The Cowboy Cop's eternally put-upon superior. Always strict and by-the-book. Can be comfortably relied upon to give a good McCloud Speech, say that You Have 48 Hours or demand that you Turn In Your Badge, usually at the top of his formidable voice. Frequently worried that the mayor or district attorney will have his ass (and pension) for whatever destruction was caused. Will occasionally prove to have a heart by giving his men an inspirational speech. Can frequently be relied on to be the police department equivalent of A Father to His Men. Of course in the By-the-Book Cop's case, Da Chief would the exact opposite, he is rather flexible in terms of laying down the law and views the By-the-Book Cop's attempts to find a solution with minimal violence as counterproductive and expects zero negotiations with criminals or terrorists while gladly accepting the Cowboy Cop's methods if it means nabbing the most notorious. But will be quite proud of the cop if he meets up to the expectation stating how he found someone's idealism of justice pulling through and knows when to reel in the Cowboy Cop when they go too far.
Depending on his milieu and personal tastes, he may be sporting a mustache, wearing suspenders (belt braces), a pistol in a shoulder holster, or a cigar firmly planted in a corner of his mouth. Frequently (though by no means always) a Reasonable Authority Figure, but just as frequently a Mean Boss. Sometimes a Private Detective will have him as a Friend on the Force. If they are not friends of the main characters/group, then they are usually The Neidermeyer and exist only to have their authority stepped over while they bluster.
Compare Da Editor, who has a similar plot function and personality, but is the boss of the Intrepid Reporter.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
The anime Dominion Tank Police plays with this; The Chief is eternally furious with his subordinates for not being ruthless enough in the pursuit of evildoers.
A very unusual Chief is Aramaki from Ghost in the Shell. He's a short elderly man known for his kindness and wisdom who never raises his voice or carries a gun. But he's also a Magnificent Bastard whose work consists mostly of dealing with all the red tape and the general political mess of the Japanese national security forces so his agents can do their work. He's also totally unflappable under pressure. When a group of half-witted robbers take him hostage, he openly berates them for the "mistakes" they make while committing the crime.
Augusgus, the Director of the 20th from Tower of God. Though in truth, he is actually a FUG agent, so he's a subversion.
Sector Chief Andrew F. Gooley held the unenviable position of direct superior to the Dirty Pair.
Lt. Dastun from The Big O has a relationship like this with protagonist Roger Smith, mostly because Roger used to serve under him in the Military Police, and old habits are presumably hard to shake.
The Chief from Fake has to deal with both Dee AND JJ whining at him on a regular basis. His bark seems to be worse than his bite though - Dee refers to him as a "baby seal" at one point (and is promptly yelled at for it, naturally).
Eclipse from Kiddy Grade. She's also got G-class superpowers on par with Eclair and Lumiere.
Digimon Savers ' Captain Satsuma is intimidating just by his appearance alone: factor in his deep voice (in bothversions!) and the fact he raises his voice when he gets pissed means he didn't get his nickname of "Oni no Ikkatsu" (lit. 'The Demon's Thunderous Roar') for nothing. When Masaru, Tohma and (by circumstance) Yoshino all broke the rules in episode 5? You didn't get in trouble, but you're lying if you didn't shrink back in your seat when he first hollered "YOU IDIOT!!"
Detective Conan has Inspector Meguire on the police force that fits this trope in form, if not in function.
Below Board has Captain Aldridge, who frequently acts as a cynical Foil to the idealistic protagonists. One might argue that he's a subversion of what this trope usually means, since he isn't a By-the-Book Cop, and is in fact more than willing to break the rules to serve his view of justice.
Commissioner James Gordon fits this trope in relationship to his subordinate police officers, however not in relationship to Batman, who is not under his authority.
Captain Cross in Powers has his cigar-chomping moments.
Many Chief Judges in Judge Dredd have served this role, cigar chomping optional. Dredd himself takes on this role during The Pit arc, where he is (reluctantly) made Sector Chief for Sector 301.
Pink Panther: Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus, actually attempted to kill his unrestrainable officer, Jacques Clouseau, when his antics got out of hand.
As played by Frank McRae:
Last Action Hero: Parodied in the form of Lieutenant Dekker, who delivers what is possibly the quintessential Turn In Your Badge speech — a two-minute-long tirade which rapidly degenerates into shouted gibberish (involving — among other things — Ferraris, the California Raisins, and The Diary of Anne Frank) while steam erupts from his ears.
