Pearly Gates: You know what you're falling for, don't you? The oldest bleeding game in the business, that's all, the IPO caper!Crime is rampant on the streets. Drugs are being sold, people are dropping at the sound of two boards being slapped together, windows are shattering to make way for burglars... who knows what sort of craziness goes on every day? Then, police officers show up to either take back the loot or perform a vigilante killing, and it looks like the day is saved... Not! Surprise, surprise; sometimes by way of a Traitor Shot, the police officers are revealed to be scofflaws themselves (or, at the very least, a bunch of people who have taken the law into their own hands). Naturally, this upsets the balance of law and order between criminals and the police; Hilarity Ensues (as does chaos every so often). At times, it's a single person acting alone; at others, it's an organized group; but in fact, impersonation of a police officer has taken place. Related to False Flag Operation or Dressing as the Enemy. Compare Bavarian Fire Drill, a.k.a. getting people to do what you want by acting authoritative and letting them draw their own conclusions. Unrelated to No Badge? No Problem!, which is where someone affiliated with the authorities but who actually isn't one acts as though he were. Do Not Try This at Home - intentionally attempting to impersonate a police officer is a serious crime in most jurisdictions. With a few exceptions, live action film and television shows with police officers in them use uniforms that are deliberately incorrect to avoid any hint of this. Fancy dress police costumes are also deliberately different from genuine ones to reduce the chance of being mistaken for a genuine officer. In Real Life, police forces/departments exercise rigourous control over their uniforms - losing, giving away or otherwise transferring any part of their uniform can lead to serious disciplinary measures being taken against officers and old and worn items are destroyed rather than risking the chance of them falling into the wrong hands. It's very usual for uniforms to be stored on police premises only and officers change into them on arrival for their shifts and at no time do they leave the building unless being worn on duty.
Mailman Crook: IPO!?
Mailman Crook: What's IPO?
Pearly Gates: Impersonating a police officer!
Mailman Crook: You mean to say we've been conned?
Pearly Gates: I mean to say you've been conned!
Mailman Crook: IPO!?
Mailman Crook: What's IPO?
Pearly Gates: Impersonating a police officer!
Mailman Crook: You mean to say we've been conned?
Pearly Gates: I mean to say you've been conned!
— The Wrong Arm of the Law, after the first such heist in the picture.
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Anime and Manga
- Lupin III: This happens to be one of Lupin's favorite tactics, often by disguising himself as Inspector Zenigata; usually at Zenigata's expense.
- In The Castle of Cagliostro, Lupin infiltrates the titular castle by posing as Zenigata, claiming that the real one Gustav saw was an imposter. It works. Gustav falls for it and attacks Zenigata and his men, allowing Lupin to slip inside unnoticed.
- Lupin also pulls this twice in The Secret of Twilight Gemini:
- The first happens, near the beginning, where he disguises himself as one of Zenigata's men in an attempt to slip past the inspector (which Zenigata doesn't fall for).
- The other happens about halfway through the film, when he disguises himself as a police officer to infiltrate Morocco's police HQ to dig up information on Galoux. Which leads to a run-in with Fujiko and a night of Sex with the Ex.
- Lupin poses as Zenigata again, in the Lupin III (Red Jacket) episode Albatross: Wings of Death, where he uses the disguise to try to get Prof. Lumbach to tell him about his bomb manufacturing plant. Lumbach stalls by pretending to fall for it, to buy time for the real Zenigata to show up!
- Lupin poses as the Inspector again in the Red Jacket series finale Aloha Lupin, to track down a group of imposters who were impersonating him and his gang.
- In an early chapter of Psyren a pair of goons show up at Ageha Yoshina's school trying to get his Psyren card. They flash fake police badges, but luckily for Ageha one of his classmates is the son of the local police chief and can tell the difference.
- This is part of Team Taiyou's backstory in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's. Jinbei angrily left Taro and Yoshizo to do his own thing, and ended up carpooling with some rich kids that pissed off the local biker gang. A siren goes off while Jinbei is begging for forgiveness, and the bikers begin to bail when it seems like Security has arrived. It turns out to be Taro and Yoshizo using a fake police siren, and Hilarity Ensues when they get caught and are chased around until dawn.
- In A Certain Scientific Railgun, Mikoto Misaka impersonates a member of Judgement, to an actual member of Judgement, by wearing a Judgement-issue armband that one of her friends dropped. She somehow does not get in trouble for this.
- The Punisher: Frank Castle has been known to use fake ID to enter crime scenes and get firsthand information before the detectives arrive.
