Law Enforcement, Inc.
A self-funded, self-supporting private agency which can act as a legal authority and law enforcement power, or as an official military outfit, even with minimal (if any) ties to actual government/military/police organizations. Agents can act as fully deputized and authorized agents of the law and/or government without bothering with official credentials, pesky background checks, and so forth. The strike force can consist of a One-Man Army or an entire Red Shirt Army. The agency might have its own rigorous training regimen or simply recruit former soldiers and policemen. There are no pesky "letter of the law" rules and procedures which apply to traditional agencies and seem designed to protect the guilty while punishing the innocent. The government might even sub-contract the agency to do all its dirty work. For an actual government agency version, see Heroes "R" Us. See also Private Military Contractors, which may overlap. There's also a good chance it could be part of a Mega Corp. or a N.G.O.. May employ Corporate Sponsored Superheroes. This item is available from the Trope Co. catalog
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- The Tokyo Police apparatus was privatized at some point in the history of Silent Möbius. A major plot point towards the end of the series revolves around this. Rally buys a controlling interest in order to preserve the Amplified Mystical Police from a hostile takeover.
- The police in Hyper Police are all private companies who compete with each other to catch criminals. The Heroes work for the Police Company ...Which later goes bankrupt!
- RAPT in Burst Angel. Also Hanshin Police Department, Inc., owned by the same company as the second oldest baseball team in Japan, the Hanshin Tigers (thus explaining why tigers are emblazoned on their everything).
- In its current incarnation, Legion of Super-Heroes is almost one of these, though they eventually gain official standing.
- L.E.G.I.O.N., their 1000-years-earlier sort-of-predecessor, fits the trope much better.
- As does R.E.B.E.L.S., the current in carnation of L.E.G.I.O.N.
- The Public Eye police force in Marvel 2099 work on a for-profit basis. In the intro to The Punisher 2099, a man tries to call for help, but is told that an officer will be sent once the check clears.
- In The Question, Mayor Myra Fermin was at one point considering disbanding Hub City's notoriously corrupt police force and hiring biker gangs to enforce the law.
- Death's Head, the self-described "Freelance Peacekeeping Agent", in the Marvel Universe.
- Capes is about Capes, Inc., which handles whatever business requires the attention of a superhero. Its employees act like a normal workforce — when a huge crisis erupts at night and daytime worker Bolt hears about it, he immediately states it's the night shift's problem and heads to bed.
- Exiles shows a reality where Heroes for Hire is one of these, consisting of near-every major superhero doing work for them by comission. It turns incredibly dark when their CEO refuses to help a client because they won't pay the full-price for services, resulting in a chain of events that ends with said CEO dead, and the entire population of Japan being exterminated by Moses Magnum and Namora, all because said CEO woke up in a bad mood.
- In the RoboCop movies, Omni Consumer Products has entered into a contract with the city of Detroit to run the Detroit Police Department (the OCP logo is shown to be the emblem used on the police cars). In addition to the law, they also have to follow corporate procedures, much to the annoyance of many police officers. In the first movie, it's revealed that Bob Morton and his team have restructured the department so that the best candidates for the RoboCop project are in areas where they are most likely to be killed. Also, when Murphy is suiting up for duty after he first arrives at Metro West, he speculates that OCP has to do something about transferring officers around.
- MiB in Men In Black are funded by repurposed alien technology, so that they don't have to bother with government purse strings ...or oversight.
- Outland. The company police on the space-mining colony are shown to be corrupt and apathetic, except for the protagonist played by Sean Connery.
- O'Neil (Connery's character) is stated to be a Federal Marshal, rather than the regular cops, who are on Con-Am's payroll.
- The job that we find Serenity's crew working in the beginning of the movie is actually a heist aimed at stealing the payrolls from the government-contracted security firm on a rim planet, knowing that they'll face minimal problems from the Feds later because the security company will never admit to letting their own payroll get stolen from them.
- In Kuffs, an irresponsible young man inherits his brother's San Francisco Patrol Special Police franchise.
- Literary example: The Campus in Tom Clancy's Teeth Of The Tiger basically serves as a private-sector Homeland Security and/or CIA. They are protected from the possibility of serving massive jail time only because of a large stack of undated pardons they have.
