"You see, Jules shot an off-duty rookie last year. 24 years old. Kid had a baby on the way. But good drug dealers can afford good lawyers, so Jules walked. I had been tracking him for weeks, just waiting to get the guy alone. And there he was, walking out of a bodega, with not a care in the world. No protection, either. He saw me. He knew why I was there. I could see it in his eyes. So I smiled at him. Just before I put two in his chest. ... Guy got what he deserved, and you want to know how I've been sleeping? Like a baby."A staple of the Criminal Procedural when the writers want to create a "This Time, It's Personal" episode. Pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin: a criminal kills a cop, whether on or off duty, and the dead officer's colleagues, perhaps one in particular, go all-out to find the killer. These episodes frequently end with Police Brutality, as cop-killing is a rather serious business. When the cops find the cop killer, they don't treat him very well. Not to mention that they're more likely to have "accidents" or be "driven to suicide" at some point between arrest, trial, and imprisonment. Conversely, a Cop Killer will likely be regarded as particularly notorious by fellow criminals. No Real Life Examples, Please!
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Anime & Manga
- This was a subplot in Darker Than Black when Huang's old public security partner Isozaki was killed by Shihoko Kishida under orders from Syndicate leaders in order to prevent an operation from being compromised. While Huang wanted to get his hands on Shihoko for killing his partner, he couldn't kill her because he fell in love with her.
- Sin City: Dwight and the girls of Old Town kill his girlfriend's abusive ex-boyfriend, realizing too late that he's actually a hero cop. If the body is found, the fragile truce between the corrupt cops and the Band of Brothels will be broken, and the cops and the mob will be free to take over Old Town and brutalize anyone they please, so they need to disfigure and get rid of it.
- Judge Dredd: The Judges of the Mega Cities, considering they have Judge, Jury, and Executioner built into their job, already have the authority to pass out sentences as they wish. However, (attempted) murder of a Judge is considered among the most serious offenses and always carries an instant death penalty.
- This is the main reason why the titular protagonist of Empowered just gets tied up a lot. The oft-referred-to "unwritten rules" against killing or raping a superhero means that the majority of mooks, henchmen and lower-tier villains do not want to get branded as a "cape killer", because it will drive the rest of the hero community to come after them with extreme prejudice. This is why the disastrous attempt to capture Willy Pete at the end of Volume 5 is such a huge deal, and causes the entire caped community to stamp down very hard lest criminals and villains think the unwritten rules can be broken with impunity.
Films — Live-Action
- L.A. Confidential: An ex-cop is killed at a diner massacre. Naturally, the cops go all-out on the manhunt.
- The Joker is a cop killer in The Dark Knight. He uses the anger this causes among the police force to his advantage.
- In The Fugitive, Richard Kimble is believed to have killed a Chicago policeman (actually it was the one-armed man). U.S. Marshal Gerard knows that he has to get to Kimble before the Chicago cops do because they will be shooting to kill.
- The gangsters in Reservoir Dogs kill several police officers during the heist. At the very end of the movie during Mr. Pink's arrest (which can be faintly overheard), the cops angrily yell at him if he's a cop killer after shooting him.
- A variation in Prizzi's Honor. While the police are normally totally in the pocket of the mafia, after a policeman's wife is killed during a hit, they call off their special arrangement until the killer is turned in or killed.
- In The Godfather, Michael Corleone has to hide out in Sicily for years to escape retribution for killing a corrupt police captain who was in the pocket of another family.
- Terminator: The T-800 in The Terminator massacres an entire police station in an attempt to get to Sarah Connor. Radio reports later reveal that quite predictably a nationwide manhunt was started for the mysterious gunman. The LAPD are still looking for the shooter more than ten years later in Terminator 2: Judgment Day to get justice for the officers who were killed on that night, sending "everything" to the Cyberdyne office when reports of someone matching the suspect's description attacks the building.
- Running Scared (1986): Early in the movie a cop is killed by being thrown off a building. Later the protagonists, police detectives Hughes and Costanza, find out that Julio Gonzalez had him murdered, and they go after him.
- Lethal Weapon 2: The South African government drug dealers assassinate several LAPD police officers to make them back off their investigation. Of course this just makes Riggs and Murtaugh more determined to defeat them. Riggs kills the assassin who killed them, and Murtaugh takes out the government official who ordered the hit.