- Judge Dredd: "Jimp" is Mega-City One slang for Judge Impersonator. It's quite popular because of the immense power that the Judges have compared to most police.
- There's a gang who tried to impersonate Judges to carry out robberies on three separate occasions. The first group was spotted by a robot who warned the real Judges, the second group was killed by an Ax-Crazy stranger who happened to have a grudge against Judges, and the last group was recruited for back-up by Dredd himself to storm a building full of hostiles and were killed because they lacked training.
- Another criminal duo got a bunch of Judge uniforms to carry out a robbery as well, but their disguise was so bad (the crooks had bad posture, were horribly out of shape and even wore their eagles on the wrong shoulder) that Dredd spotted them immediately.
- One story in the Free Comic Book Day 2013 issue of 2000 AD features a gang of young men who impersonate Judges not for any gain but because being a Judge is awesome. Until one of them gets killed trying to stop a criminal on his own.
- Ralphy Bryce is introduced as a young Hero-Worshipper to Dredd and goes around dressed in a judge uniform, even confronting some criminals while doing so. They dismiss him as "a squirt with a squirtgun" and punch the boy out. As Ralph is an orphan Dredd has him inducted into the Academy to train as a judge, but Ralph breaks the rules and leaves the Academy to try and track some criminals. After being discharged, Ralph goes around arresting criminals dressed as a judge. Dredd arrests him for this and he spends the next two and a half decades hating Dredd and goes on a killing spree dressed in an imitation judge uniform to show Dredd that he's still capable of being a judge. Dredd ends up being forced to execute him in the end.
- One ex-Judge who was part of an extralegal killing squad within the high ranks of the Justice Department used his old uniform to carry out hits.
- In the story "Closet", members at a gay club dress up as Judges as a form of dom-sub roleplay. A raid by the Judges leads to their arrest for using the uniform for entertainment purposes.
- Button Man: At least one Button Man posed as an FBI officer during the killing game.
- Point Of Succession, a Death Note Alternate Universe Fic, has Matt impersonate a cop under L's orders.
- The Adam-12 fic "Wannabe Police Officer" has someone kidnap and chain up Malloy while taking over his identity and job. Jim was gone and Pete riding solo, so he got away with it for a few hours.
- Marionettes: Gear Shift and Cover Story claim they are agents of the Equestria Bureau of Investigations, but Twilight Sparkle sees through it because their badges are fake. "Because my big brother is Captain of the Royal Guard, and on the EBI seal, Celestia's wings go behind it not in front of it."
- A military variant is used in Origin Story, where in order to rescue Louise from a secure military base, Captain America, Spider-Man, and The Wasp dress up in military uniforms and use forged I Ds and orders to get in. (It turns out that Captain America's uniform is real.)
- In Miami Blues Junior Frenger impersonates Det. Hoke Moseley after stealing his gun, shield, and false teeth (long story), in order to carry out a one-man crime wave around Miami.
- The Untouchables: Frank Nitti disguises himself as a police officer to assassinate the book-keeper the Untouchables have persuaded to testify.
- An early comedic example of this ploy in play is The Wrong Arm of the Law, where a gang of Australian crooks upsets the established rules of the cops and robbers game in London. Shortly after this gets taken too far when a couple of paranoid lower-level criminals unwittingly attack actual police officers, the criminal underworld decides to forge a temporary alliance with the police to capture the IPO mob.
- In The Streetfighter's Last Revenge, shortly after being double-crossed by the Owada clan, Terry Sugury intercepts a group while disguised as a highway patrol officer. He directs them to pull over in a car crushing lot and then reveals himself. He then sends a lone assassin, Wolf, back to the Owada clan alive to tell the patriarch that he should fight Sugury for the money he had stolen.
- As seen in a flashback, Chow pulling one off sets the plot of The Hangover Part III in motion.
- Inspector Gadget, meet your Evil Twin Robo-Gadget, who's not so much impersonating a police officer as he is downright smearing the police officer's good name by committing all sorts of crimes.
- Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead had two main characters pose as police officers to stop their mark. Given that one of the criminals had a short fuse, it went From Bad to Worse very fast for everybody involved, putting into motion the main plot of the movie.
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day: Clearly the favorite form for the T-1000 Terminator to take is that of a Los Angeles patrolman. Not surprisingly, an LAPD cop was the first person the T-1000 encountered upon arrival from its time-travel. That form also avails the T-1000 to plentiful information and resources.