The Police Chief of Loaded Weapon 1. The chief not only devolves into shouting gibberish "If you embarrass this department, your pants will be dancing with figs. Is that clear?". He also shouts when he's complimenting his agents or otherwise not angry with them. It's even lampshaded and invoked:
[Luger is yelling about wanting the case]
Captain Doyle: Wait a minute! I'm the captain here! I do all the yelling! But if it's that important to you, take the damn case!
Parodied in So I Married an Axe Murderer, in which a police detective character expresses dissatisfaction that his job is not more like the movies — partly because his boss, far from the trope, is a pleasant, amiable and good-natured administrator with an easy-going temper. In fact, the chief is so amiable, he tries to help out by pretending to be infuriated. It's rough going at first, but he does improve.
When the detective gives examples from movies such as the "commissioner is on my ass", the chief patiently explains that he doesn't report to a commissioner but to a panel.
Beverly Hills Cop. Inspector Todd is Axel Foley's boss in the Detroit Police Department. He gives Foley a hard time about his Cowboy Cop activities, tells him not to get involved with the investigation into Tandino's death and warns him if he does he's out of a job and up on charges.
Todd was played by Gil Hill, who really was a Da Chief in Detroit.
And when Axel gets to Beverly Hills, he runs afoul of Da Local Chief in Lieutenant Bogomil, who really does run things by the book and is constantly being ridden by Chief Hubbard.
The incompetent and rude Chief Lutz in the second movie.
And yet when Todd is murdered in the third film, Axel once again goes rogue to bring down his murderer.
The one from Exit Wounds. Notable because he punishes Steven Seagal's character for saving the Vice-President's life in a shoddy manner. Because in real life nobody is ever honored nation-wide.
Chi(ef) McBride played one in Undercover Brother. The Chief's very first interaction with Undercover Brother is a relentless browbeating typical of this trope despite the fact that they'd never even met.
Chief: Where the hell have you been?! This is a job, not some kind of damn summer camp! And I'm tired of you disrespecting me! Give me one good reason why I shouldn't fire your sorry ass!
Miller, who is Elaine's gruff superior at the police station in Angels Revenge. He doesn't approve of the Angels' hijinks or Elaine's involvement, but he eventually warms to the idea—when the Angels bring the captured drugs to his office while in their bathing suits.
Completely averted in Super Troopers, where Captain O'Hagan is a good-natured chief who constantly closes his eyes to his state troopers' hijinks. Even when they start a fight with Captain Grady's local cops, O'Hagan is more annoyed at the bad timing than infuriated at the fight itself (he hates Grady and his goons as much as his troopers). It's heavily implied that, in his rookie days, he was just like his men.
The Police Captain in Se7en trying to moderate the protagonists. He's surprisingly low key, especially as he's played by R. Lee Ermey, a man famous for screaming rants.
Chief Clark in Alligator is another subversion, coming across as fairly intelligent and sympathetic.
The police captain in Showtime who forces Robert De Niro's character (a By-the-Book Cop) to participate in a reality show after he shoots a TV camera. When a botched attempt at capturing the Big Bad results in a car chase and damage to the city, this is when the captain becomes Da Chief, chewing out both De Niro's character and his on-the-show partner played by Eddie Murphy (a patrol cop who wants to be a TV cop) and taking them off the case. When the latter asks the captain if he wants his gun and badge, the captain just tells him to get out of his office.
Earlier in the film, a typical scene is shown where some police chief chews out Eddie Murphy's character. This turns out to be an audition.
Interestingly, the captain says nothing after Mitch and Trey start a fight with the Big Bad in a club. Probably because an arms dealer isn't likely to invite scrutiny by filing charges against cops, especially with a camera following them.
R.I.P.D. features a rather snarky female one at that.
Commander Vimes from the Discworld books shakes the formula up a bit; he's a main character in his own right and has some definite Cowboy Cop tendencies, because if a "To Be Lawful or Good" dilemma comes up he picks Good every time. The Patrician has commented that maintaining an anti-authoritarian attitude while actually being authority is "practically Zen", but it's not really authority per se that Vimes has an issue with, just hereditary privilege and other forms of authority acquired without earning it; Vetinari made him the Duke of Ankh at least partly because he finds the ensuing paradox rather entertaining.
The Patrician sometimes fulfills the role, though. Especially when he makes Vimes turn in his badge. (Pratchett has said on the alt.fan.pratchett newsgroup that, in American cop show terms, the Vetinari/Vimes conversations are closer to the never-seen conversations that lead to Da Chief telling the Cowboy Cop "The mayor is riding my ass on this one!")
And Vetinari, being the Chess Master and Magnificent Bastard that he is, has on multiple occasions acted like Da Chief, specifically to trigger Sam's Cowboy Cop nature. This allows him to reap the benefits, while everyone including Vimes himself thinks it was his idea, and thus all the power players blame Vimes for the trouble (which, to be honest, he probably enjoys more than their praise).
