shown to be dirty by Internal Affairs, which gets Rachel Dawes killed, among other things. In The Dark Knight Rises, the true events of The Dark Knight come to light, causing Gordon to be a Broken Pedestal, especially to Det. Blake, who is disgusted with him. Both times he responds with "I Did What I Had to Do", which sounds like it's more meant to convince himself.
- While sizeable portion of the police force in Sin City are either dirty or corrupt, it also subverts this as the rest are honest, decent, or just "a working stiff with a mortgage and a wife and a pile of kids", who are either powerless to do anything about the corruption alone, or not willing to risk their careers, lives and reputation. Cops like Hartigan, Mort (until he met Ava Lord), and "Jackie Boy" Rafferty, who was a straight up hero cop before he became burnt out and worn down from years on the force, reaching rock bottom and the level we see in "The Big, Fat Kill".
- The London precinct in Hot Fuzz actually transfers their one good cop so he doesn't make them look bad. They try to get him back in the end because without him the numbers are terrible.
- It wasn't so much a matter of them being incompetent, as him being super-competent.
- The cops in Sandford village however definitely qualify for this trope.
- Last Action Hero has this appear near the end, in the real world. The Big Bad realizes he can literally get away with murder because the cops don't immediately arrive on the crime scene like they do in his native movie world.
- In the French film La Haine, the police are both racist and more interested in harassing people from the banlieues than cleaning the banlieues up.
- Sheriff Winston Hoyt from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) remake, who’s eventually revealed to be Charlie Hewitt Jr., a member of Leatherface's depraved cannibal family. Most other cops who have appeared throughout the series are usually depicted as dumb and incompetent, or are just faceless victims.
- Titular Ax-Crazy aside, pretty much every prominently appearing officer in the Maniac Cop series seem to be corrupt, dishonest or just incompetent. Even Jack, the protagonist from the first film, regularly cheated on his wife and didn't seem all that fazed when informed of her murder.
- All the bad guys in Kiss of the Dragon are examples of this trope. They even manage to assassinate a liaison from the Chinese government! If that police department had any semblance of an internal affairs department, they should have been all fired, provided they survived the inevitable war with China.
- In Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle, the duo meet a department full of cops who are all racist, incompetent bullies.
- In A Clockwork Orange, George and Dim are as violent and vicious as cops as they were in their respective gangs. Also, the only scene in which they're shown (as cops) has them being concerned with revenge, as Alex was known to tolchock both of them repeatedly.
- In Bollywood films, the Indian police are either this or Invincible Hero types. No grey area. Ever.
- The cops shown in Crash are all racist - even the ones who aren't.
- The Element of Crime. Let's just say that with cops like this, you don't need mafia.
- The New York City Police Department in Taxi (featuring Queen Latifah) is portrayed mostly as competent. The incompetent part is the character out of it, Detective Washburn. Not only is the guy incompetent (the first time we see him he ruins a drug bust and gets his partner shot) he's also a terrible driver, and bumbles along from one mistake to the other until the end, where he assumes the Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass position.
- The cops in Fritz the Cat are violent and stupid... and portrayed as pigs, naturally.
- In Recess: School's Out, the policemen were... well, let's just say that they didn't take a kid, a group of kids, or even a teacher at a school seriously when they tried to report strange activities going on at the same school, and even outright mocked them.
- The entire police force in Rio are incompetent for failing to stop Dom and Brian in the finale chase in Fast Five. Only Hobbs come close to apprehend Dom in the film.
- The NOPD is this in The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Terrence McDonagh is a flagrantly Dirty Cop, his partner is a Rabid Cop, the guy running the evidence room is letting McDonagh steal seized drugs for his personal use, and all the other cops are completely oblivious to his behavior, no matter how erratic and blatant it gets. At the end of the film, the protagonist is promoted to captain for Framing the Guilty Party.
- All the cops in Super Troopers, with the grand exception Ursula, fit this trope. The Highway cops cover incompetent, usually too busy goofing off, and playing games to do their jobs right. The Locals fills out bad. Beside total assheads, they're running protection for a drug running ring.
- All indication in Discworld is that the Ankh-Morpork watch used to be incompetent at best, brutal at worst, but since Guards! Guards!, things have gotten a lot better very quickly.
- It's often mentioned that Ankh-Morpork trained watchmen are now in demand across the continent, and this is starting to cause problems for genre-savvy criminals used to the corrupt ones.
