That meter maid looks like trouble.
...But he gets results!
Senator Mendoza is one of the most respected men in this state, McBain. And you drove his limo off a cliff, broke the necks of three of his bodyguards, and drove a bus through his front door?! McBain:
But Captain, I have proof dat he is head of an international drug cartel! Captain:
I don't wanna hear it, McBain! You're outta here! McBain punches the captain out a window. McBain:
That makes two of us.
Sure, our society may be built upon rules and procedures, but they make for bad television. Sometimes you have to bend the rules, rough up the suspects
, moon your supervisors
and shred the Constitution
to get stuff done.
A Cowboy Cop may be an Anti-Hero
(or an occasional Byronic Hero
) if he is the protagonist of the show, typically Hot-Blooded
and passionate about his maverick antics, or a Jerk with a Heart of Gold
whose unlikely claims will generally be proven correct
. However, in shows that feature cops as secondary characters, the Cowboy Cop is often at odds with the main characters, as he will trample all over the crime scene and/or the suspect's rights. If Da Chief
is a Cowboy Cop he would often reprimand the naive upstart who is being too soft with the criminals and will gladly let the loose cannons go in shooting first and asking questions later.
In a SWAT Team type situation where the cops are expected to shoot to kill, he does not care about human shields or property damage and will more often than not almost level the place to take down the suspects, with extreme lethal force.
Cowboy Cops are almost always asked to Turn in Your Badge
by Da Chief
, at which point they usually become a Vigilante Man
in regards to whatever bad guy they are after for either the rest of the movie or until they get their badge back. As a result of his flagrant rule-breaking, Internal Affairs hates
the Cowboy Cop with a passion. Often policemen who oppose the Cowboy Cop are revealed to be Dirty Cops
, scared that he's going to shake up the system they've worked so hard to manipulate in their favor. As part of being unorthodox, the Cowboy Cop often has his at least one contact on the street
to feed him information that otherwise can't be obtained through an official channel.
Just as with cowboy sheriffs in the old west, cowboy cops rarely show any remorse for using lethal force. First kill scenarios are rarely depicted; these guys (and occasionally gals) have usually filled whole cemeteries to capacity before we meet them for the first time.
Being a Cowboy Cop may be just be backstory — the character might make the transition to another field such as being a federal officer or a Man in Black
, where their methods might fit in a little better.
May often be the recipient of Arson Murder And Life Saving
The Trope Namer
for "Cowboy Cop" is Beverly Hills Cop
(1984), then the term was popularized by Die Hard
Compare Bunny-Ears Lawyer
. Contrast By-the-Book Cop
. Compare and
contrast Dirty Cop
and Rabid Cop
. While a Cowboy Cop is generally more well-intentioned than a Dirty Cop, more deconstructive
works will concede that they both show equal scorn
for necessary regulations; meanwhile a Rabid Cop is a Cowboy who's lost all sense of perspective and morality. For the military version, see Military Maverick
. Old-Fashioned Copper
is the specifically British subtrope.
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Advertising and Commercials
- One Sprint commercial proclaims that its video phones make everything awesome, and as proof, shows a clip from a (nonexistent) film called "Epic Renegade Cop" where Callahan is ordered Turn In Your Weapon by Da Chief. Among the things Callahan sets down are a (ludicrously huge) Hand Cannon, a pair of nunchucks, a machine gun, and, when Da Chief glares at him, a rocket launcher.
- Parodied by the "comic within the comic", in Al Capp's classic Lil Abner. "Fearless Fosdick", who Abner Yokum idolized, was a satiric Captain Ersatz of classic comic strip detective Dick Tracy, and he often turned up the Cowboy Cop aspects of the Tracy strip to at least 11 (if not higher). The typical conclusion of a Fosdick adventure would feature Fosdick himself ventilated by a number of large bullet holes in his person (though in the context of the strip, these amounted to mere flesh wounds), while he stood surrounded by large piles of bullet-riddled corpses of innocent bystanders.
- The "Cop" character archetype in Cyberpunk 2020 and its related games is essentially this trope. This is somewhat justified in-setting where everyone and their mother is packing high-caliber heat and cyberware.
- In Magic: The Gathering's Ravnica block, the Boros Legion was an entire guild of this sort - it's what you get when you combine White's morality and concern for the greater good with Red's emotional nature and individuality, and then give it the task of enforcing the law.
- The Maverick Cop from Feng Shui is nearly invariably one of these kinds of cops. In many games, he or she is usually paired up with the more by-the-book Karate Cop.
- Homestar Runner: Dangeresque, Strong Bad's action-hero alter ego.
- The Ultra Fast Pony episode "Stay Tuned" turns into a Cop Show parody, with Pinkie Pie in the role of "cop on the edge, living on the limits of the law, with a gambling problem and a brother on the other side!"
- The internet comedy group BriTANick has performed a sketch during at least one of their live shows featuring a Cowboy Cop parody character named MacNamara who explains to Da Chief that he acts the way he does because his wife and children were killed by a werewolf. Understandably, the chief is skeptical, and rightfully so, because it turns out MacNamara just shot his dog while pretending it was a werewolf and subsequently claimed to everyone his family was dead when they obviously weren't, all so he could be seen as insane and be given early retirement. It doesn't work, so he changes tactics and pretends to transform into a werewolf himself. When it seems like he's about to get naked, the chief relents and grants him the early retirement.
- Funny Or Die's Tough Justice, which pits Vic Mackey alongside Lady Mary from Downton Abbey.
- Parodied in these articles from The Onion.
- Seeking Truth: Zeke Strahm, though he is woefully Wrong Genre Savvy and ends up having to deal with a problem a bit bigger than an ordinary scumbag.
- As a detective in Trouble In Terrorist Town, Turpster tends to favour shooting first and not bothering with the questions, at least in Sips' videos. This gets to the point where he dubs himself the "RDM Detective" note . This eventually presses Lewis Brindley's Berserk Button and drives him to murder Turps out of sheer anger even though they're both innocent. Video here.