- Dick Tracy. Several of Big Boy Caprice's henchmen dress up as police officers, "arrest" Lips Manlis and take him to a warehouse to be murdered.
- The main villain of the Maniac Cop slasher movie franchise is an undead former police officer who was framed for Police Brutality and still dresses in his old uniform while he carries out his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Psycho Cop has a similar premise, although the killer is mortal (or as close to it that your average slasher villain gets).
- The Dark Knight Saga:
- As Ra's al Ghul claims in Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne is trying to defend "a city so corrupt [the League of Shadows] infiltrated every level of its infrastructure. Effortlessly." How effortlessly? The district attorney, Carl Finch, was assassinated by what appeared to be a police officer.
- In The Dark Knight, this is part of The Joker's assassination plot against Mayor Garcia at Commissioner Loeb's funeral. Fortunately, Jim Gordon figured out that something was up just by reading an obituary the Joker had typed up for Garcia, came to the funeral wearing a bulletproof vest, and dove in front of the Mayor just as the Joker and his goons fired at him.
- When we first meet Harry in Home Alone, he poses as a cop, check in on all the houses in the neighborhood, seeing who will be leaving for the holidays, allow him and Marv to rob them later.
- In Running Scared (1986), the drug dealer Julio Gonzalez has his men capture the police officers guarding a government building and put on their uniforms to masquerade as them. He then uses the building as the location to trade a woman he captured for the cocaine the protagonists seized.
- In Iron Man 3 Ellen Brandt tries to impersonate a Homeland Security agent to cover her abduction of Tony. It fails rather spectacularly when the local sheriff (rightly) states that flashing a badge and trying to brush it off are not sufficient to get him to back down.
- In Midnight Run Walsh and Mardukas pretend to be FBI agents so they can "confiscate some counterfeit money".
- The hitman in The Star Chamber does this, unless he really is a police officer.
- Blake and Fenderbaum in Cannonball Run II. We never see how effectively it works.
- Variation: In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, a Noodle Incident in Jack Sparrow's list of charges has him impersonating an officer of the Royal Navy (who did double duty as colonial law enforcement in those days, especially where piracy was concerned). Another has him impersonating a clergyman of the Church of England (he smiles at the memory).
- Later, in the fourth movie of the series, he impersonates a judge.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Nick Fury is targeted for a Conspicuously Public Assassination — his SUV is rammed on all sides by police cars, then a SWAT van pulls up discharging a team with assault rifles who open fire on him, then try to force their way into his bulletproof car with a hydraulic ram. The intent is two-fold — to get close to Fury (when he sees the 'police' staring at him, he assumes it's because he's a black man driving an expensive vehicle) and to delay anyone calling the police given the time they need to get past Fury's defenses (the SUV is both armoured and weaponised).
- Runaway: The villain Charles Luther dresses as a policeman to enter the department and hack into their database for information on Ramsey. Strangely, everybody on the force is on the lookout for this maniac, but no one in the station recognizes his face.
- The Godfather trilogy:
- Looker: In the climax, Dr. Roberts incapacitates two police officers who are working for the bad guys and dons the uniform of one of them so that he can infiltrate the Digital Matrix exposition.
- In the film version of Dragnet, stolen police cars and PAGAN cult members disguised as officers are used to keep the locals away from the site where the Virgin Connie Swayle is due to be sacrificed.
- The Art of War (2000). Wesley Snipes character is checking out a Triad hangout when the police raid it. He apparently evades them, but a black FBI agent starts moving in the same direction he did, gun at the ready. Later one of the perps is getting in the face of several officers when that same agent appears, slams the man's head into the table, then hauls him outside to the amusement of the officers. It turns out to be Wes wearing the FBI man's cap and raid jacket.
- The Hidden: The good alien parasite poses as an FBI officer so it can enlist the help of local human law enforcement to hunt down the evil alien parasite who killed his partner. Admittedly it's a Space Cop in its own right, but pretty far outside of its normal jurisdiction.
- The Night Flier: At one point Dees poses as an FBI Agent to get the details about a grisly double murder from a local sherrif.
- Let's Be Cops is this trope The Movie, as the two main characters Justin and Ryan wear realistic-looking police uniforms to a party and on the way home are repeatedly mistaken for real police officers and get all kinds of praise, respect and women. Ryan has so much fun pretending to be a cop that he purchases all of the gear online, buys a car he modifies to look as close to a real police cruiser as he can, and learns official police procedures and tactics from YouTube. Ultimately subverted by the ending when, after the hoax is over, Ryan joins the police force for real.