- The Day Watch in Men at Arms are a classic example of the trope; the Night Watch at its lowest just failed to improve things, but Captain "Mayonnaise" Quirke's mob manage to make things significantly worse.
- The Grapes of Wrath fulfills the "bad" part, if not necessarily "incompetent." The book attempts to justify it in that they're paid per arrest, with no penalty for arresting the wrong person, and with the economy as it is, they desperately need the money.
- The two police organizations of The Hollows novels exemplify this troupe. Inderlander Security (IS) which is charged with policing the supernatural population is run by vampires who use it to cover their own criminal activity more than actual police work. Their human counterpoint the FIB is well meaning but lacks the manpower, training and resources to be effective.
- As is often Truth in Television, the militsiya of the small Russian provincial town where Night Watcher takes place is utterly and unabashedly corrupt. This includes the General, who is (of necessity a political powermonger) with General Ripper tendencies, and both of the protagonistic cops in the Night Team, one of whom is a Sociopathic Hero Cowboy Cop, while the other is a homophobic Dumb Muscle that once raped a sleeping female vampire for kicks. Those three, at least, are actually better than they sound, but still.
- Similar to the above example, much of the militsaya we see in Gorky Park similarly seem to fit this trope. Except for the protagonist, which only seems to get him in trouble.
- Not only are Hawk And Fisher the only City Guards of Haven to have never taken bribes, they are also so freaking darn competent that the rest of the Guard looks exactly like this trope in comparison.
- The cops in the Dirk Gently books claim, deadpan, to be an example of this trope. At one point, a detective asks Dirk to go outside and beat himself up, as all the police are too busy to properly brutalize him. In reality, they're not only pretty decent at their jobs, the same detective is a better Reasonable Authority Figure than Dirk, frankly, even deserves.
- Incompetence has several police forces that are either completely useless or astoundingly overzealous. Special mention goes to the one officer suffering from "Non-Specific Stupidity", who manages to handcuff himself while interrogating a deli owner over a sandwich.
- Happens literally in Prince of the City by Robert Daley. At the end of the book the DA is saddled with incompetent detectives who keep blowing cases and can't do investigations properly. He wonders where all the legendary NYPD cops went, and then belatedly realises he's put them all in jail for corruption.
- In William Marshall's Yellowthread Street novel Perfect End, the central police characters discover that the leaders of the Hong Kong force were using one small police station as a dumping-ground for all the cops who were incompetent, gratuitously violent, or suspected of corruption. Not unnaturally, it really sucked for the local residents, until one of the cops pissed off a really hardcore criminal, who massacred the whole lot of them.
Live Action TV
- The parody song "Go Cops" by Rucka Rucka Ali (set to Ke$ha's "Tik Tok") is about a group of police officers getting high on duty and harassing minorities.
- In Street Fighter: the Storytelling Game, Interpol relies on fighters from a highly organized illegal street fighting circuit to take down Shadowloo operations because 50% of every single local police force in the world is on the take (basically if there is a small sheriff's office with only a sheriff and a deputy, at least one of them will be on the take).
- West Side Story features Officer Shrank (Bad Cop) and Officer Krupke (Incompetent Cop) - not that Shrank is in particularly competent, it's just that the Bad is more important in his characterisation.
- A lot of it is All There in the Manual, but in Grand Theft Auto III, Liberty City cops are mostly corrupt and/or incompetent. Of course, in GTA's world, pretty much everyone is.
- It gets even worse in Grand Theft Auto IV. In this version of Liberty City, police are so far above the law they're practically in low-Earth orbit. Very frequently, cops will cause massive collateral damage just to catch one lawbreaker. And let's not get started on NOOSE.
- Hell, a lot of crime-focused Wide Open Sandbox games will have this trope in full effect with the setting's police force, so the player doesn't feel so bad about killing them.
- Surprisingly averted by a number of multiplayer clans, who actually roleplay as the police and try pretty hard to be better at it.
- In Ace Attorney detectives are partnered with prosecutors rather than other cops. Until Investigation (where he's with Edgeworth after the latter's Heel-Face Turn) this applies to Gumshoe and whatever jerk he's been partnered with this time. In Apollo Justice, though, Ema Skye was actually more of a Jerkass than the prosecutor she was paired with (as she was bitter and irritable for being stuck with a job she didn't really like), mixing up the dynamic.