- Law enforcement, like most everything else in Snow Crash, has been completely privatized, and is the domain of such concerns as MetaCops Unlimited and its smaller, more upscale competitor, WorldBeat Security.
- In the CoDominium universe, the CoDo Fleet quasi-legally hires mercenaries to do the cleaning-up operations and planetary-government defense work they no longer have the manpower or political freedom for.
- The Ungoverned by Vernor Vinge takes this absolutely seriously, including that from the perspective of a protection company, a national government in war mode is just another crime gang to be dealt with the same way as any other. The sequel, Marooned In Realtime, suggests that by the late 21st century, governments have essentially given way to protection companies.
- The short story "The Hand You're Dealt", by Robert J. Sawyer, is about a case of murder on a habitat that has no government, only private services.
I took my pocket forensic scanner and exited The Cop Shop. That was its real name-no taxes in Mendelia, after all. You needed a cop, you hired one.
- There are apparently multiple such businesses-"Spitpolish, Inc" is mentioned as a competitor that has uniformed cops.
- Jackson's Whole in the Vorkosigan Saga works in exactly the same way. You can hire the cops to arrest someone, but the target may be able to out-bid you and thereby retain their freedom.
- Another work by Sawyer, "The Right's Tough," features astronauts that come back to Earth after over a hundred years absence to find it has become stateless. Houston no longer features a space center, so they are invited to land on the White House lawn-which has become an upscale restaurant and museum...
- The Police in Jennifer Government, also NRA to some extent, though both factions are mostly mercenaries for corporations.
- It shows up the highly corporate nature of these organisations. Notably, when a Nike employee is (forcefully) contracted to do something blatently illegal, he subcontracts to the Police, who themselves subcontract the job to the NRA. Nike later contracts the NRA to eliminate the Police manager who handled the original subcontract.
- Although not stated, this is presumably the situation in Han Dold City in So Long And Thanks For All The Fish, where one "police gang" set off burglar alarms in order to trap another police gang.
- The CorpSeCorps in Oryx and Crake, who work for the world's Mega Corps.
- In Victory Conditions, the last book in the Vattas War series, it is discovered that the actual military of Nexus has been gutted out by long-standing corruption because everybody knew that nobody would ever dare to attack them, and so the defense of the homeworld against Space Pirates ends up falling to the corporate security forces of the planet's dominant Mega Corp.. They're poorly equipped and not trained for the task, but they do have outside assistance.
- The source of Holt Fasner's power in The Gap Sequence is the fact that his United Mining Companies Police has more firepower than anyone else in human space combined. He manages to parlay it into a legal monopoly on the use of force, thus making himself the very definition of a "government" and the real master of the (legally) sovereign Governing Council.
- In Metatropolis a company called Edgewater (presumably a reference to Blackwater) has apparently supplanted the police in many of the old decaying cities such as Detroit.
- Although there's mention of a mayor in Geminate City in the Strength & Justice series, the local law enforcement agency DANDY seems to run on its own rules without restrictions or regulations.
- Vesta in The Pride Of Parahumans was intended to be an anarchistic utopia without police, but after the life support systems started breaking down from neglect a number of "Protectors' Guilds" emerged to try and bring order to the chaos. Now they run the asteroid along almost feudal lines.
- The Eldraeverse has multiple polities where the closest thing to a government are Private Law Providers. The Empire actually evolved from a merger of several PPLs that ended up monopolizing their service area and taking on a number of other public functions. But hey, they govern by the unanimous consent of their citizen-shareholders.
Live Action TV
- Angel: The Senior Partners have their own special ops outfit.
- The Judoon in Doctor Who have this as their hat.
- The Foundation For Law And Government from Knight Rider is a rare not-for-profit example, though in the original series Michael and KITT acted more like private investigators.
- Section 31 on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine operates outside official Federation recognition. Few in the government even know they exist.
- They are more like a State Sec than this, as they were an unofficial part of the government.
- The Hands of Blue in Firefly appear to be from the Mega Corp. Blue Sun Corporation (that is shown as working hand-in-glove with the Alliance state) who have the freedom to kill anyone who gets in the way of their mission to recapture River and Simon-or learns about it at all.
