Police State

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"A policeman's job is only easy in a police state."

The stereotypical enemy of La Résistance, and a must have for any self-respecting Dystopia that is not in total anarchy.

Police Brutality is the standard operating procedure here and they are most likely incredibly corrupt. One popular portrayal is having them dressed perpetually as SWAT Teams. If they need a vehicle, they aren't likely to settle for a car. Fascists' Bed Time will be enforced.

Truth in Television, of course, but we won't list such situations. It's not always obvious when a country is one of these.

Variants: Culture Police, Secret Police, State Sec. Subtrope of Dystopia.


Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  

  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Amestris is a military-police state. On the other hand, it's more or less justified, as the entire country was created for the sole purpose of housing Father's giant transmutation circle for godhood, so he's the Chessmaster behind the government as well.
  • Death Note: The whole world practically functions as Light Yagami's own personal Police State for 6 years after L's death.; With Kira's law being the only law and people worshipping and obeying him as a god.

     Comic Books  

  • Flash Gordon: The parts of the planet Mongo controlled by the Emperor Ming.
  • In the Judge Dredd universe, all of the major governments are Police States of varying flavours and levels of corruption, in a more literal manner than the norm.
    • Dredd's own Mega City One is often shown to be one of, if not the nicest, or at the very least less-corrupt, places on Earth. Other cities, on the rare occasions they are featured in the main continuity, are variously portrayed as corrupt, criminal regimes, run by Freemasons, falling apart, nuked, even more oppressive, infested with zombies, religious dictatorships or horrifically cheery themepark versions of Ireland. The world of Judge Dredd is such a Crapsack World that if your city is just a police state, you're incredibly lucky!
    • Outside the Mega Cities, the Cursed Earth is less dictatorial, but generally far less pleasant overall.
    • Judge Fargo, the founder of the Judge system, never wanted America to be a police state forever. On his deathbed, he begged Dredd to restore the American Dream of freedom and democracy.
  • The Planet Georwell in Justice Machine.
  • Latveria was like this before Doctor Doom came to power; he just does it better, partly by using an army of killer robots instead of a human Secret Police. How pleasant or otherwise a place to live the country is for the ordinary Latverian varies by continuity and writer, but knowing Doom it's a safe bet that the trains really do run on time.
  • V for Vendetta is set in a Britain gone fascist, complete with armies of jackbooted thugs doing Police Brutality.

     Fan Fics  

  • The Lemony Narrator of Equestria: A History Revealed seems to believe she's living in one, with Celestia's secret police, fallacy police, and paranoid police. But with that last one, coupled with her Conspiracy Theorist nature, it's probably just all in her head.
  • My Little Unicorn: The narration states that it's benevolent; the readers (and at least one character) would beg to differ.
  • The Discworld Expanded Universe of A.A. Pessimal has lots of police states. Ankh-Morpork has Lord Vetinari in charge and aguably doesn't need a secret police: it has Sam Vimes, the (reformed) Cable Street Particulars, Dark Clerks and the Guild of Assassins, who along with the other Guilds tend to each have part of the picture as to what's going on at any given moment. But Vetinari is the man assembling the jigsaw puzzle. However, Quirm has the Deuxieme Bureau; Rimwards Howondaland has its own Bureau of State Securitynote . Far Überwald may turn out to have a Kommittee of General Benevolence overseeing its citizens and Cenotia is rumoured to have a shadowy organisation called Shin Pa'd, or perhaps The Institute, with an interest in defending its own quiet backwater of the Circle Sea.

     Film  

  • Children of Men: In 2027, after 18 years of global human infertility, civilization is on the brink of collapse as humanity faces extinction. The United Kingdom, the only stable nation with a functioning government, is deluged by asylum seekers fleeing the chaos and war which have taken hold around the world. In response, Britain has become a militarized police state as British government forces round up and detain immigrants.
  • The government of Libria from Equilibrium, whose anti-emotion laws are enforced by motorcycle-helmeted Sweepers and Gun Kata trained Grammaton Clerics.
  • In A Clockwork Orange it's strongly implied that the government is devolving into one of these. The "cure" itself even comes about because they need to free up space for future political prisoners, and the government starts recruiting street thugs as police (including Alex's former "droogs").
  • America becomes this after the Big One in Escape from L.A.. It's implied to have been heading this way in Escape from New York.

