[[quoteright:194:[[ComicStrip/FoxTrot http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/FoxTrotCluelessDetective_2195.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:194:Never trust those ants, I always say...]]

There ''is'' a crime, and the detective ''is'' trying to solve it. They're just abysmally bad at it, whether out of stupidity, or just because they don't have TheGift. They always get everything wrong, and if it wasn't for other people, they would never solve a single case. Often used to {{lampshade|Hanging}} how the real detective is frankly just making {{Ass Pull}}s.

If they're just trying to solve an entirely different case and accidentally succeeding at foiling an actual criminal scheme, it's just InspectorOblivious at work. Not to be confused with DefectiveDetective. Compare CluelessDeputy. And finally, sometimes this trope is invoked as a way of getting suspects to lower their guards, for this see ObfuscatingStupidity.

Nothing to do with a CluelessMystery, which just doesn't let the ''audience'' figure it out.



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* ''Manga/DetectiveConan'': Kogoro Mouri, until a case comes along in which a friend or family member has been killed or is at risk. Most of the real cops fall under InspectorLestrade, except for [[PluckyComicRelief Misao Yamamura]] from Gunma, who is a complete idiot who can't do anything right so that even Mouri {{Face Palm}}s at him.
* Inspector Otsuka (Blooper, in the English version) from ''Anime/{{Gigantor}}''. The 10-year-old KidWithTheRemoteControl is far, far more competent than he is, even without the robot.
* Hanpei Hattori from ''Series/{{Kikaider}}''. Dressed like Sherlock Holmes and bragged about being a descendant of [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hattori_Hanzo Hattori Hanzo]], but never managed to do much of anything (course, he was somewhat upstaged by the {{a|rtificialHuman}}ndroid HenshinHero who was the star of the show...).
* ''Anime/SamuraiChamploo'' has the bumbling Manzou the Saw who narrates a couple of episodes of the series.
* ''Anime/DarkerThanBlack'' has Gui Kurosawa for [[PluckyComicRelief comic relief]]. WrongGenreSavvy meets WeirdnessCensor (despite knowing he's under AlienSky and even having been ''[[GrandTheftMe possessed]]'' once) and survives due to [[TheFool fool]]'s luck when he stumbles on something nasty. Then being TooDumbToFool helps him to stray back into danger. Even his SassySecretary thinks little of him.
* In ''VisualNovel/AceAttorneyInvestigations'', there is not only Gumshoe (see Video Games), but also the comparatively clueless Thomas Bester, a private detective whom Randolph Miller hired to protect Officers. Bester is quite full of himself despite [[SmallNameBigEgo only investigating infidelity and finding lost pets]], and it turns out that [[spoiler:Miller hired people such as Bester, Gumshoe and [[{{Nepotism}} his niece Monet]] to watch over the painting so no one would know he had replaced it with a fake]]. However, [[spoiler:Bester turns out to be right in his initial wild guess that Amadeus Seal was one of the [[GentlemanThief Gentleman Thieves]] in disguise]].
* Inspector Zenigata from the ''Franchise/LupinIII'' series is the often bumbling Detective, who has on many occasions failed to arrest Lupin and his crew. Though he got lucky now and again, it's through Zenigata's own ego and negligence, that his criminal son still roams free.

* Thompson and Thomson (Dupont and Dupond in the original), the identical (but NOT related) dunderheads of ''Franchise/{{Tintin}}'' fame. Perhaps most amusingly clueless in ''Prisoners of the Sun'', where they are on nowhere near the right track.
* Detective Casey in both original Creator/FloydGottfredson and later European [[ComicBook/MickeyMouseComicUniverse Mickey Mouse stories]].
** Likewise [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_Mouse_universe#The_Sleuth The Sleuth]].
* Franchise/{{Batman}} once came into contact with the Biddee sisters, a pair of [[LittleOldLadyInvestigates little old lady investigators]]. They do have ''some'' genuine insights on an ongoing investigation, but Batman mentions that their interference had earlier "fouled up" several cases.