- The title characters in Flame and Citron (2008) sometimes pose as police officers when carrying out their assassinations for La Résistance, thanks to their handler who's a police solicitor and can get them official badges. This backfires when they dress in police uniforms to assassinate a Gestapo chief only to be arrested on sight, as the Germans are rounding up and deporting all Danish police officers, replacing them with their own collaborationist units.
- Resurrection: The serial killer is revealed to have been posing as an FBI profiler who was "assisting" the cops with tracking himself down earlier in the film. This becomes apparent when the main character, a Chicago PD homicide detective, visits the local FBI headquarters and discovers that the actual agent by that name is African-American, not white.
- Ostap Bender tries to do this with the underground millionaire Koreiko in The Little Golden Calf. Ostap wants Koreiko to admit that a large sum of money was indeed stolen from him, to confirm that he's richer than he seems. However, it's a Paper-Thin Disguise consisting of only a police hat, and the hat has a coat of arms of the wrong city, to boot. Koreiko later points that out.
- The Three Investigators has a Classy Cat-Burglar have one of his men dress up as a police officer. When the cops show up and try to use that as a charge, he points out the the fake cop is in fact wearing a New York Police uniform (the series is set in California), and as such cannot be accused of impersonating the local police.
- In the John Connolly novel Every Dead Thing Louis gains the trust of a possible witness by flashing a gym membership and claiming it's a badge.
- In The Laundry Series Bob frequently impersonates law enforcement or other government officials when doing field work, facilitated by a Laundry-issue warrant card that compels the person to whom he shows it to believe him. Given that the Laundry's main job is occult counterintelligence and everything they do is classified under a section of the Official Secrets Act that is itself classified, he doesn't have much choice.
- Slight twist there, as a warrant card only works for its legitimate owner, actually identifies said owner, and can only be used to assert said owner's actual legal authority over somebody who is subject to said authority: it just does so in a very mind-screwy way that tends to leave people needing to rationalize what they saw.
- In Iron Fist, the Wraiths are nearly captured in the first chapter by Imperial agents disguised as local security forces who have a confederate start a Bar Brawl with them. They use the tactic themselves later, as part of a complex infiltration of a military base: to whit, two Wraiths start a fight with some pilots, the rest show up dressed as stormtroopers to "arrest" them, and then they flag down a real military police patrol, saying their vehicle broke down.
- In Another Note, Rue Ryuuzaki is really the notorious Serial Killer and former Wammy's kid, Beyond Birthday. He poses as an "unprivate detective", as well as copying L's dress and mannerisms.
- In an episode of Time Trax Lambert's police badge is stolen and is later used for a Flashed-Badge Hijack by the guy who stole it.
- Seven Days: Two inner city hoods steal Frank's and Olga's NSA IDs, and are later seen at a bar demanding that the bartender give them a bottle of some expensive alcohol, but the bartender isn't buying it. "OK, if you're with the NSA, what does 'NSA' stand for?"
- My Name Is Earl: Earl stole a cop's badge and used it to get free food and other stuff. Then someone stole it from him.
- In Supernatural Sam and Dean regularly go undercover as FBI agents (as do several other hunters), with Bobby backstopping their aliases if someone wants to call their superior. One episode shows Bobby has a whole wall of phones labeled with each alias, though in the same episode the trope fails because it turns out the sheriff they're talking to knows Bobby. In another episode it's played for laughs when Bobby advises a Hunter to call the FBI as he's apparently stumbled across a non-supernatural crime. Moments later, he gets a call on his FBI phone.
Bobby: Agent Wallace. (beat) No, Garth, not me the FBI, the real FBI! How are you still alive?
- Stupid crook Dewey Crowe decides to rob two toughs who stole a large amount of drugs from the Dixie Mafia. When the local clothing store does not have any ski masks in stock, he instead buys a suit and a cowboy hat. He then proceeds to impersonate US Marshal Raylan Givens and successfully pulls off the robbery. When the real US Marshal Raylan Givens finds out about it, he is quite pissed and tracks Dewey down. It does not help matters that the two toughs have also tracked Dewey down and when Raylan identifies himself, they open fire on him since they will not be fooled by the same trick twice.
- In season four, a Detroit hitman is tasked with killing Drew Thompson but no one knows what identity Drew is currently using. The hitman disguises himself as a sheriff's deputy and goes to the houses of men who could be Drew and shoots them dead. He is exposed when he tries to arrest Boyd Crowder and Raylan Givens is present. Raylan just spoke to the sheriff and the sheriff would have mentioned if he sent someone to arrest Boyd. Before Raylan can check in with the sheriff, the hitman panics, draws his gun and is shot dead by Raylan.