Literary example, and either a subversion or a case of Lampshade Hanging: In Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crime books, true crime stories are hugely popular, and many police procedures are determined purely on the basis of how good a story they would make. As a result, the main character's boss always behaves like a traditional Chief, knowing full well that he is fulfilling the stereotype. It is explicitly stated that he makes a point of suspending his officers at least once in every investigation.
Also played straight with the character of Braxton Hicks in the Thursday Next series.
Harold Peters Inskipp, commander of the Special Corps, in Harry Harrison's SF novel The Stainless Steel Rat and its sequels.
The first time "Slippery" Jim diGriz (the titular Rat) meets him, it takes him a second to make the connection between the authoritarian head of the Special Corps (whose name is not public knowledge) and legendary criminal "Inskipp the Uncatchable". The two are, of course, one and the same.
Both Commander Whitney and Chief Tibble serve the role of Da Chief to Eve Dallas in J. D. Robb's In Death novels.
Grijpstra and de Gier series by Janwillem van de Wetering: The Commissaris, a superficially sweet, elderly man with a pet turtle.
Matthew Hawkwood: Chief Magistrate James Read fills this role in the novels, although he relies on a biting wit to keep in charges in line.
Lord Gershom of Haryse is a medieval version in the Provost's Dog trilogy by Tamora Pierce. He's quite a Reasonable Authority Figure, actually, and walks a beat with his Dogs after every Dog funeral, but he doesn't tolerate insubordination or corruption above the acceptable level. Then he comes down hard.
Live Action TV
Captain Trunk from Sledge Hammer!, whose complete inability to rein in his loose-cannon subordinate reduced him to a neurotic wreck. Catch phrase: "HAMMER!"
Lieutenant Giardello from Homicide: Life on the Street. Though he will often go out of his way to protect his men, he is not above disciplining them if necessary. While pleasant and certainly a mentor figure, he also takes a certain joy in his power.
Rawls and Burrell both gleefully embody this role on The Wire. Cedric Daniels also rises through the ranks to become the head of the department at the end of the series, before realizing he doesn't want to be at the head of such a flawed police department. the fact that he immediately starts getting blackmailed doesn't help. He quits and becomes a lawyer.
Burrell: "This is Baltimore, Gentlemen. The gods will not save you."
The Chief in Get Smart (he had a real name, but only the occasional guest character used it). Less responsible for handling a Cowboy Cop than a Genius Ditz, but it results in the same amount of frustration and headache.
Chief Clifford in McCloud. As a big-city New York Chief of Detectives, his conflict with the Wild West, New Mexican ways of the title character, a literal Cowboy Cop, provided much of the show's drama.
New Tricks: Sandra Pullman — although the show plays with this by showing Pullman's boss, who is even more uptight and rules-conscious than her, and who just as often chews her out as often as she chews her subordinates out.
In the LOST episodes "Collision" and "Two for the Road," Cowboy Cop Ana-Lucia's vexed captain is also her mother.
Captain Caine in Hunter considered the title character a dangerous loose cannon and Cowboy Cop and threatened to take his badge. His successors as captain were more tolerant of Hunter (because they recognized a good cop when they saw one) but would often be frustrated by his liberal attitude to the regulations and do their best to keep him in line.
Captain Ross on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Not only does he have to deal with Goren constantly second-guessing him, he also goes a few rounds with Nichols (played by Jeff Goldblum). Does he ever win these battles?
General George Hammond from Stargate SG-1. In addition to reining in Colonel O'Neill, he also acted as the parent who broke up the bickering kids when the team argued, and never failed to stick up for them, especially in O'Neill's case as his snarking and 'screw the man' attitude almost got him kicked out the Air Force on more than one occasion.
Seriously subverted on Dexter with Lt. Laguerta for the most part, but select scenes with Sgt. Doakes fit the trope fairly well. Arguably played straight with Captain Matthews, Laguerta's superior (though Matthews has been rarely seen since the second season).
Colonel Tigh in Battlestar Galactica. He was actually second-in-command to Adama, but it was his job to chew out the crew for their screw ups so that Adama could be A Father to His Men. Tigh himself said in an early episode that in the men liked their XO, then he wasn't doing his job.
A Saturday Night Live skit introduces the south of the border equivalent of da chief, "El Jefe." EL JEFE!!!