- Ravenwood mercenary company in Jericho is an example of this. While originally they were a run of the mill Private Military Contractor, after the attacks they gained the status of military police.
- IYS Insurance appears to be this in Leverage, since its run-of-the-mill insurance investigators are apparently allowed to use firearms in the course of their job. Especially odd is that despite being an American company, the character was in Paris at the time.
- In The Cape, Ark Corporation, run by Villain with Good Publicity Peter Fleming, privatizes Palm City's failing police department.
- The Silver Guardians from Power Rangers Time Force are a rare heroic example, crossed with Redshirt Army, an armed civilian force formed by a private company to fight off the Mutants, but also have general policing duties, including traffic. To be fair they are a non-profit organisation by the end of the show, but they were initially more like a paramilitary security-for-hire force,
- A Bit of Fry and Laurie had a sketch about this in their very first episode: Welcome to the Private Police Force. It was a humorous take on privatizations then recently conducted by the Thatcher government, as the episode states not only the police but the UK high roads and even the royal family have been privatized. And it implies the police force is now owned by Americans.
- In one episode of RoboCop: The Series, aside from previous problems from OCP seen in the films, OCP hires out a street gang to enforce the law in one of the more problematic neighbourhoods (section five). Problem being that their police work involved stealing, extortion and drug dealing; beating up anybody that opposed them with sledgehammers. To make it worse OCP put kill switches in all the real cops cars to prevent them from entering section five and Robocop had a new directive added that make it impossible for him to enter.
- Police duties in the Cyber Punk / Dungeon Punk Tabletop RPG Shadowrun are overseen mostly by private megacorporations, such as Austin-based Lone Star and the Knight Errant division of Ares Macrotechnology.
- The Dungeons & Dragons setting of Eberron has plenty. House Deneith is the biggest, but House Medani and House Tharashk do it also. That and everyone of the 13 Dragonmarked Houses (Eberron's equivalent of a Mega Corp.) has its own security service that is however subject to local laws.
- In Deadlands, the United States initially hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to serve as The Men in Black. They later form an official agency to deal with the supernatural, headed by Allan Pinkerton and largely manned by former Pinkerton agents.
- Extropian habitats in Eclipse Phase don't have "laws" per se, but there are a number of hypercorps such as Gorgon Defenses who provide judicial services to their clients, ranging from physical protection of one's person and property to lawsuits.
- In Hc Svnt Dracones One Nation Under Copyright is the standard form of post-human governance, but for the last three hundred years most Corptowns have outsourced security to the Inner Ring Police Force, as the entire company follows one set of rules rather than constant changes whenever a new CEO or executive takes charge.
- The police in Urinetown are run by UGC.
- The Rokkaku Police from Jet Set Radio are owned by the Rokkaku Group, they are sent to arrest various teen skater gangs throughout Tokyo to the point where they send SWAT teams, Gunships and Tanks.
- Elanus Risk Control Services, an arms manufacturer, provides security and policing on the corporate-run world of Noveria in Mass Effect. In Mass Effect 2, various mercenary groups provide security forces on several worlds in the Terminus Systems.
- The Carrington Institute from the video game Perfect Dark.
- The Liberty Police, Inc. from Freelancer. Though they will err on the side of arresting you (more arrests = more prisoners = larger workforce for their private prisons), they aren't portrayed as any more or less effective than the more traditional police forces in the other nations.
- According to the backstory, LPI began as basically rent-a-cops but the local regular police were so useless LPI eventually took their place with everyone's approval.
- To a lesser extent, the PIG Security group in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City enforce law against gangs in the airport, Starfish Island and the mall - but are sometimes seen by cops as a gang.
- Sam and Max: Freelance Police, as their name suggests.
- "The Shop" from the Soldier of Fortune series of video games.
- In City of Heroes, Hero Corp is an organization that employs heroes for profit, selling their services to the law enforcement agencies of the area they're in. Many heroes look down on Hero Corp as sell-outs and ethically challenged, but many more look to it as a way to be a hero full-time, without a mild-mannered day job.
- Pirandello-Kruger in Mirror's Edge make up the vast majority of combat-armoured enemies in the game. They serve the function of SWAT teams, and are responsible for Project Icarus, a training regimen for pursuit cops to chase down and eliminate runners. They operate parallel to the city police, the "Blues", but are not intimately connected besides working to stop Faith and the other runners.