- The cops in Heavy Rain aren't terribly competent; Blake the Jerk Ass detective is more interested in beating people up than finding the truth and he hasn't been able to get even close to a real suspect for the Origami Killer in years. His captain is revealed as being equally incompetent when he backs up Blake and thinks that totally circumstantial evidence has their Red Herring suspect "dead to rights." However, the cops display hyper-competence whenever it'll impede the progress of the main characters, such as setting up a road block less than a couple of minutes after Ethan's been driving down a highway the wrong way. In other words, it's an inversion of Be as Unhelpful as Possible, where the cops do everything they can to block the plot.
- The police in EarthBound spend most of their time standing around being incompetent (when they're not corrupted by Giygas). However, after you defeat Frankie and the first My Sanctuary guardian in Onett, you're called into the chief of police's office, where they take turns attempting to inflict police brutality upon you before the chief himself attacks. Granted, it's implied that they're under Giygas' control.
- The Podunkton police force from Sluggy Freelance. Officer Tod is a former mob enforcer who lets the town's Vigilante Man do all the work, while Deputy Edsel, upon seeing the police station is on fire, runs home to call the police station and report it.
- Seeing as how the town used to be completely controlled by drug-runners, it's likely that competent honest cops wouldn't have had a very good life expectancy.
- The Bison Guards in The Water Phoenix King are supposed to be protecting the highways from the bandits infesting the hills thereabouts, but they'd rather stay at the inn where it's warm and dry and there are pretty barmaids who freelance on the side. And those are the good ones — some of them joined up for the opportunity to beat down uppity peasants as well as a paycheck, and prefer bullying the immigrants and foreigners, human and otherwise, who have dared invade their realm looking for work to chasing baddies and getting shot at (or worse!) Fortunately for business in Vasgol, Our Heroes are on hand to do the job — one Elven Ranger with PTSD , one Ax-Crazy Dark Magical Girl, one Fun Size Fallen Angel, and a whole lot of coffee to keep them going. Yeah, it's a mess.
- Harvey Bullock plays with this trope in Batman: The Animated Series. When it comes to doing things by the book he is hopelessly inept, but when it comes to straight up getting results or when thrown into the fray he is shown to be as capable at fighting and improvising as Batman.
- Chief Wiggum from The Simpsons.
- Although the Chief and his men tend to lean more towards ignorant and bumbling. They can be corrupt but aren't usually viciously corrupt like most of the examples listed in this trope.
- Officer Barbrady on South Park.
Cartman: "Respect mah authoritaaah!" <clubs man in the kneecap>
Officer Barbrady: "What are you doing?!" <grabs baton from Cartman> "Hit them in the head, they go down faster!"
- Later seasons whole police department full of complete idiots. The department serves as a parody of "Cop Drama" shows and movies. In addition to supreme idiocy and disregard for legality in most cases, the South Park P.D. also resort to violence at a pin drop, savagely beating any suspect to a pulp regardless of their compliance (unless, of course, they suspect the person for logical reasons), and ventilating anyone who doesn't respond to a confrontation fast enough.
- On Family Guy the cops try Good Cop, Mentally Challenged Cop on suspects.
- In Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, the Crown garrison on Tortuna engage in "routine torture," regularly accept bribes, and can't seem to organize a picnic without a Slaverlord present.
- The two regular cops on Futurama behave this way.
Leela: (after stopping them from savagely beating Fry) You guys were out of control!
Smitty: That's our job! We're peace officers!
URL: You gotta do what you gotta do.
- On The Venture Bros., Brock and Doc are brought in for the murder of Jean-Claude LeTueur and get interrogated by aggressive muscleman Sgt. Heat and bumbling moron Lt. Collar. Heat slaps Doc every time he tries to talk, and Collar does a weak job of making a Quip to Black-style pun on the details of the killing. Doc gets fed up and eventually derides them as "The bad cop and the retarded cop".
- Sheriff Stone of Crystal Cove is so inept that Scooby-Doo looks him in the eye and calls him the worst police officer he's ever met. Stone's response is to growl that the talking dog has been talking to his lawyer again. The sheriff was more willing to allowing fake monsters to terrorize Crystal Cove as it would attract tourist to the town, no matter how dangerous they truly are.
- In The Powerpuff Girls, this was subverted, except for one cop named Mike Brikowski, who, after being fired, managed to get Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup in a trap made of an air tank filled with knockout gas, a crane, reinforced chains (made by Mojo Jojo), and a vat of acid within the police impound. His own fellow officers busted him.
Officer Brikowski: This is just another story of a good-cop-gone-bad.
Blossom: You're not a "good-cop-gone-bad", you're a bad cop gone WORSE!