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Internal Affairs

The Police Police. More evil than the Big Bad, Diabolical Mastermind or Serial Killer, Internal Affairs is the true enemy of the Cowboy Cop and everything s/he stands for, as they're usually on a crusade to get the Cowboy Cop — who they see as being just as bad as, if not worse than, the criminals he pursues — thrown off the force with all due haste.

As the Cowboy Cop is most often the hero, however, the cops working for Internal Affairs are therefore often characterized as humorless, prissy and self-righteous desk jockeys who have no real understanding of what it's really like out there on the streets — because if they did, then there's no way that they'd get so morally uptight and outraged about the Cowboy Cop's complete ignorance of correct police operating procedure and flagrant disregard for the basic human rights of the suspect. Indeed, a frequent method of Anviliciously highlighting the moral superiority of the Cowboy Cop compared to these cops is to have him or her angrily hiss "What about the victim's rights?" when getting chewed out by Internal Affairs — to which the Obstructive Bureaucrat will of course have no answer whatsoever. In these cases, Internal Affairs seems dedicated to promoting a system of justice which actively protects the guilty whilst forcing the innocent to suffer.

It's not just the Cowboy Cop, though; the entire department seems to loathe the Internal Affairs cops with a passion. This suits the Internal Affairs cops just fine, however, as more often than not they're depicted as complete ball-breaking pricks who aren't interested in being liked by anyone; protecting the integrity of the force is simply more important. Da Chief often has a grudge against these guys as well, as they often overrule his authority and demand that he force the Cowboy Cop to turn in his badge.

Another role for Internal Affairs in fiction is to have one of their officers infiltrate a police station undercover with the intent of exposing some form of corruption, only to gradually form friendships (and even Love Interests) with the cops they are meant to be investigating. This can result in all manner of complications and angst galore when the undercover officer's role is finally exposed.

In the most positive portrayals, these are the cops that a cop protagonist can turn to when they see corruption and cannot stop it themselves. At the end, when the hero has proved his allegation, the IA cops will be the ones who come to haul away the crooked cops with the hero cop standing back, regretting such measures were necessary.

This is, in some ways, Truth in Television, as for obvious reasons there's tension between regular police officers and the regulatory authorities assigned to watch over them in real life (just as tensions exist between police officers and civilians, for much the same reasons). However, the Cowboy Cop and his supporters tend to forget or overlook the fact that the rules and regulations that Internal Affairs so staunchly uphold exist for a reason. Like them or not, without Internal Affairs keeping the worst excesses of police authority and corruption in check, things wouldn't be very pleasant.

Occasionally, this will be subverted by making Internal Affairs right, and the Cowboy Cop actually deserve having to turn in his badge.

Sub-Trope to The Inspector Is Coming and a Sister Trope to The Inquisitor General, which is much more common in military settings.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime & Manga 
  • The Inspectors from Lyrical Nanoha franchise are this for the Time-Space Administration Bureau. Although the fluff claims there are inspectors assigned to each Bureau branch and administrated world, we only see one, Verossa Acous, who is in charge of monitoring the Riot Force 6 in Nanoha StrikerS.
  • In Soul Eater Joe is a member of DWMA's Internal Affairs branch, called in to investigate when it looked like there was a mole sabotaging their missions. In spite of the circumstances, he is amiable and seems to be on good terms with the staff. As the reader can see the person he is looking for is Crona acting on Medusa's orders, it comes as a surprise when there is another Mole - Justin Law - who kills Joe moments after the investigator recognises the 'priest's' Face Heel Turn.

    Comic Books 
  • Largely subverted in Gotham Central, since most of the main cast are by the book cops. That doesn't mean they like IAD cops — but IAD are generally shown as honest guys doing an unpleasant job without malice.
    • The main IA cop featured even goes a bit rogue in one of his investigations. In order to help Detective Allen stay on the force, he surrenders a crucial bit of evidence in his investigation of corrupt CSU Jim Corrigan. He knows that it's better to have Allen on the force than Corrigan off it, and that Corrigan will screw up again.
  • In Green Lantern, Alpha Lanterns serves as that, having originally been Green Lanterns who've been given robotic implants to better serve the Corps. They're also portrayed as complete jerks. And to no one's surprise, they wind up turning evil.
    • Mind control by the Cyborg Superman; turns out removing their emotions makes them easy targets
  • The Special Judicial Service in Judge Dredd perform this function for the Judges of Mega-City One. The Movie gave them a uniform change to include face-concealing helmets and were gunned down in large numbers by Dredd.
    • In the storyline The Pit, Dredd finds himself in this role, sent to clean up what was at the time the worst sector and the worst branch of the Judges in the city, with the Chief Judge unwilling to trust the local SJS. Needless to say, things improved by the time he left.
  • In Powers, a rather friendly internal affairs cop begins investigating Deena, easily the more violent of the protagonist duo, about a suspect's death in a hospital that occurred years ago in the comic. Deena's nervous for an entirely different and much more credible reason: she just murdered her ex-boyfriend in a fit of rage after secretly contracting Contagious Powers.
  • A secondary character in Astro City: Dark Age is an IA investigator trying to crack a ring of corrupt cops in the Astro City PD, and is constantly harassing on e of the protagonists (who is honest but has a dirty partner) to inform on them. She is portrayed as a bit of a Jerk Ass, but it's made clear that she acts like that out of frustration that even honest cops won't report on the dirty ones.
  • Gordon mentions why the police dislike IA in Batman: Year One, claiming they might dangle the carrot of good integrity but after the day is over everyone still treats you like any other scum bag if you take down a cop.

[[folder:Film]]
  • Just such a subversion happened in a movie that was unsurprisingly called Internal Affairs.
  • In Lethal Weapon 3, Rene Russo plays an Internal Affairs officer Lorna Cole, who harasses Cowboy Cop Riggs (Mel Gibson) before falling in love with him. Subverted, however, in that Lorna is revealed to be, in her way, even more of a Cowboy Cop than Riggs is.
  • Two words: Dirty Harry. In the first movie, the D.A takes this role, complete with indignant "what about the rights of that little girl?" demand from Harry. In point of fact, Harry's is probably the trend-setter here.
    • What's often missed is that the D.A. is on Harry's side! The D.A. even says how he has kids and wants that scum off the streets but that the law says the bad guy must go free.
    • Then in Magnum Force, Harry ends up becoming a Cowboy Internal Affairs Cop.
  • The Sylvester Stallone movie Cobra features a stereotypically nebbishy IA cop who angrily challenges Cobra as to whether his
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