- The Caldari State in EVE Online has eight private police agencies, one for each megacorporation.
- Borderlands has the Crimson Lance. They are a PMC under the created and financed by the Atlas Corporation, although they have little bearing on any non-DLC story other than being Demonic Spiders.
- Left 4 Dead 2, CEDA hired a private security firm to protect civilians, but they became infected too. The survivors having to kill some in the campaign, "The Parish".
- The Agency in Crackdown bring peace to the city, at the cost of turning it into a totalitarian dictatorship.
- In the X-COM series, the originally government-funded titular organization is purchased by a tycoon after the end of the First Alien War, being Genre Savvy enough to realize the threat is not over. A bit of a subversion, as the company charter specifically includes a clause that allows the government(s) to take control of the company in the event of an alien incursion. This happens in Terror from the Deep, when the underwater branch of X-COM is called upon to protect Earth. This happens again in Interceptor, where the X-COM Company sends a force to the Frontier to protect human colonies. A somewhat related weapons manufacturer and PMC known as MARSEC is in charge of doing the same for Mars, while its rival company Megapol handles the law enforcement in Mega Primus on Earth.
- In The Longest Journey, the local police force is owned and backed by a soft drinks megacorp (which, amazingly, is not part of the villain group). In addition to reading you your rights, they'll read you the latest catchy slogan and inform you of what new amazing flavors are out this month.
- C.E.L.L. in Crysis 2.
- Baldur's Gate has the Flaming Fist as the de facto police in both the titular city and the surrounding countryside, despite the Flaming Fist technically being a mercenary company. They still take their roles as law enforcement very seriously. So much so that if you ever fight them, their battle cry is "I AM the law!"
- The city of Rapture in Bioshock has no official government and originally had no laws; Rapture Security can thus be presumed to have started out as the equivalent of mall rent-a-cops. Even after Andrew Ryan starts ruling over the city with an iron fist, his order to kill a "subversive" citizen is portrayed like a hit job.
- In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, while there are still a few token police officers in Hengsha, it's repeatedly stated that they were de facto replaced by Belltower Associates.
- Schlock Mercenary features Sanctum Adroit, a mercenary company that provides armed and armored security services to several habitats in the Celeschul system. They're considerably more principled than most examples, capturing a squad of Tagon's Toughs without firing a shot and apprehending their own client when he tries to convince them to kill the Toughs.
- Pretty much the entire model for law enforcement in Farrel, one of the larger countries in the world of Errant Story, with the added feature that if a rent-a-cop outfit doesn't work out and is dropped by the town where they operate, they simply go over to the dark side and become bandits. Jon, a member of one of the dark-side outfits with a Murder, Inc. product line, explains this to Snark Knight Sarine, who reacts about as one might expect.
Sarine: So the same people who train the law enforcement also train the criminals... what a remarkably efficient system.Ellis: When you say these things, do even you sometimes have trouble telling whether you're being sarcastic or not?
- SpringShield, founded by Homer Simpson, Lenny Leonard and Carl Carlson on The Simpsons, which went on to take over police chores for the whole city. Amusingly it ended because they got too good. Homer went and arrested Fat Tony, essentially ending crime in Springfield. As soon as he was released, he announced that he and his associates would kill Homer the next day, which lead to Homer pleading with the townspeople to help him. Of course, they didn't — even Lenny and Carl abandoned him. Homer lampshaded it perfectly:
Homer: I don't get it. I finally did a job where I wasn't lazy, stupid or corrupt — and I'm gonna get killed for it!
- On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Misery Inc. has it's own private army. Noticably, it seems to be the only form of law enforcement in Miseryville.
- Bounty Hunting/Bond Enforcement is a common real life manifestation of this idea, though both the successfulness and legality of the work tend to vary. A lot.
- Bounty hunting is only legal in two countries: the United States (but not every state) and the Philippines. Unlike police officers, bounty hunters have no legal protections against injuries to non-fugitives and few legal protections against injuries to their targets.
- While private investigators don't necessarily enforce the law, they do enough law-related work and occasionally criminal investigations to possibly qualify.