- In an episode of Adam-12 there's someone out there claiming to be a particular detective in the LAPD, flashing his badge around and insisting on bribes. They aren't sure until the end of the episode whether it's really that cop turned bad or someone impersonating him. It's someone impersonating him.
- Alluded to a few times on It Takes a Thief (2005). Some of the homeowners who signed up for the show were either police officers or married to police officers. Matt always made a point of talking about what would have happened if a real burglar, instead of Jon, had walked off with police uniforms, badges, and firearms.
- In an episode of The Listener a gang of robbers use fake cop uniforms to gain access to secure locations like high end jewelery stores and rob the place. Their disguises are very good and they even make sure that their getaway car looks like an authentic police vehicle. Later in the episode they steal an ambulance and commit a robbery disguised as paramedics.
- In an episode of Barney Miller, a man claiming to be a detective from the 12th precinct is accosting men as they leave gay bars and demanding money or else he'll beat them.
- Orphan Black has petty criminal Sarah witness the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like her - who ends up being a seemingly loaded police detective. Wanting the money for her daughter, Sarah impersonates her and attempts to ingratiate herself into her life - it works, for the most part, until the other cops catch on. Of course, since she and the woman were clones, it's not like Sarah had a particularly hard time of it.
- Friends: Phoebe finds a cop's badge and pretends to be a cop. This works well until she tries it on the cop to whom it belongs.
- In Doctor Who we have the Doctor's psychic paper, a business card of sorts that appears to the reader as whatever form of ID he requires at the time. He's done everything from a simple Bavarian Fire Drill to more involved impersonations of plainclothes law and military officers.
- In Mission: Impossible members of the IM Force often impersonated police officers...as well as soldiers, security personnel and other officials.
- Banshee combines this with Dead Person Impersonation. Lucas Hood was the sheriff of a backswoods town in Oregon who decides to take the job offer of sheriff in Banshee, Pennsylvania. However, on his way into town he stops at a bar on the outskirts of Banshee and is killed by two robbers. The robbers are then killed by the protagonist, a master thief who just got out of prison and is in Banshee looking for his old girlfriend. The thief realizes that the only person in Banshee who actually knew what Hood looked like recently died of cancer, so he assumes Hood's identity and becomes the new sheriff. He has no police training but his brutal methods are quite effective against the local toughs so people just assume that he is a Cowboy Cop.
- Blue Bloods
- In "Down the Rabbit Hole," serial killer Thomas Wilder kidnaps Nicky Reagan while dressing as a police officer. He's still in the uniform when Danny catches up to him.
- In "The Price of Justice", Jamie and Edie are on loan to the NYPD Movie and TV Unit for the filming of a Rizzoli & Isles-esque cop show. A former cop is a special consultant hired to handle the "research", but it seems he does not grasp the reality of police tactics (like having female cops in heels, a big no-no in a foot chase), with Jamie and Eddie being more on-par with tactics. The consultant is outraged and threatens to report them to "their commanders", which confuses Eddie because in the NYPD, the correct terminology is "commanding officer." After a few more arguments where the man yells he's the expert, Jamie and Eddie get a detective to do some digging, and find that this "consultant" has never worked for the NYPD, and his only law enforcement experience is as a mall security guard in New Jersey. The consultant is fired in the end, though not for the fraud, but for sexual harassment.
- Seen repeatedly in Person of Interest.
Criminal: Leon stole more than enough, in fact to make it worth us killing a cop so maybe we can make a deal. You leave Leon here with us and you can keep looking for your friend.Reese: You know, the guy who owned this badge would probably have accepted that deal. But I'm not him.Criminal: So who are you?Reese: The guy who shot him and stole his badge. (Violence ensues)
- John Reese has repeatedly used the badge of Detective Stills, a Dirty Cop he killed in the first episode (this backfires on him when a Victim of the Week sees a Missing poster of the real Stills in a police station). He has also used the ID of Jennings, a wife-beating U.S. Marshal he deposited in a Mexican prison.
- Carl Elias' number two, Anthony "Scarface" Marconi, was first seen impersonating a patrol officer. He continues to enact this trope when needed, something he has in common with Reese.
- One episode had a pair of ex-FBI agents who had been forced out for corruption, but were now pretending to be FBI while acting as hitmen.
