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I sometimes forget I'm not actually a cop.
A wide variety of characters behave as if they are actual police officers and detectives or otherwise overstep their bounds, particularly the Amateur Sleuth
(Murder She Wrote
) and technicians (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
, Crossing Jordan
Real police tend to take a very dim view of this practice. However, as was once said of Star Trek
's habit of sending the command staff into dangerous situations, if you're paying for the stars, you damn well better use them.
If you're looking for the offense
of impersonating cops, look no further than the Bavarian Fire Drill
Impersonation of military officers is also viewed as a serious military crime in all forces. Several fictitious and real examples are added below, along with the motivations behind them.
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- 2000 AD: Cover Art for one issue showed a little kid who had dressed up like Judge Dredd, presumably in an act of hero-worship. Dredd was also in the picture, saying: "Impersonating an Officer. Sentence; fifteen years in the Juve Cubes." Yes, he was handcuffing the kid at the time.
- Eight MM: The private eye protagonist poses as a government investigator. As he's working for a highly-paying client, he thinks it's worth the risk. Towards the end of the movie he claims to be a police officer when ringing around the hospitals looking for the man he stabbed, but by that stage he's so personally involved in the case he doesn't give a damn.
- In Jumper, the Ancient Conspiracy seems incredibly powerful, when first introduced with members appearing to be CIA, FBI, etc. Later in the film, it becomes clear they're just a bunch of well-funded vigilantes who carry around a bunch of fake I.D.s.
- Pirates Of The Caribbean: Captain Jack Sparrow's sentencing at the end of the first movie includes "Impersonating an officer of the Royal Navy" and "Impersonating a cleric of the Church of England."
- This happens a few times in the Terminator series. The bad machines (and occasionally the good ones) dress up as cops to get where they need to be without causing chaos on the way.
- Both Maniac Cop and Psycho Cop has killers who dress like cops to get near their victims.
- An especially scary version in the film Copycat, where the killer disguises himself as a dead police officer in order to escape detection by another cop.
- It's believed that the above example is a reference to a similar scene in The Silence of the Lambs, in which Hannibal Lecter disguises himself as an injured police officer in order to escape custody.
- Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: Dirk does this as part of the workings of his Holistic Detective Agency when he has a mystery that actually interests him rather than one that involves tricking old ladies into letting their cats loose. The local inspector Sergeant Gilks takes a rather dim view of this... along with Dirk's tendencies to be involved in highly peculiar situations that Gilks does not like very much in the first place, as well as his habits of removing or obscuring evidence...
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Phoenix does this constantly, and often swipes ''evidence'' from the scene of the crime. However, it's implied that the law in his world differs from real-world law on this point; on several occasions he's shown receiving assistance from the police during his on-scene investigations. There's a very odd line late in game 1 where Phoenix says that he's not supposed to do that. Really? Because it didn't seem to cause you any trouble with the police all the previous times you did it. Quite often, he even ends up doing their work. Especially including using the nifty gadgets for them.
- Fillmore!: The Disney Channel show is one giant use of this trope. It works in this case though, as the Safety Patrol is equivalent to police officers as the school is equal to a city. The scale keeps the show on homage level, not really impersonations.
- More ominously, a tactic often used by criminals hoping to entrap a victim — Ted Bundy and the Hillside Stranglers would frequently employ it.
- This trick was used in a horrible, horrible way by the Norwegian right-wing terrorist Anders Breivik, who set off a bomb in downtown Oslo, then travelled to the island of Ut°ya (where the Norwegian Labour Party's annual youth camp was taking place), dressed as a police officer. Once there, he used his Impersonation of an Officer to gather a lot of people in one location, gave a talk in which he "informed" them about the earlier bombing, then started mowing down his audience with the heavy guns he had with him. Eyewitness accounts describe people who had run from the sound of gunfire running towards Breivik, because they thought he was a police officer who could protect them - only to be gunned down mercilessly. End result? Seventy-seven dead, most of them teenagers.
- An especially horrible subversion with real police officers who have used their uniforms and badges to intimidate and harm people.
- A common method of Social Engineering. Perpetrators often pose as network/IT staff and ask for usernames and passwords, claiming to need them for troubleshooting.
- Comedian and impersonator Peter Sellers honed his craft with a military concert party, stationed in Ceylon during WW2. He was only a lowly Aircraftsman - the lowest form of life in the RAF - but he pulled off a deception similar to that attributed to Robson Greene in the TV series Soldier Soldier (above). Sellers made himself up to look thirty years older, donned the uniform not just of any old Royal Air Force officer, but of an Air Vice Marshal - and he got away with it, to the extent of having a real AVM buy him a drink. This, he claims, gave him no fears about a career in comedy.
- An Army major with a very distinct resemblance to Bernard Law Montgomery was talent-scouted to double for the famous General and make very prominent public appearances, so as to confuse Axis intelligence and act as a decoy against any feared abduction attempts by German commandos.In this case, a Major impersonated a General - later a Field-Marshal - with full Army blessing. this has been the subject of a film: I Was Monty's Double - and a Goon Show parody - I Was Monty's Treble.