     Literature  

  • Efrafa is the dictatorship-warren established by General Woundwort in Watership Down, with a rigidly-enforced system of concealment to prevent its discovery by Men.
  • That Hideous Strength: The National Institute for the Coordination of Science (N.I.C.E). Despite it's innocent name , the Institute manages to gain enough power to this.
  • The Screwtape Letters: Hell.
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia, everything ruled by Jadis / the White Witch. C. S. Lewis has something of a pattern here.
  • Oceania in the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, with probably the biggest example being the Thought Police.
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Randall Flagg's Las Vegas colony in The Stand probably applies here, considering people are frequently crucified for crimes.
  • Dune has Giedi Prime under the Harkonnens.
    • The Harkonnens attempt to do this with Arrakis, but it doesn't work out.
    • The entire universe under the rule of Leto II. It's all to save humanity, though, so it's a bit more complex than all that,note  but it doesn't make anyone at the time any happier.
  • The post-apocalyptic nation of Panem in The Hunger Games.
  • Inquisitor Umbridge tries her best to turn Hogwarts into one in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Voldemort turns the Wizarding world of England into one in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
  • Ansul under Ald occupation is this in Voices, the second Annals of the Western Shore book. The Alds conquered it and oppress the population, but not for colonization—they only send soldiers there because they only came to smash the heretics.
  • The Federation in Shannara is like this, especially in The Heritage of Shannara, when it was a xenophobic, expansionist state, where magic was outlawed, State Sec controlled all aspects of life, and The Shadowen were pulling the strings.
  • Tom Sharpe's Piemberg farces, set in The Apartheid Era, centre on the South African Police Force in the sleepy city of Piemberg, a place stuck in a late-Victorian time warp where colonial mentalities prevail (on the part of British South Africans) and a desire to replay the Boer War exists (on the part of Afrikaaners and Boers). Both ethnicites unite in despising and distrusting blacks, however, and this is where the racist and incompetent SAPD excels. And beyond the regular uniformed police is BOSS, the Bureau of State Security. Headed locally by a psychotic and hysterical paranoic called Verkramp, who sees conspiracies against a White South Africa - everywhere. Hilarity Ensues.

     Live Action TV  

  • Doctor Who:
    • An inversion is seen in the serial "The Happiness Patrol" from 1988. The eponymous patrol used their "fun guns" and pink uniforms to suppress anyone seeming miserable or unhappy, whom they labelled "Killjoys". Some were executed by means of deadly sweets...
    • Played straight in in "The Beast Below", where England is turned into one of this. The government is keeping a secret and any dissidents who try to find out what happened are fed to the eponymous Beast Below. The Doctor figures this out pretty quickly since nobody is visibly reacting to his usual weirdness and nobody stops to inquire why a child is crying. They are too afraid.
  • Colony has an very efficient one, with a policy of disappearing anyone who might advocate against or resist the new regime, and huge. Helped by the fact that it is backed by a force of machine gun armed drones, who appear to have eliminated most soldiers and politicians who were not co-opted by the occupation, and, impliedly, alien warships in orbit.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: The Republic of Gilead. Black-clad soldiers are constantly patrolling the streets, and secret police vans snatch people off the sidewalk. In a flashback to the rise of Gilead, they respond to the women's rights marchers with machine guns and mortars.

     Music  

  • Three Days Grace's music video for "Just Like You" features the SWAT officer stereotype.
  • Disturbed's music video for "Another Way To Die" has a military-like group controlling all the earth's remaining water supplies and suppressing any form of agriculture not within their control.
  • "The State Within" by Funker Vogt:
    They can fake everything
    To prove that you are guilty
    They can erase your life
    Steal your whole identity
    There's not much you can do
    Resistance is impossible
    In the end they take your life
  • Corey Hart's Sunglasses at Night is about life in one of these, mixed with Stalker With a Crush.
    I wear my sunglasses at night
    So I can, so I can
    Watch you weave
    Then breathe your story lines
    And I wear my sunglasses at night
    So I can, so I can
    Keep track of the visions in my eyes

     Opera  

     Tabletop Games  

  • In The Splinter Earth is a police state controlled by a single corporation. Make sure to watch tv every night and report suspicious activities to the police robot that's most assuredly watching you right now. It's for your own safety.
  • In Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl, a game where you play a group of teenage anarchists out to change the world, the group creates Systems of Control that are sci-fi-ish details about the world that The Authority uses to mess with your lives. These frequently include a police state, especially if the Authority's Visage is State.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, The Imperium of Man is one of these. The Adeptus Arbites are the civilian law enforcement, keeping an eagle eye on everyone and acting on crime and criminals with Judge Dredd-level intensity. Further up the chain, the Inquisition watches everyone.
  • Paranoia is not set in any such setting. Those saying otherwise, please report to your nearest Termination Booth immediately. Have a nice day, and remember...The Computer is your friend!
  • The entire world has become this in Feng Shui's 2056 juncture, ruled over by the Bureau of Tactical Management, better known as the Buro.
  • BattleTech the Draconis Combine can be best described as this, as citizens have no rights, only duties. The Capellan Confederation likewise becomes this when one of the more insane Liao chancellors takes the Celestial Throne.

     Toys  

  • BIONICLE Metru Nui is run as this, as it is patroled by armies of Vahki who are ruthless in hunting down law breaking matoran.