- In the Steven Seagal B-movie Urban Justice a vice squad detective is murdered on duty. The department is massively corrupt so his special forces-trained father takes the law into his own hands, up to and including killing the Dirty Cop who pulled the trigger barehanded.
- The Elite Squad: When a bunch of crooks mortally wound an off-duty member of the BOPE (the Brazilian equivalent of a SWAT Team and quite the Badass Army), they have a massive Oh, Crap! moment and rush him to the hospital (where he dies anyway). Captain Nascimento, the narrator mentions that the crooks are clever to be afraid, because BOPE's reaction to such a death would be a no-holds-barred manhunt... which happens in the third act of the movie, with tortures galore.
- In New Police Story, Chan Kwok Wing hunts down a group of heavily armed robbers who don't give a second thought about gunning down police officers. The main bad guy, Joe, is motivated to do this because he was physically abused as a child by his police officer father, who had gained a high-ranking position by the time the movie begins.
- In Drive Angry, Piper killed two policemen who were unknowingly enlisted by the Accountant, posing as an FBI Agent. When the state troopers put up a road block for Piper and Milton, their leader notes that two of their own have been killed and in order to get even instructs the cops to aim for the suspects' heads.
- Death Warrant: The Sandman has a fondness for killing cops. This drives Burke to hunt him down in the opening for killing his partner, and the other convicts to admire him.
- RoboCop (1987) has Clarence Boddicker, who among his criminal acts (which include robbery, drug dealing, and according to his rap sheet, rape), having killed 32 police officers before killing Alex Murphy. However, his killing Alex comes back to bite him in the ass when Alex is resurrected as the titular cyborg.
- Assassins: Miguel Bain is almost casual about blowing away any law enforcement officer who gets in his way. When there's a manhunt underway for Miguel, his rival Robert Rath berates him for being so stupid/psycho to attract attention by killing cops.
- In Kick-Ass 2, Mother Russia slaughters ten officers. As a result, the police order a manhunt on all costumed heroes and villains.
- Referenced in Die Hard with a Vengeance. Zeus saves John from being killed in Harlem, but insists he did it for this reason.
I didn't save you, I saved a white cop. White cop dies in Harlem today, tomorrow we got a thousand white cops, all with itchy trigger fingers.
- In the Shadowrun novel Lone Wolf, deep-cover gang investigator Wolf Larson is listed as a Cop Killer as part of his cover identity, to enhance his credibility with the Cutters street gang he's infiltrated. This backfires when he loses contact with his handler and needs to get word to authorities quickly, as he's afraid any other cop he contacts may retaliate against him as soon as they look up his "criminal history".
- They Talked To A Stranger, an "only the names have been changed to protect the innocent" set of case studies of juvenile delinquents of the 1950s. The first case discussed is of "Moustache", who killed an officer while escaping custody. The police were sympathetic to his situation (Moustache was a non-violent offender whose crime was the result of a string of poor decisions bad luck on both his and the officer's part) but that didn't stop them from pulling out all the stops to capture him. He was scheduled to be released sometime in the 1980s, with good behavior.
- Star Wars Legends: Part of Corran Horn's backstory in the X-Wing Series is that his father Hal Horn, a Corellian Security Force officer like his son, was gunned down by the Trandoshan Bounty Hunter Bossk (who was after a confidential informant of Horn's, a smuggler whom he was meeting at the time). In I, Jedi he explains to Luke Skywalker that after he caught Bossk, he literally could've frog-marched him into the lobby of One CorSec Plaza and shot him resisting arrest, and nobody in the building would've batted an eyelash.
- The Running Man: Richards kills three Boston police officers in a gas explosion during his underground escape from the hotel. He already had a target on his head, but now every cop in the city wants his blood.
- During the Old Republic era in Star Wars Legends, all savvy criminals knew better than to kill members of the Jedi Order, because any time a Jedi disappeared or turned up dead, more Knights would soon show up to investigate. The Jedi have apparently maintained this policy unwaveringly for millennia until Order 66 effectively wiped out their Order.