- In season 3 Root shows up as FBI Special Agent Augusta King. In her case, the credentials technically belong to her, or at least belong to a fake identity based around her. She got it with help from The Machine, which means it's as real as can be.
Fusco: [to Reese] She had a warrant—a real one. What was I supposed to say? "Sorry, boss, Agent King is actually a superpowered nutball. Just ask my buddy, the urban legend."
- One episode of the '60s series had a pair of scam artists going about impersonating Federal Reserve bank inspectors. Gannon poses as a mark and asks the fake inspectors if they're carrying identification.
Con artist: We always carry it. (gets out fake credentials)
Joe Friday: (comes in from the next room with his badge out) So do we. You're under arrest.
- Another Frauds Division episode involved a scam artist claiming to be representing the LAPD's Widows and Orphans Fund. Donations supposedly meant you could just tear up any traffic tickets and ignore them. That one got Friday seriously pissed off because it meant people distrusting the department when Reality Ensued.
- Yet another episode had a Gideon Dengle impersonating an officer and doing the job despite not being one. He then switches jobs and is arrested while impersonating a firefighter.
- One episode of the '60s series had a pair of scam artists going about impersonating Federal Reserve bank inspectors. Gannon poses as a mark and asks the fake inspectors if they're carrying identification.
- CSI: NY: Shane Casey escapes from jail during a prison riot by getting a friend on the outside to smuggle him an NYPD uniform, which he uses for several episodes afterwards.
- Threshold: Agents of the eponymous agency usually pretend to be working for a federal agency whose very existence isn't classified, most often the FBI or the Department of Agriculture. However, they have authorization to do this.
- Parodied in "Almost Famous" when Castle and Beckett respond to an "officer down" call. Except instead of a cop, they find a male stripper in a police costume who was killed on his way home from a gig.
- Used straight in "Knockout". When Professional Killer Hal Lockwood is arraigned for killing another inmate three patrol officers stride into the courtroom. Something about them rubs Beckett the wrong way, then she realizes their collar pins aren't made of NYPD-issue brass, just as they pull out flashbangs and break Lockwood out of the courthouse.
- In "Probable Cause" Serial Killer 3XK, dressed as a cop, visits Castle in the precinct's holding area to reveal that he's the one who framed the writer for the Murder of the Week. Castle later gets "someone who owed me a favor" to impersonate the officers that are supposed to transport him to Central Booking, wrecking 3XK's plan to have him shanked in lockup.
- Kramer exhibits this in Seinfeld in "The Statue"
Ray: Are you a cop?
Kramer: Yeah I'm a cop. I'm a good cop, I'm a damn good cop!!
- In Burn Notice the heroes do this with some regularity.
- In "Identity" Fiona and Sam impersonate Detectives Cagney and Lacey to get a couple wannabe scam artists to leave town so their boss won't kill them. (This doubles as an Actor Allusion to Sharon Gless, who plays Michael's mom on Burn Notice and played Cagney on Cagney & Lacey.)
- In "Hot Property" Michael combines this trope with a Bavarian Fire Drill when he breaks into the Miami-Dade Police Department to steal intel. When his intrusion is discovered, he breaks a second-floor window, borrows a police jacket, and then acts authoritative to play on a rookie's "obey superiors" gene and send the cops on a wild goose chase.
- Used on two episodes in the first season of C Hi Ps. In the first one, a man in a CHP uniform pulls over young women in an effort to have his way with them. It's repeatedly said that he bears a strong resemblance to Jon which causes problems for that character. In the second, the brother of an officer killed in the line of duty does this in a well-meant attempt to carry on in his brother's legacy. (This impersonator was kept out of the police academy only by his color-blindness; he then uses his late brother's old uniform and a replica motorcycle.) Near the end, Jon gives him a lecture about all that could go wrong (safety and legal ramifications) and demands that he turn himself in on the next day.
- Major Crimes episode "Return to Sender" has Rusty's stalker pretend to be an undercover officer in order to find out the details of Rusty's police protection and lure him into an easy place to kill him. It helped that they did not reveal to him all the members of the undercover team.
- The Masters of Horror episode "Pick Me Up" features a serial killer called Wheeler who drives a truck around the woodlands to look for victims. If anyone asks Wheeler too many questions or questions his credibility, he just shows them a sheriff deputy's ID to convince them that he's actually an off-duty officer.
- In Mob City two mob hitmen infiltrate a police safe house dressed as LAPD patrol officers and murder a witness and a police detective. They had authentic uniforms and were posing as the regular shift change so it is clear that they were helped by Dirty Cops inside the department. As a result of this incident the mayor authorizes the formation of the LAPD's first Internal Affairs department.