     Video Games  

  • Sid Meier's Civilization series:
    • Civilization III gives us the Fascist form of government, which offers benefits to military support but also for reasons not completely explained causes many settlements to lose a few units of population when you switch to it.
    • Civilization IV has "Police State" as a civic option, with a swat officer in its portrait. Using the police state speeds up weapon production and halves the effects of wartime anger, presumably because people are too afraid to speak out or protest.
    • Civilization V features this under the Autocracy tree, which gives +3 Happiness from every Courthouse built, and also halves the time it takes to build them. In the Gods and Kings expansion, it reduces the efficiency of enemy spies by 25%, and gives YOUR spies a +25% bonus to catch the enemy spies.
    • Alpha Centauri has police state as a social engineering option and practically downright states that a few factions use them (The Hive is more or less forbidden from using anything else). You can even turn this Up to Eleven by going for complete Thought Control once you research the technology "The Will to Power" (the Nietzsche reference is intentional, and also intentionally twisted).
  • XCOM 2's ADVENT Administration is a global puppet government established after aliens invade and world governments surrender after the titular XCOM Project from XCOM: Enemy Unknown fails to combat the aliens. Ostensibly, it is run by human officials in cooperation with benevolent aliens, and is protected by an army of apparently human ADVENT Peacekeepers. In reality, ADVENT Troopers enforce a global police state that monitors all communication and public activity in city centers. They favor ID scanners in the streets, military checkpoints on seemingly every other block, patrols kitted out with assault weapons, automated turrets in public places, and a massive electronic/psionic surveillance system that links everything together. It doesn't help that all ADVENT forces wear heavy eye-concealing helmets.
  • Half-Life 2's Combine fits the bill, the Civil Protection do the most of the brutality though.
  • Fallout 3's Vault 101 security officers are to stop anyone from leaving the Vault, even if it means using deadly force.
  • Mirror's Edge. Mostly played straight. The government is a totalitarian police state that monitors all communication and public activity; however, the city cops dress rather casually (blue t-shirt and pants).
  • This is what Silvermoon, the Blood Elf capital in World of Warcraft is, or at least was before Kael'Thas was exposed as a madman. It had automated arcane sentries on every street corner, occasionally spouting propaganda, and anyone critical of the regime was quickly apprehended by the city guard and brainwashed via magic.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us the Regime world, not unlike the Justice Lords world below.
  • Freedom Wars has warring police states as one of the only forms of civilization left in the future. People living in panopticons are under constant surveillance, and any infraction, no matter how slight (including the crime of being born and representing a new drain on limited resources) is punishable by prison sentences that can easily exceed a million years.
  • The Federation in Escape Velocity Nova is, by the time the game starts, something like this. It is relatively light on the oppression for something on this page (it does still maintain the formal structure of the democratic federation it was founded as, and the rulers has to pretend to the public it still is a working democracy), but it is effectively ruled (in secret, obviously, though there is a Rebellion out to oust them) by its FBI-counterpart, the Bureau of Internal Investigation. Once you start working for the Bureau in the Federation storyline (which is fairly quickly), the missions you are allocated end up being to go to a planet, pick up a captured 'spy' or 'terrorist', and bring them in for interrogation. With each mission, it is increasingly obvious that the crimes in question was being a political dissident, culminating in you being ordered to bring in what turns out to be the Councillor — Senator, more or less — for Port Kane.
  • In the original PlanetSide, the Terran Republic is a military oligarchy that mercilessly crushes any form of dissent with riot police or tanks. In the sequel, the Republic is an actual republic, but The Remnant on Auraxis has taken on a much more authoritarian bent due resource shortages.
  • In E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy, the Federation is a totalitarian police state rife with corruption and ineptitude; every Federal area is infested with looters and pirates, and it's rare to find a Federal officer you can't bribe. E.Y.E seeks to overthrow it, albeit more for the power than the desire to actually help people.
  • In the Flash game Deep State, creating a police state in Eastern Europe is the end goal, and is accomplished by running protection rackets, selling drugs, smuggling weapons, manipulating the press and other False Flag Operations including terrorist attacks against yourself and other countries. The main mechanic is balancing the population's fear (so that you can keep passsing ever-more intrusive surveillance laws, militarizing police, curtailing civil rights, what have you), the population (the more people die, the more scared they are, but the less money they make) and your income (as you can't make as much money when the population doesn't feel safe, which is needed to fund your money-making operations).

     Web Original  

  • After the German democracy falls in the Chaos Timeline, pretty much every major power on Earth is this.

     Western Animation  

  • The Justice Lords from the Justice League did this to most of the world in their alternate universe.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Councilor Tarrlok reacts to the Equalist (nonbender revolution) capture of the Pro-Bending Arena by enforcing a curfew on all nonbenders, punishable by being thrown in jail. Tenzin naturally objects, but can't get a majority opinion on his dissent. Until Korra confronts Tarrlok, no one seems to point out that this curfew only makes Republic City into the oppressive state that Amon wants his followers to believe it is.

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