- This is the plot of the first of the 87th Precinct novels, Cop Hater, in which a serial killer is shooting uniformed police, seemingly at random. The killer turns out to be the deranged wife of a police officer who has developed an unhinged hatred of the force due to the stress of being a cop spouse.
- A two-episode arc guest-starred Justin Bieber as a part of a sibling team of Mad Bombers that bombed the cop's funeral and (once the big brother was killed) driving the younger brother into a vendetta against Nick. They get stopped by a massive roadblock. Justin Bieber's character draws a pistol and is gunned down.
- There's a massive manhunt organised for the former Undersheriff after it's found out he was the one who killed Warrick Brown (because his actor was fired). Nick comes close to shooting him instead of taking him in, but relents. In a later episode, it turns out that the Villain Cred from killing a cop is enough to compensate for being a Dirty Cop himself (and he's still running the same criminal empire he had going), so Nick has him put in solitary "for his own protection".
- Due South begins with the murder of a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman in the wilderness of the Northwest Territories. The plot of the pilot episode centers around his son, Benton Fraser, also a Mountie, teaming up with a Chicago detective to track down the killer after he crosses the border into the United States. It turns out the killer was hired by another Mountie, a close friend of the Frasers, no less.
- Blue Bloods:
- Joe Reagan, brother to Danny, Erin, and Jamie, was a patrolman who was killed in the line of duty before the series began. Jamie's unofficial investigation into his death forms season 1's Myth Arc and leads to the unmasking of the Blue Templar, a fraternity of dirty cops in the NYPD.
- In "Officer Down" a patrol officer is mortally wounded when she blunders into the path of mafia-affiliated diamond thieves while coming back from lunch. The Mafia itself joins in hunting them down, because cop killers put the whole department on edge and make life difficult. Grandpa Henry Reagan remarks that when he was on the force the mafia even had explicit rules that, outside of certain circumstances, cops were off-limits. The killer gets cornered, tries to shoot his way out, and is hosed down with lead by several detectives and an ESU team. While searching for the killer, Danny finds and arrests an accomplice (whose father is a retired NYPD officer), who he takes to a spot on the water, then explains 50 years earlier the man's father took a cop killer to that exact spot, shot him twice in the head and dumped the body in the river. It was ruled an accidental death. Danny then explains the man's father would likely disown him if he killed a cop and was executed in such a fashion. This breaks the man into giving up the real killer.
- In "The Bitter End" Jamie Reagan and his partner Vinny Cruz are lured into the Bitterman Housing Projects by a Latino gang with a beef against the NYPD. It's an ambush, and Vinny is fatally shot. End of the next episode, the NYPD, with Mayor Carter Poole's blessing, conducts a massive sweep of the Bitterman Projects, rounding up over 47 members of the Los Lordes organization for various charges including conspiracy to murder Vinny, an assassination attempt on the Mayor (which leaves the Mayor paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair), narcotics possession with intent to distribute, enterprise corruption, racketeering and a number of other criminal offenses.
- Used a little oddly in "Above and Beyond". Steve Tomlin, a detective from Danny's precinct, is killed, and in typical fashion Frank firmly promises the widow to bring the killer to justice. They catch the killer at roughly the twenty-minute mark, however, and then the plot turns into a bit of a lurid look at the double life this detective was leading (due to the discovery that someone had emptied Tomlin's locker after his death without authorization). Turned out the undercover detective's cover was blown when his wife drunk-dialed a number on the detective's contacts list, thinking it belonged to the other woman, when in fact it was a member of the drug cartel her husband was investigating.
- The two part season 5 finale concerned the death of recently-promoted Assistant Chief Donald Kent of the NYPD Gang Division, gunned down along with his wife Maggie in a drive-by shooting by members of the Warrior Kings gang. The hit itself was carried out on orders of an incarcerated gang member. Frank uses a loophole in the law from Kent's work on a federal case to have the Gang Banger charged federally with capital murder, having him transferred to Indiana for trial and execution.
- From the 1960s Dragnet series:
- Discussed in one episode. While appearing on a talk show Joe Friday explains to a TV audience that the reason cop killers get such a heavy response from the department isn't just because it's their friend. To paraphrase, if someone's willing to kill a cop, would they hesitate to kill a civilian?