* Inspector Clouseau from ''Franchise/ThePinkPanther'' movies is probably the best-known example. Though he seems well-aware of his cluelessness.
* Frank Drebin from ''Film/TheNakedGun'' films
* ''Film/JohnnyEnglish'' lives on this trope, most of the movie's gags come from the titular protagonist's incompetence.
* Detective Greeley from ''Film/TheBoondockSaints.'' He manages to get one shooting down right ("What if it was one guy with six guns?"), but is shot down by Agent Smecker due to his past track record.
* ''Film/WhosHarryCrumb'' Largely this trope. Though he does have some moments of deductive prowess.
* Thompson and Thomson in the ''[[WesternAnimation/TheAdventuresOfTintin Tintin movie]].'' One man they talk to gets nervous when they mention the pickpocket they are seeking, doesn't want police officers in his apartment, and when they are inside, they find dozens of wallets on the shelves. He [[BlatantLies claims he is a wallet collector]] and they ''[[PoliceAreUseless believe]]'' him.
** They even find ''each other's'' wallets among his "collection" and fail to recognize them. When the man flat-out confesses he's a kleptomaniac, they think it means [[{{Claustrophobia}} he's afraid of enclosed spaces.]] It's not until they find Tintin's wallet that they realize they have their pickpocket.

* OlderThanRadio: In ''Literature/SherlockHolmes'', this describes Inspectors Lestrade, Gregson, Hopkins and the other inepts of Scotland Yard. It's also worth noting that this trope diminished in later stories, in a case of reverse {{Flanderization}}. In the early stories the policemen of Scotland Yard probably couldn't catch a cold, much less a criminal. In later stories their incompetence is downplayed and they're shown as having positive traits, as well as being able to solve standard, everyday crimes, with Holmes focusing on the strange and unusual affairs.
* Arthur Hastings in the last ''Literature/HerculePoirot'' novel (''Literature/{{Curtain}}''). Scotland Yard Inspector Japp in the other ones.
* In ''Whose Body?'', the very first Literature/LordPeterWimsey story, Inspector Sugg tries the "Accuse Everybody" method, even at one point accusing an octogenarian lady who can barely sit up of ''carrying a dead body while climbing up a drainpipe to a second story window'' - and is ready to make an arrest on that suspicion.
* The Bow Street Runners (a real organization) combine this with MilesGloriosus in various works by Creator/CharlesDickens. They are portrayed as much better at pretending they'll catch the criminal soon than they are at actually catching said criminal.
* In the Literature/DiamondBrothers mystery series, Tim Diamond thinks he's a great detective, but all his cases are actually solved by his [[KidDetective little brother]], Nick.
* Captain Banzo from ''Literature/TheConditionsOfGreatDetectives'' is forced to pretend to be one of these as it's his "condition" in the story - as it allows Tenkaichi, who is forced into being the brilliant amateur detective, to ride in and elegantly solve the case.
* ''Literature/SacreyasLegacy'': Ben Mason accomplishes very little actual detective work on his own, being outsmarted by the villain at almost every turn and learning the truth primarily through luck and the help of the people around him.
* Parodied in Creator/MarkTwain's "The Stolen White Elephant," where the detectives involved were so spectacularly incompetent that the corpse of the title pachyderm had been rotting away in their headquarters for ''three months'' before anyone noticed. He also portrayed ''Sherlock Holmes'' as incompetent in "A Double-Barreled Detective Story."
* Robert L. Fish wrote parodies about "Shlock Holmes" an incompetent detective. In one instance he "deduced" that their visitor had been a toothless diabetic because he discarded a cigar with a dry end and no teeth marks. When he returns you see he uses a cigar holder.
* The ''Franchise/BerniceSummerfield'' novel ''Ship of Fools'' by Dave Stone has Benny trapped on an entire star-liner full of clueless detectives, all pastiching a different famous character, and all clueless in a different way. Emile Dupont of Nova Belgique (Literature/HerculePoirot) is a raving ConspiracyTheorist; Sandford Groke (Franchise/SherlockHolmes) is ''actually'' a psychopath; Kharrli the Czan (Literature/CharlieChan) is probably the sanest, but his FunnyForeigner routine involves gratuitously insulting everyone; and Agatha Magpole (Literature/MissMarple)'s success rate is down to her being a subconscious psychic who unwittingly prods people into committing the murders she solves.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Angel}}'': A RunningGag is that Angel is better at fighting demons than he is at actual detective work. On one occasion, he actually had to hire another detective agency with a FriendOnTheForce for help on a case.
* Maxwell Smart on ''Series/GetSmart''.
* The police detectives on ''Series/{{Monk}}'' and ''Series/{{Psych}}'' (less so on ''Psych'') are only shown as making significant progress on 1. Crimes not the focus of the episode (that will inspire a EurekaMoment for the main character) or 2. On their days in the lime light.
* Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara on the ''Series/{{Batman}}'' TV Series. In one episode, where they were unable to contact Batman due to Bruce and Dick being out of town, they feared the prospect of having to solve a crime themselves. Of course, as Commissioner and Police Chief of a large city, they'd normally never be ''expected'' to solve crimes themselves as opposed to just telling the police and detectives under them to do it (they're administrators, not investigators).
** The former has apparently (and unjustly) gotten this reputation in the comics: when he has to leave Gotham, he discovers that no police precinct will hire somebody who "relied on an urban legend" to solve crimes.
* A SomethingCompletelyDifferent episode of ''Series/MarriedWithChildren'' has Al as a CluelessDetective. He does eventually solve the case, but not until he has falsely accused everybody who was at the scene, in the most unlikely ways possible (e.g. accusing a retarded man of being a criminal mastermind, and accusing a man with hooks for hands of having turned out the lights with one hand while putting a knife in the victim's back with the other). He even briefly confesses to the crime, believing he's eliminated every other possible suspect, shortly before he actually uses his knowledge from years of selling cheap women's shoes to find a vital clue and solve the case for real.
* Sherlock Hemlock from ''Series/SesameStreet''.
* In ''Series/TheWire'':