- Security firm Blackwater (currently Academi) tried doing this, and now its members have been accused of overstepping their authority in Iraq.
- Finnish Protection Service, who have been criticized for issuing parking tickets. It was ruled that since they were employed by another firm AND had informed people that they would issue tickets for illegal parking, they didn't break law.
- The historical Pinkertons gained an especially bad reputation among unions for strikebreaking and excessive force. There was one particular incident where the state militia had to be called in to rescue the Pinkertons who attempted to sneak up on striking workers at the Carnegie Homestead Steel plant. The U.S. government even had to ban itself from hiring Pinkerton agents.
- In some states of the U.S., all it takes to have your own legal private police is a license to operate a railroad. The president of the railroad can appoint anyone as railroad police (or can appoint a chief of the railroad police with the power to do the same), and even though they are private employees of a commercial organization, they have the same power as the state police or the highway patrol anywhere in the state. If the railroad operates in multiple states, the railroad police typically have authority in all of the states the railroad operates in. Some states require the governor to recognize the railroad (California) and some states merely require the railroad apply with a circuit court to get permission to appoint railroad police (Virginia).
- The company police forces of North Carolina.
- Between roughly 1870 and 1930 the Coal and Iron Police had law enforcement powers in Pennsylvania. They were, as the name suggests, paid and run by the coal and iron companies.
- Apex Security Group is a security firm in the US that only hires law enforcement officers.
- Sandy Springs and the other "contract cities" that have sprung up in New Orleans; their local government is made up of the four guys that sign contracts to allow for CH2M Hill performing all of the actual work.
- Some forms of anarchism believe that such private militias could replace the state law enforcement and do a better job than it does. Anarcho-capitalism, in particular, advocates "private defense agencies" — thus taking the "inc." part of the trope name literally. Its advocates think these agencies would work like the heroic versions of Law Enforcement, Inc., while its critics often argue that their profit motive would lead them squarely into the territory of the corrupt versions of the trope.
- Reality in the UK; a more recent version advertises directly to the public in what basically amounts to a protection racket.
- Clamping of cars in cities is often done by a private firm. Many of these have been accused of being overzealous in order to make a profit.
- San Francisco Patrol Special Police agencies are an additional police force for paying customers that have the same peace officer status as the regular SFPD.
- In many cities, regular police officers often do the same thing for overtime money in which they are essentially acting as security guards with full authority to make arrests. In San Francisco, there have been disputes between SFPD and that Patrol Special Police over this issue.
- Similar to San Fransisco, New York City has Special Patrolmen, who're frequently hired to provide security at museums, public libraries, and private universities within the city. The difference is they do NOT have the same peace officer status as the NYPD. They only have peace officer status while at the location they're hired to protect, and have no arrest powers while off duty. Most S Ps don't even carry guns.
- Urban legend alleges that Disneyland and Walt Disney World have their own police forces, but this isn't actually true: the parks' security staff can only detain troublemakers awaiting the arrival of state police. The misconception probably arose because the legal jurisdiction of municipal cops from Anaheim or Orlando does not extend to the parks.
- Untrue at least in the case of Anaheim; incidents of racial profiling by Disney security resulted in a court order mandating that at least one sworn Anaheim police officer be present whenever Disney security detains someone.
- You get a lot of these on college campuses, especially in the US. Larger, more prestigious, and wealthier schools (especially public colleges) can be important and influential enough to have their own police force. However, many other schools (normally smaller private colleges) tend to rely on the city police.
- There are privately-run prisons in the United States. There have been scandals in which these prisons bribe judges to send more inmates to them, increasing their profits, or running shoddy, substandard, understaffed, or otherwise unsafe facilities, also for greater profit. Private prison operators have also been shown to be backing very strict immigration enforcement (such as the draconian laws in Arizona) in order to increase detentions of illegal immigrants (actual or suspected) and thus increase the need for immigrant detention centers.
- A number of criminal organizations originated this way, of sorts.
- The Mafia began during Sicily's transition from feudalism to a province of mainland Italy. There were not enough police to maintain order properly and many people turned to powerful families with lots of muscle for protection.
- The Yakuza claim to be descended from Ronin vigilante groups, though many scholars believe that they were little better than the thugs they supposedly protected the peasantry from.