SSA Aaron Hotchner, of Criminal Minds, especially in Seasons 3 and 4 after Rossi shows up. (See, in particular, episode 4x17 "Demonology". with both the Bureau and the State Department riding Hotch's ass.) Except in Season 5 after Foyet's attack, Hotch seems to be turning into the Cowboy Cop, putting former enemy Erin Strauss in the role of Da Chief.
Rescue Me has Fire Chief Jerry Reilly, eventually replaced by Sidney Feinberg and Needles Nelson.
U.S. Marshal Art Mullen on Justified fills this role.
Subverted on The Shield by Captain (later Councilman) David Aceveda. While he was often frustrated by the antics of the cowboy cops under his command(Vic Mackey in particular) and provided many of the elements this trope requires, on multiple occasions he himself was involved in illegal or illicit activity and occasionally veered into cowboy cop territory himself.
Annie: "That African-American police chief character Abed was playing was right!"
Inspector Brakenreid in Murdoch Mysteries usually just supervises Murdoch's investigations. Sometimes he has other cases, usually minor ones. Or they collaborate on the most serious ones.
The X-Files: FBI Assistant Director Skinner is more reserved than the classical archetype, but he fulfills pretty much the same function to Mulder and Scully: giving them 48 hours to solve a case, demanding them to turn in their weapons, wearing suspenders, and generally being a Reasonable Authority Figure whenever he is not being pressured by The Conspiracy.
Simon Banks of The Sentinel. He's A Father to His Men, he wears suspenders, smokes cigars, usually has on a shoulder holster, and always has the mayor up his ass. He can be hard-nosed, but at the same time he gives Ellison a lot of leeway (like letting him be followed around by an Anthropology student). Really, all he needs is a moustache.
Having your best detective be a human crimelab would close a lot of cases, unless you actually had to go to court, that is.
In The Good Guys, lieutenant Anna Ruiz fits the trope description perfectly, which fits the show's concept as a parody of cop shows. She did sleep with Dan, though, but all women sleep with Dan.
In Reno 911!, Lieutenant Dangle is a parody of this trope. He appears to fit the trope pretty frequently, but he's also shown to be... well... many, many unsavory things.
The Shadow Line has Patterson, Jonah Gabriel's boss, who spends much of the series chewing Gabriel out and discouraging Gabriel from further investigating Harvey Wratten's murder. His boss, Commander Khokar, is another, more hostile example. However, both of them subvert the by-the-book part of the trope when they turn out to be working for Counterpoint.
Blue Heelers has Senior Sergeant Tom Croyden, though a straighter example would be the recurring Inspectors Monica Draper and Russell Falcon-Price.
Several undersherriffs take on this role in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation with Mobley and Atwater in the earlier seasons, and later McKeen and most recently Ecklie.
City Homicide has Detective Superintendant Waverley, and arguably Detective Senior Sergeants Stanley Wolf and Terry Jarvis. Matt Ryan takes on this role after being promoted to Sergeant.
Not a police show, but in Neighbours Senior Sergeant Allan Steiger took on this role when Stuart Parker joined the force.
The same applies to Sergeant Darren McGrath in Home and Away when Peter, Jack and Charlie's work is the focus.
The Closer and Prime Suspect are notable for having one of these as the main character (Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson and DCI Jane Tennison, respectively), though both have their own Chiefs: DCS Michael Kernin and Assistant Chief Will Pope.
Lennart Brix in Forbrydelsen is another of the more cerebrally threatening and less noisy versions of this character type.
Lieutenant Virginia Cooper for the first three seasons of New York Undercover then Lieutenant Malcolm Barker season four.
Captain Ray Holt in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, who is basically Det. Jake Peralta's archenemy. Though not loud or high-strung, he's a stone-faced hardass who is constantly coming down on Peralta for any kind of violation in procedure
Jack Crawford in Hannibal. As in the original Thomas Harris books and their better-known film adaptations, Crawford is head of the FBI's Behavioral Sciences unit, but the TV version fits the role of Da Chief better than any other.
Captain Roy Montgomery in Castle to an extent, although he is a bit more complex than that. After his death saving Beckett (who manages to catch a near fatal gunshot at his funeral!) in the Season 4 finale, he is replaced by Captain Victoria "Iron" Gates, whose officious attitude is later subverted when its revealed that she figured out that Castle and Beckett were in a relationship and doesn't care provided they keep it discreet.
One of the Beastie Boys played this role in the music video to "Sabotage".
Bill Bailey does a riff on this trope on the Cosmic Jam DVD of his one man stage show.
Police Chief Damon Gant is a friendly chap who keeps inviting people to go swimming with him. He's also a blackmailer and a murderer.
Phoenix refers to Mia as 'the Chief'.