- In The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, in the episode "Mystery of the Hollywood Phantom", The Hardy Boys see Nancy Drew unsuccessfully trying to talk her way out of trouble at an airport, and go over to help. On the spur of the moment, Joe pretends to be undercover airport security, and the brothers "apprehend" Nancy:
Nancy: (to another traveler) I'm telling you there was another man here trying to get into your suitcase!
Frank: Excuse me, what seems to be the trouble here?
Traveler: (suspicious) Is she with you?
Joe (flipping open his wallet and flashing an ID too quick to see): Airport police. Juvenile Division. I thought we told you to never work this airport, Trixie.
Frank: We'll take care of this, sir. I'm sorry there's been any inconvenience to you. (grabbing Nancy by the shoulder) Come with me, thank you very much...
Traveler: You're probably all in this together!
- Angel: In one episode Angel manages to extract information from the officers at a crime scene by acting like a pissed-off plainclothes man - largely through scowling and demanding coffee.
- In "Static", when investigating murders at the docks, Clark Kent claims to be an officer to the coroner, who believes him.
- In "Bulletproof", when investigating whether a Dirty Cop was the one who shot his friend John Jones, Clark goes undercover as an officer, complete with forged papers claiming he is "Joe Fordman". His assigned partner Dan Turpin eventually figures out he's a fake and tries to arrest him, but Clark and Green Arrow manage to convince him that they are the good guys and they arrest the corrupt cops.
- Scorpion: In "Rogue Element", Happy borrows Cabe's ID and uses it to gain access to a crime scene by posing as Homeland Security agent.
- Tracker liked this. Mel and Cole once used old police badges to get info and another time, Cole was looking for a fugitive in London and played along with a guy who thought Cole was an inspector.
- Veronica Mars: In the third season, Keith Mars, who was the former Sheriff of Neptune, dons his old uniform to grill two women for information. It fails when one of their friends recognizes him as the previous Sheriff and berates the other two for their ignorance. Later, there's a hilarious bit when Keith drives past the incompetent current Sheriff and gives him a mocking nod.
- Law & Order: SVU:
- There's an episode in which a teenager impersonated a uniformed police officer, arrested a suspect, and handed him over to Benson and Stabler. Once the ruse was discovered, it led to a big legal issue in the suspects's trial.
- Another episode had a couple PIs who carried NYPD badges to scare people off. Of course, one of them made the mistake of trying to pull the "undercover" bit on Captain Cragen and Fin, who don't buy it for a second.
PI: (flashes badge) Get lost, all right?Fin: (holds up his badge) I got one of those too. Where's your ID Card?PI: (to Fin) Hey, you know what? Gold shield doesn't mean I answer to you, okay?Cragen: (slaps his badge against the window) You answer to me.
- The Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Billionaire Mugger" concerned a police officer seen running away after seeing Sidney Teal get shot. Turns out it was an actor in a cop costume that Teal had hired as part of a scheme with his killer Archie Modine designed to impress Modine's date.
- The Bill. The police are raiding a pornographer, who accuses the police of harassing him. Inspector Monroe points out that two raids in three years is hardly harassment. Turns out several 'fake' police officers had earlier confiscated his stock. Monroe's comment tips the pornographer off about what happened, and he goes after them.
- There are few if any law enforcement agencies that the protagonists of Leverage don't impersonate at some point or other, from local police to the FBI to Homeland Security. Hardison does most of the work setting up false identities and making or obtaining fake credentials for the team to flash around; in the season 3 episode "The Morning After Job" he makes up police identification for himself and Eliot which is so convincing they are able to successfully requisition a real police cruiser for their part of the con... and are then tapped to transport a prisoner and dragged into a domestic disturbance call because theirs is the closest car to the scene.
- An early episode of White Collar first implies this when Neal requests an FBI jacket for his part of the investigation. Then subverted when Peter makes Neal promise not to wear it and impersonate an FBI agent. Neal assures Peter he wouldn't do that. Double subverted when we cut to Mozzie wearing the jacket.
- In the Rescue 911 episode "911 He's Not an Officer," a young man in a Mustang honks at a woman driving her car and flashes a badge in an attempt to get her to pull over. Suspicious of his behavior, she calls 911 on her car phone — a rarity in 1991, when the segment takes place — and tails him when he tries to flee. And yes, it turns out he was not a police officer, and was using a stolen badge.