- In another episode Friday gives the same speech to a store owner when he comments that the police always put more effort into catching someone who has killed a cop than someone who has killed a civilian.
- In another episode two officers, a rookie and his training officer, are shot apprehending bank robbers, one of whom escapes. The older officer dies shortly after coming out of surgery and, according to the end of the episode, the captured robber was sentenced to death.
- Homicide: Life on the Street did this at least twice, with the same twist both times: the cop killer is himself killed shortly afterward, and the unlucky detective assigned to the case finds that nobody cares about justice for a dead cop killer.
- "End Game" has a racist Smug Snake (played by Steve Buscemi) get away with cop killing and practically brag about it — only to be shot dead in the last few minutes. In the follow up, "Law and Disorder," the detective assigned to solve Buscemi's murder has to admit defeat because no cop will help him.
- In the "Justice" two-parter, a cop killer is acquitted in court and murdered shortly thereafter. The dead cop's son (played by Bruce Campbell) is suspect number one, but nobody can figure out the evidence trail until one of the detectives casually mentions that Campbell owns a derringer. Da Chief explains that when he was a junior policeman, the Baltimore police always executed cop killers without trial, and usually did it with a derringer (which was easy to dispose of, and couldn't be traced back to the department).
- On Copper a rookie police officer is stabbed to death and the other cops tear through the Five Points neighborhood looking for the killer. When they have no success, the local ward boss, an ex-copper himself, orders the closing of all the local pubs until the killer is found. In a neighborhood populated by Irish immigrants this is extremely Serious Business. The killing was actually a gang initiation intended to make sure that the new member would never dare inform on the gang to the police.
- CSI NY:
- One example is Flack's Love Interest, Angell, who's shot in the season 5 finale while protecting the son of a Donald Trump/Rupert Murdoch expy (who was due to testify against him; the killers turn out to be kidnappers, who knew this would put immediate suspicion on their target's father). The episode also ends with the bar they're holding a wake for her in being shot up in a drive-by. Nobody's killed (although Danny ends up in a wheelchair for a while), but it fits the trope in spirit.
- Aiden also counts, despite no longer being on the team. They were dead set on finding the perp and Danny was willing to beat up the guy he thought did it. Mac's speech in the beginning has a double meaning. He's talking about the dead Marine, being one himself, but it clearly shows with Aiden too. " You attack one, you attack us all.".
- Mac himself was a variant in the season 8 finale, having been shot In the Back after stumbling into a drug store robbery while off-duty. He only nearly died, but the NYPD's reaction was largely the same as in a straight example.
- In The Blacklist, the FBI gets into this part when they face off against heavily armed criminals and terrorists, resulting in their deaths.
- Tiger Cubs. Senior Inspector Chin Hon-to has to calm his subordinates in the SDU when To Tin-yu and his girlfriend, Yiu Mei-ling, killed Yau Chun Hin in "King of Thieves Returns" for ruining the latter's face. Inspector Chin reminds his men that if they acts as vigilantes and go after them by themselves instead of using the law, then they'll be nothing more than just a bunch of rogue cops acting outside the law.
- Person of Interest: "The Crossing" and "The Devil's Share" form a two-parter with multiple examples.
- At the end of "The Crossing" now-wanted HR member Simmons kills Detective Carter. The next episode there's a city-wide manhunt for him. Unfortunately for Simmons, Team Machine are also looking for him, and Reese in particular isn't inclined to be merciful. After the rest of the team stops Reese, Fusco tracks down Simmons himself and arrests him, openly refusing to kill him in Carter's memory. The Don Carl Elias is not so scrupulous and has him killed in the hospital because he liked Carter.
- The page quote comes from a flashback in "The Devil's Share", where Fusco is unburdening himself to a police shrink that his first on-the-job kill wasn't a good shoot. He had hunted down and murdered a drug dealer who had killed an off-duty rookie and gotten off scot free.
- Babylon 5:
- "The Quality of Mercy" involves a serial killer who has murdered a number of people on the station, including a security officer, for which Garibaldi wants him Thrown Out the Airlock.