** Cedric Daniels' Major Crimes Unit is designed as the dumping ground for the dead wood and ''humps'' from several departments.
*** Straight example in Michael Santangelo, who Rawls picks to spy on [=McNulty=] specifically because of his poor 40% clearance rate, which Rawls assumes will make him easy to control. Santangelo's excuse for his performance is the lack of "dunker" (easy) cases. When Avon and Stringer pay a rare visit to the pit, Santangelo is pissing at the opposite side of the roof where he was supposed to be and misses them. When he tires of being Rawls' spy, Rawls gives Santangelo an ultimatum: clear one of his open cases, give something on [=McNulty=], or leave the Homicide Unit altogether. Thus, Jay Landsman tricks him into seeing a phony psychic named "Madame [=LaRue=]", keeping him out of the way while [=McNulty=] and Bunk clear one of his cases, giving Santangelo grounds to stand up to Rawls, and gets himself demoted to a patrol officer in the Western District, [[ReassignmentBackfire and finds himself much happier and more competent there]].
*** Augie Polk and Patrick Mahon play it up to pathetically comical levels; [=McNulty=] tasks them with putting a face to Avon Barksdale, the new Baltimorean druglord. [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uqbr_fNiMcI They come up with a photo of a middle-aged white man.]] Polk's only real concern about the job is paid overtime. Mahon is of the same ilk and jumps at the chance of early retirement after he's injured by Bodie during a raid, scheming that he'll even complement his pension with a cushy underground economy job. Appropriately, their last names, "Póg mo thóin" (pronounced Pogue Mahone and source of Music/ThePogues' band name) are Irish for "Kiss my ass."
*** Subverted with Lester Freamon, TheChessmaster of the show and BunnyEarsLawyer type who quickly proves to be natural po''lice'', and zigzagged with Roland Pryzbylewski, who is a good data analyst once inside the unit but otherwise a terrible cop.
** Happens again in season 2 when Major Stanislaus Valchek, in a bitter feud with Frank Sobotka over a stained glass window, wants an investigation opened into Sobotka's finances. He offers Ervin Burrell political influence from the council members in his district in exchange for a special unit devoted to investigating Sobotka. Rawls sends an investigative team from CID to Valchek, all "highly recommended" officers, who are, like the Barksdale detail from season 1, just dead-weight "humps" that other divisions wanted to get rid of. Witnessing the task force's lack of work ethic infuriates Valchek, who promptly blackmails Burrell into giving him a real police detail under Daniels' command (on Prez's recommendation and repaying a favor Valchek owed to Daniels from Season 1), threatening to complicate Burrell's effort to become Commissioner by exposing his premature closure of the Barksdale investigation.
* MistyKnight in ''Series/LukeCage2016'' is a downplayed variant: she's a very good investigator (at one point, it's commented that with her resume, she could've taken a post at 1PP or even become a Fed), but not so good at other parts of being a cop, often letting her emotions get the better of her and losing convictions because of it.
* Detective Dan of ''Series/AllThat''.
* Dr. Watson in [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s78NsMFI2S0 "Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Mysterious Vampire."]]
* The entire Seattle PD in ''Series/JohnDoe'' would have trouble solving their way out of a wet paper bag without the show's eponymous [[EncyclopaedicKnowledge savant]]. A couple serial killers even latch onto Doe as a WorthyOpponent, outright stating that the police don't provide them with any challenge.
* The police in Perry Mason might seem like it, since they kept arresting Mason's innocent clients. However, he had respect for them. In one episode he tricked a killer into planting evidence by claiming the police had missed it, leading to his arrest. His explanation was, if the police hadn't found it, then it wasn't there.
* [[ThoseTwoGuys Detectives Hitchcock and Scully]] from ''Series/BrooklynNineNine''. Both are lazy, incompetent, and generally worthless at police work, in addition to being just plain [[TheDitz dim-witted]] and having an [[SmallNameBigEgo over-inflated opinion of themselves.]] But they are kept around because they [[UltimateJobSecurity make good coffee.]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* Detective Dick Gumshoe of ''VisualNovel/PhoenixWrightAceAttorney'' and sequels. His incompetence is usually helpful, though, as it often leads to Phoenix getting access to information he probably shouldn't. It's probably unfair to actually call Gumshoe "incompetent". Aside from his piss-poor salary he seems to be a reasonably respected member of the force and he usually does have good information and know-how; the problem is that he's a really friendly guy at heart and he has trouble keeping a lid on things because of his natural tendency to get chummy with anyone who isn't actively insulting him. He's also a victim of the [[ThePeterPrinciple Peter Principle]]; he's terrific at the action-oriented aspects of a case, as evidenced by his string of BigDamnHeroes moments. The investigation, though ... Still, it's a telling sign that ''Investigations'' has Edgeworth explaining to him what ''logic'' means (yes, [[HeKnowsAboutTimedHits it makes sense in context]], but still). It's also a telling sign that this game about investigating stars the ''prosecutor'' and not the detective.
-->'''Gumshoe:''' Logic? . . . How do you use it?
** In ''Trials and Tribulations'', Luke Atmey cannot deduce anything you didn't already tell him. His reputation as a great detective comes from [[spoiler:solving crimes that he ''blackmailed the criminal'' into committing]].
* The nameless private detective in the Creator/{{Infocom}} [[InteractiveFiction text adventure]] ''Ballyhoo''.
* Zappone from ''VideoGame/ProfessorLaytonAndTheCuriousVillage'':
--> '''Zappone''': Just as I suspected, a fellow detective. Your skills at puzzle solving are formidable, sir. Dare I say they approach my own? It's all in the eyes, I say. They never lie! And when they do, I know!
* Pennington of ''VideoGame/PaperMarioTheThousandYearDoor'' is a detective, and is miserable at it. He starts with misidentifying world-famous hero Mario as Luigi and just goes downhill from there. He doesn't come close to the answer to any mystery during the chapter where he's significant, but always claims to have "suspected all along" any actual facts Mario discovers. [[spoiler:It later turns out that he's a museum curator who fancied being a detective.]]
* Present but downplayed in ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}}'': while Detective Dojima is portrayed as a competent sleuth, and is trying his darnedest to solve the Inaba murders, he ultimately runs into dead ends because the weird, supernatural nature of the case gets in the way of real police work. [[spoiler: This trope comes into play more earnestly when it's revealed that his partner, Adachi, was the murderer all along.]] Even then it's a bit unfair to call him "clueless", given that the case involves powers and locations that are literally InvisibleToNormals.