- Happens in the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City mission "Cop Land", when Tommy and Lance disguise themselves as cops. Also, just Tommy in the mission "No Escape?" (Interestingly, both of these missions bear the names of movies starring Ray Liotta, Tommy's voice actor.)
- Saints Row: The Third has a radio advert of the Steelport Chief of Police explaining his methods of running the force and recalling all the good he's done for the city, then revealing that he's actually just a homeless man who bought a cop uniform at a costume shop to stay warm and was mistaken for a genuine officer by everyone. Enjoying the respect, he decided to clean up his act and start doing it for real. The ad in question is for the costume shop.
- In the Team Fortress 2 spin-off comics, Miss Pauling dons an ill-fitting police officer disguise to rescue/recruit the Soldier after he breaks into his former roommate Merasmus' house and kills his new roommate, Tom Jones. Oddly enough, Soldier immediately recognizes Pauling, but Merasmus goes along with her obvious attempt to frame him for the crime.
- Happens to the protagonists in Mafia II. After buying a shipment of heroin from the Triads, Vito, Joe and Henry are caught in apparent police sting. It's only when Joe notices the suspiciously expensive-looking shoes of the lead officer that Henry realizes that they are rival gangsters trying to rob them.
- One episode of Batman Beyond shows people from the criminal organization KOBRA dressing up as cops to get Batman to willingly hand over a boy they've been targeting, who knows what Batman looks like under his mask.
- A bizarre variation in one episode of South Park when the boys start out the episode playing make believe as Cops. They do such a "heroic" job saving a little girl's doll that the local Police Chief makes them honorary Junior Detectives... then sends them to go bust up a suspected meth lab as if they were real police officers.
- In an episode of Archer, the terrorist that ISIS is escorting back to Canada tries to break free with the help of friends dressed as Mounties.
- This is Truth in Television, with the legal offense subdivided into verbally claiming you're a cop, using a fake badge or warrant card, using a fake or stolen uniform, and using a fake or stolen police vehicle. The laws regarding this vary by jurisdiction: in Michigan, for example, it's only considered a felony if you're impersonating an officer while committing a different crime.
- In the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929, saw hitmen hired by Al Capone's gang dressed as police officers, captured members of the North Side gang and executed them.
- Tom Mabe did this by phone to troll a telemarketer, pretending to be a police officer investigating his own murder.
- When he wasn't pulling his Wounded Gazelle Gambit, this was Ted Bundy's other tactic at enticing his victims to come away with him—in particular, at least two would-be victims who got away stated that he approached them in this guise.
- The Hillside Stranglers did this too.
- Anders Brevik, perpetrator of the Norway Massacre. It's how he gained access to the island in the first place, pretending to be a cop so that he would be ferried to the island where the summer camp was being held, then gathering the teenagers together. . . and gunning them down.
- Anytime you see a real police department being featured in a movie or TV show, just note that the police cars featured generally are not real patrol units but special cars painted in the regular police department paint job, with some differences so as to make clear that they're not actual patrol units (typically in the form of having a fictitious district or precinct number assigned to them):
- The NYPD turns up a lot in fiction set in New York City, to the point that there is a dedicated NYPD Movie and Television Unit that exists just to assist in live action works. The NYPD has regulations in place that are designed to avoid confusing real police cars and police officers with actors or movie cars. Namely, movie patrol cars are required to be assigned fictitious precinct numbers. The list of actual NYPD precincts goes from 1-123, but skips some numbers, due to various precincts changing their boundaries, closing or consolidating with others. The skipped numbers are used for fictional precincts. Common fictional precincts include the 12th precinct, the 54th precinct, the 15th precinct, the 65th precinct, and of course the 27th Precinct ("two-seven") from Law & Order. Movie NYPD units also tend to be shown with forward-facing blue lights on the dashboard, which you won't find on real NYPD units as New York state law prohibits facing-forward blue lights on police vehicles. Movie NYPD units do have the gumball roof lights of real NYPD units, however, the movie units only have spinning gumball lights while real units have begun to use digital lights.
- The Boston Police Department also sees a lot of action in the movie industry, due to the number of productions that take advantage of tax breaks by the state of Massachusetts. Fake BPD cruisers have been marked with fictional districts to avoid confusion with real BPD cruisers.
- According to Brock Yates' book Cannonball! World's Greatest Outlaw Road Race, one driver tried this to get out of a ticket. It failed miserably. The police officers who pulled him over saw right through it and his team lost three hours before getting let off with a warning.