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Lawman Gone Bad
At first glance, he is the Reasonable Authority Figure or maybe even a Gentleman Detective. However, if you push them too far in just the right place (May or may not be their Berserk Button), he will have a good reason to become an outcast from the police force and perform a Face-Heel Turn. What makes this character ostracize himself from the law that he worked for varies exponentially; He has either heard bad news about his social life, a position that he worked so hard for is not as great as he thinks, or the directions that he works under put him under too much pressure.

It's usually a twist ending.

In a heist movie a lawman pursues the villains and once he catches or kills them he realizes that he has nothing to go back to and decides to keep the loot for himself and start a new life.

If the lawman is not the hero of the story then he might do a full Face-Heel Turn. After helping the hero defeat the villains, he turns on the hero and tries to kill him so he can have the money for himself.

To put it bluntly, this character is what's known as a Lawman Gone Bad. This is a character who takes pride in working for the law before an incident that makes him snap causes him to distance himself from those that he used to work for.

The character may also be a Big Bad Friend.

Related to: Dirty Cop


Examples

Comic Books
  • This may be the fate of Inspector Finch at the end of V for Vendetta, when the Norsefire system is collapsing. See also under film.
  • According to Word of God, this is the backstory of Jackie Boy from Sin City. The audience only sees Jackie as an abusive drunk with an allusion to being a "hero cop" in the past. Apparently, he once earned the accolades of a hero but unknown circumstances led him down a dark path.
  • Sheriff Halliday becomes this at the end of Hitman Annual #1, when he tries to take possession of A MacGuffin Full of Money for himself.

Film
  • A prime example is Captain Culpepper (played by Spencer Tracy) from the 1963 Comedy film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. At first he intends to confiscate the stolen money and presumably return it to its rightful owners, but after being buried under an ever-increasing mountain of bad news from his homelife and regarding his police pension (or lack thereof), he devises A Simple Plan to get the dough for himself and skip on down to Mexico for his "retirement".
  • In the western There Was a Crooked Man a new warden (Henry Fonda) at an Arizona prison tries to institute reforms but a Manipulative Bastard inmate (Kirk Douglas) uses this to stage a mass escape. The warden pursues the inmate and the inmate meets a Karmic Death while retrieving the loot from one of his robberies. The warden returns with the inmate's body and the loot to the prison but realizes that a new warden has been appointed in the meantime. Disgraced and out of a job, he sends the horse with the body toward the prison while he and the money ride off to start a new life.
  • In Minority Report, the trope is both subverted and played straight. For a while, it seems as if John Anderton will become a murderer, since he's already abusing illegal drugs to cope with the death of his son. In fact, it's his boss, Lamar Burgess, who has been committing murders to validate the pre-crime system.
  • Unlike the more ambivalent ending of the Comic Book, the film version of V for Vendetta has Finch clearly joining "V" (actually Evey) when the rebellion against the fascist government begins.
  • Ed Kilifer in Licence to Kill. He is a DEA agent who accepts a $2 million dollar bribe to spring drug lord Sanchez from federal custody.
  • Harvey Dent / Two-Face from The Dark Knight. Originally the White Knight of Gotham, he goes ballistic and insane after some antics by The Joker.
  • In Hard Rain, Randy Quaid's character Sheriff Mike Collig does this. Being forced to stay behind and guard an empty flooded-out town from looters, a town who's citizens just voted you out of office was apparently the straw that broke the camel's back.
  • Speed: Howard Paine (Dennis Hopper) was a former member of the LAPD bomb squad, who turned Mad Bomber after being forcibly retired, due to an accident which injured his hand. But he was ineligible to collect his pension. Howard did not take this well.
    Jack: (over phone) "Why didn't you just come after me?"
    Paine: (scoffs) "You?! This isn't about you, this is about ME!! It's about My money! This is about money due ME! Which I WILL collect!"
  • The Czech cop in xXx who after one too many humiliations turns informant for the bad guys.
  • Max Rockatansky (of Mad Max) started out as a highway cop in a disintegrating dystopian future; he didn't turn bad so much as become a free agent independent of the law in order to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the motorcycle gang that murdered his family. Then, between the end of the first film and the start of the next one, the apocalypse broke outů
  • In the film Rough Cut Burt Reynolds (The Gentleman Thief) tries to steal a case of rough cut diamonds, being protected by a Police Chief bent on capturing him. After the gang get the case to the Bahamas, Burt reveals that the diamonds are fakes. Cue the entry of the Police Chief with the actual case, "selling" it to them for a share of the cut.