* Sheriff Ketchum in ''Webcomic/TheBMovieComic: Attack of the [Description witheld in order not to spoil the surprise]''.
* ''Webcomic/{{Filth Biscuit}}'': [[http://www.filthbiscuit.com/detective-space/ "Detective Space"]] hero Jack Bock is a clueless jerk who blithely patronizes his partner, Sally Wyle, despite the fact that she's a HyperCompetentSidekick.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* WesternAnimation/InspectorGadget could never solve a case without Penny and Brain (he was voiced by the man who played [[Series/GetSmart Maxwell Smart]], and was at least partly based on the character).
** It's also widely speculated that Doctor Claw himself is little more than a mechanical arm attached to a chair with a voicebox to shout out the orders of Claw's 'pet cat', who is the true criminal mastermind. According to this theory, the final scene of the opening sequence is what would really happen if Gadget ever found his way to Claw's lair...
* The two main heroes of the Polish animated series WesternAnimation/HipHipAndHurra. Not only they are bumbling in general but they usually solve cases centered around some of the most basic of natural phenomenon’s yet they are still totally puzzled by them.
* ''WesternAnimation/HongKongPhooey'' needs help from his cat Spot in both the brains and brawn department.
* WesternAnimation/DaffyDuck as Dorlock Homes in ''WesternAnimation/DeduceYouSay''. Of course, since this is Daffy, he thinks's he's a GreatDetective.