- An odd variation in "Chrysalis" where we get the the typical police reaction without the actual death. Garibaldi is shot In the Back by one of his own men after uncovering a plot to assassinate President Santiago. He doesn't actually die but he's comatose until "Revelations" in season 2. The security man who shot him (who is still above suspicion at the moment) then guns down his co-conspirators in cold blood and claims to the other guards that they took a shot at him. The other guards go along with this, despite the deceased's PPG clearly not having been fired, because it's a fellow cop (their beloved boss) who got shot.
- "Learning Curve" has Trace, a criminal overlord who brags about how he had heads of security on his last turf killed until he found one he could work with and he's trying to do the same on Babylon 5. A young Ranger gets involved, and since Trace sees them as some kind of law enforcement, he decides to use what he's got. The Ranger survives, barely, but Trace now has the Rangers' personal attention.
- In The Twilight Zone (2002) episode "Another Life", a rapper keeps waking up to find himself in an interrogation room getting beaten up by enraged cops who accuse him of killing one of them. He protests that he has no idea what is going on, then wakes up and dismisses the events as nightmares. It turns out the events in the interrogation room are really happening and his life as a rich and famous rapper are a dream. The cops eventually beat him into a coma, trapping him in the dream permanently (which he sees as a happy ending). The cops are then informed that the real cop killer was caught, and the protagonist was innocent.
- The Elementary episode "End of Watch" starts with the murder of an NYPD Highway Patrol officer and the discovery that his sidearm has been replaced with an airsoft gun. The officer had been trading police guns for oxycodone, replacing them with airsoft replicas, and after he tried to quit, the arms dealer killed him in order to use his funeral as a diversion while he robbed the ESU armory. After the traitor gets exposed and his funeral cancelled, he then murders another cop (who was completely honest and got picked at random,) to ensure there's another funeral. When the killer gets arrested and dragged out of his hideout, his Smug Snake attitude towards the couple of officers holding him gets a severe knocking as he's greeted by the sight of dozens of cops lining the street as he's put in the car, reminding him that he's made a lifelong enemy of every single person in the NYPD.
- In the first episode of Brooklyn South a guy goes on a shooting spree and kills a bunch of cops right outside the precinct house, then is himself shot and dragged into the house. He dies while waiting for paramedics to show up, and his relatives sue the police force alleging that the cops purposely let him bleed to death in revenge.
- Witchblade: In the episode "Agape"...:
- Narcotics detective Dean Gorner gets into it with Sara at a murder scene, claiming that Homicide is dragging its feet on investigating the death of Gorner's partner Torres and taking umbrage. It turns out in the end that Gorner and Torres were Dirty Cops and Gorner himself was the triggerman. He killed Torres for his share of the take.
- Following on from the above spoiler, a drug kingpin refuses to kill McCarty or Gorner, because "unlike you, I'm not a cop killer." But he's not above leaving them both guns so they'll kill each other. Fortunately Sara and Danny get there in time.
- The Madam Secretary episode "Standoff" revolves around the extradition to the United States of Carlos Ochoa, a Mexican drug runner who killed a Texas state trooper. The Mexican government insists on the US taking the death penalty off the table before they'll extradite him, angering the trooper's family and Texas Governor Caleb Lockwood.
- A complicated case was seen in Better Call Saul. Mike Ehrmantraut is a retired cop from Philadelphia whose son Matty also became a cop. Matty was completely idealistic, and when he found out that his partner and sergeant were dirty, was ready to turn them in to Internal Affairs. Mike frantically convinced Matty not to do this, because he knows cops will do anything to avoid prison, which could include killing Matty. Matty eventually backed down, but by that point the two Corrupt Cops killed Matty anyway, convinced that he was snitching on them, and made it look as though Matty was killed by a criminal they were pursuing. Mike eventually lured the two into a trap and killed them both. Because of the complications at work there's also a schism in the response of other police: younger cops who don't know how notoriously corrupt those two cops were want to bust Mike and are willing to follow him all the way to New Mexico to do so, older cops who know everything that was going on want to just let sleeping dogs lie and figure the two cops got what they deserved.
- The Wire repeatedly hammers home that criminals doing anything to incur the ire of the police is a very, very, bad idea, and everyone involved in organized crime is cognizant of this. Only the extremely foolhardy or most aggressive criminals try to do such a thing.