Literature
  • The Alloy of Law has Miles Hundredlives, who was once a good if Knight Templar -ish lawman but turned to evil when he decided that the political figures he worked for were the real criminals.
  • Tomas Sergar from The Children Of Man is a secret member of the Brethren, the order of black-aligned mages seeking to take over the world. He is also the head of the Daniyelan Order, this world's international police force.

Live-Action TV
  • Shane is this in The Walking Dead.
  • In an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation the team investigates a series of killings related to the murder of a mob boss many years before. It's mentioned that a patrol officer called in the car crash/body but mysteriously vanished along with the ill gotten gains and the possibility of this trope is discussed. It turns out that the corpse that was thought to be the mob boss's was actually his; killed in order to serve as a decoy.
    • In CSI: New York Mac discovers that his first partner became one of these. Having stolen a large amount of money from a crime scene (he was nearing retirement and didn't think he was being paid enough) and murdered the girlfriend of the guy who has a vendetta against him and Mac (he doesn't know, then doesn't care Mac wasn't responsible).
  • Inverted in the canceled TV Series Shark where the protagonist, lawyer Sebastian Stark turns from defending criminals to being a prosecutor.
  • In its first and second seasons, White Collar had Agent Fowler, a seemingly corrupt OPR agent who was after Neal but who turns out to be a case of this: his wife was killed and then he killed her assassin, leaving himself open to blackmail by the big bad.
  • Elementary:
    • In "One Way to Get Off", we learn that Gregson's former partner D'Amico planted evidence on Wade Crewes because the police couldn't prove his guilt legitimately. When By-the-Book Cop Gregson calls her out on this, she's more concerned with the potential impact on her career than the miscarriage of justice.
    • The villain in "A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs" is an undercover DEA agent who tries to make some money on the side by kidnapping the daughter of Holmes' old drug dealer.
    • The culprit of "Details" is an ex-girlfriend of Detective Bell's, who was also a beat cop. She had been trying to get promoted into Vice, but after learning that Bell went to Internal Affairs with evidence that her late superior was a Dirty Cop on a major drug case they were all working on, her chances were next to nothing so she took it out on Bell.
  • The villain in the It Takes a Thief (1968) episode "The Artist Is for Framing" is a police inspector with a perfect record who's about to retire. He's obsessed with capturing Al as a final triumph, so he commits robberies using Al's techniques and frames him for the crimes.

Video Games
  • Several examples from the Mass Effect series:
    • Garrus starts off in Mass Effect 1 as a security officer in the Citadel (as well as a Spectre candidate) but quits due to his Cowboy Cop tendencies and eventually goes vigilante in a Wretched Hive in Mass Effect 2.
    • Shepard him-/herself is seen as this by the Alliance and the Council, due to being an ex-Spectre (elite agent of the galactic government) who now collaborates with the pro-human terrorist group Cerberus to deal with alien abductions that the Alliance refuses to acknowledge. In actuality, however, Shepard never goes over to the bad guys.
    • Also from Mass Effect 2, the asari spectre Tela Vasir is revealed to have cooperated with the crime lord Shadow Broker after growing disillusioned with proper procedure. She still considers herself serving a greater good, which she believes to justify the questionable means, and calls Shepard out on his/her own cooperation with Cerberus.
  • Max Payne is a NYPD detective in the first two games but is forced by circumstances (both times involving him being framed for murder of another officer) to go on a one-man crusade against the local mobs both times.
    • In a twist for the second game, he actually does kill another detective, except she's in bed (literally) with the Big Bad.
    • Supplementary material for 3 reveals that the Cracha Preto used to be lawmen who went on Vigilante sprees against criminals the law couldn't or wouldn't touch. Then they experienced Motive Decay and descended into being plain paramilitary thugs.
  • According to Batman: Arkham Origins, this is the Riddler's backstory in the Batman Arkham Series: Edward Naston was a member of the GCPD's cybercrimes division before going rouge.

Western Animation
  • Jingles Morgan in the Bravestarr episode "Fallen Idol".


Knight TemplarHeel Face IndexLove Makes You Evil
Ladykiller in LoveAlways MaleLazy Husband
Killer CopCops and DetectivesLemming Cops
Laughably EvilVillainsLeaking Can of Evil

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