The first three games feature a literal background character in the form of the head detective, who seems a total slacker, forever watching Asian soap operas and having Internet conversations with 1337aZnPrInceSz.
Pursuit Force: The character of the Chief from the PSP game series is an intentional homage/parody of this character type; appropriate, as the Pursuit Force series itself is an unashamed homage/parody of the "cowboy cop action movie" genre in general. Though he's not openly antagonistic towards his team, he's a grumpy hardass who's constantly riding them to get results. He's also got some hilarious comments in the case of outright failure:
Chief: What, have you got wax in your ears!? I specifically told you not to die!
In Mass Effect, Executor Pallin fills the role for resident Cowboy Cop Garrus Vakarian in C-Sec, complete with the traditional "Your investigation is finished!" argument.
In Dragon Age II, Aveline Vallen is this after becoming the Captain of the Kirkwall City Guard, especially since she has to remove all traces of the corruption in the ranks fostered by her predecessor.
Her interaction with a Sarcastic Hawke tends to fall into the traditional dynamic between Da Chief and the Cowboy Cop, although Hawke is not part of the guard and merely an independent contractor hired for outside work.
In the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Vector the Crocodile of the Chaotix Detective Agency plays with this: he doesn't work for any sort of government authority and is not bound by their rules, but he still insists his two employees (and Charmy in particular) behave themselves and appear professional so they can get the job done and look good for their clients, despite being quite unprofessional himself. Once the job is finished, however, they have no qualms about beating the tar out of thier client if they were tricked or unpaid.
In L.A. Noire, since you're constantly being transferred to different departments, you cycle through a number of Chiefs, but they all warn you to be on your best behavior.
Homestar Runner: Dangeresque has an oppressive boss who constantly yells at him for breaking the rules.
Ultra Fast Pony: In "Stay Tuned", Sir Lintsalot, Rocky, and Mr. Turnip take turns in the role of the superior who pairs Pinkie with a partner she doesn't like and threatens to make Pinkie turn in her badge if she can't get results.
Marty and Zip's reaper boss from DDG has definite elements of Da Chief about her.
The Order of the Stick plays with this trope. In the Cliffport arc, there is a character in the Cliffport Police referred to only as chief, and he superficially resembles the trope with his cigar munching ways and his tendency to combine cliched lines with D&D jokes. One the other hand he doesn't have any Cowboy Cops to oversee, and is one of the only two sane and competent officers in the entire squad.
"The mayor is so anxious for us to close this case, you'd think he put max ranks into Ride (My Ass) skill!"
Junior Comissioner Vallejo in Fillmore! fits this trope perfectly.
Chief Quimby from Inspector Gadget. While not being much of a blowhard himself, he nevertheless suffers greatly from Gadget's bumbling.
Lin Beifong, daughter of earthbending champion Toph, is the chief of the Republic City metalbending police in The Legend of Korra. She cares nothing for Korra's Avatar status, especially since the first thing Korra did in the city was smash up a street.
She proves to be less by the book, however, when she decides she's going to track down Amon and her missing metalbenders even if she has to go outside the law. Not quite as by-the-book as she first appeared.
Her replacement Saikhan is a straight By-the-Book Cop. He follows orders, even if they're unethical and from people whose sanity can be called into question. He still has the city's best interest in mind.
Commander Stargazer in SilverHawks. He'd be out there with the rest of them, though, if he weren't an older model, and therefore not powerful enough to take on the Mob alone. He's rather fatherly towards the Hawks, particularly Quicksilver and Copper Kid.
The family watch a show about a Cowboy Cop called McGarnagle, a beautiful parody of this trope (and a parody of Clint Eastwood, most specifically Dirty Harry).
Da Chief: You're off the case, McGarnagle! McGarnagle: You're off your case, chief! Da Chief: [Perplexed] What... does that mean, exactly? Homer: It means he gets results, you stupid chief!
And of course there's McBain's chief in one of his films where he's going after his arch foe (MENDOOOSSSAAAAAA!)
McBain: But Captain, I can't avenge my partner's death with this pea-shooter!
Chief: I don't wanna hear it, McBain. Tha-that cannon of yours is against regulation! In this station we do things by the BOOK! (Holds up book of regulations...which McBain propmtly blows a hole through) McBain: Bye, book.
The South Park episode parodying cop shows/movies has a chief constantly yelling at the boys for collateral damage, frequently repeating the phrase "The Mayor is gonna have my ass!" This eventually devolves into "The mayor...my ass...bleh bleh BLEH!" The fun part was that the boys were completely innocent about the collateral damages. All times it was just that they happened to end up in the middle of different gang-fights.