- Near the end of season 1, Orlando Blocker, the guy who runs Avon Barksdale's strip club, is arrested for dealing drugs to undercover State Police cops. Avon orders a hit on Orlando, suspecting that he's snitching. The Major Crimes Unit arranges a buy-bust using Orlando, in which Orlando will meet with a fellow Barksdale soldier on the pretense of needing money for his legal issues, accompanied by an undercover Kima Greggs. Unfortunately, it's a setup, as they are ambushed by Wee-Bey Brice and Little Man. Orlando is killed, while Kima is shot multiple times and critically wounded. Kima lives, but the police proceed to crack down hard on the Barksdales. Avon, Stringer Bell and Wee-Bey acknowledge the utter stupidity of Little Man's improvised actions. For acting impulsively without checking with his boss, Little Man is killed by Wee-Bey on Avon's orders, and every other crook who hears about the incident is pissed off because of the massive, city wide crackdown that has happened as a result.
- In season 3, Kenneth Dozerman, an undercover cop in Carver's Drug Enforcement Unit, is trying to buy drugs when the dealers he's talking to simply rob him, shoot him, and steal his gun. Dozerman survives, but once again it triggers a massive police reaction. When McNulty sees the brutality inflicted on the shooter, Bunk explains that the arrest van took an "unscheduled stop" at the Western District parking lot, and the officers "mistook him for a pinata". Bunk finds himself stuck with the redball of tracking down Dozerman's gun, while Major Colvin sees the shooting as the impetus for his "Hamsterdam" experiment.
- Roland Pryzbylewski quits the force in season 3, when, while he and McNulty are responding to a distress call, he fails to properly identify himself as an officer and ends up fatally shooting a plainclothes officer in a case of night-time mistaken identity. He is brought up on administrative charges and suspended because the officer was African American, and the shooting is seen as being potentially racially motivated. Prez vehemently denies being a racist but due to the press and Baltimore's majority African American population, the story leaks out and prompts a hearing from both the courts and the Vanguard (Baltimore's African American police officer union). Prez is horrified at having killed another officer and quits the force despite his fellow MCU colleagues Cedric Daniels, Leander Sydnor, Caroline Massey and Lester Freamon (all of whom are African-American) agreeing to testify that they do not believe Prez to be a racist.
- Augustus Hill of Oz wound up in a wheelchair because he shot a cop while trying to escape arrest. After he was arrested and handcuffed, another cop threw the helpless Hill off a building as payback. Hill was lucky enough to survive, but unlucky enough to be paralyzed below the waist and get a life sentence.
- Luke Cage: As part of his and Mariah Dillard's plan to manipulate the NYPD into buying Judas bullets (the one thing that can harm Luke Cage), Willis "Diamondback" Stryker walks up to a random police officer, and punches him with a high-power glove. The officer is thrown backwards 20 feet and his chest is caved in, instantly killing him. He then flees the scene shouting "I'M LUKE CAGE!" The police respond with aggressive brutality against Harlem residents, with Mariah exploiting the in-custody beating of one teenage boy to rally the public against the NYPD so that they'll feel the need to bulk-buy the "freak" killing Judas bullets.
- In the first Max Payne game, the titular protagonist's real problems start not when he loses his family but when he is framed for the murder of his fellow DEA agent Alex Balder, setting the cops after him when he already has the mob baying for his blood when his cover is blown. The guy who pulled the trigger on Alex and framed him is fellow DEA agent B.B., who Max then has to kill.
- In the first Mass Effect, one of the missions on Noveria has you fight through the facility's security force to retrieve incriminating evidence on the corrupt boss of the place. On the way out, you run into the irate sergeant, herself going behind her captain's back, who says, "You know what they do to cop killers on my world?" If Wrex is present, he retorts, "You know what they do to corrupt cops on mine?"
- In Prison Architect, prisoners with "cop killer" on their rap sheet get far greater scrutiny by the guards, including beatings or worse for any slip ups.
- In The Order of the Stick Elan's Evil Twin, Nale, kidnaps him and kills the chief of police of Cliffport in the process; the rest of the CPPD reacts as you might expect. Exactly as Nale planned. He disguises Elan as him and vice versa, leaving Elan in jail and him free to infiltrate the party (with the officers refusing to let the order check "Nale"'s claims via magic in case it gets the case thrown out).