Whenever someone in film or on TV reports a murder, or a monster, or a stalker or whatever, the police come as close to ignoring them as procedure (and the local captain) will allow. And that's if the report is from a respected professional; if they're an Agent Mulder, or worse yet, a teenager, the cops might try to pin charges on them!
If it's a mystery with a respected Amateur Sleuth, the police detective the amateur has to deal with will be, at best, an Inspector Lestrade, and at worst an Obstructive Bureaucrat.
Also common in children's shows, since all Adults Are Useless. They might not even make it to the police station, but just (correctly) assume that no one would believe them.
In addition to police, this trope also covers the military, security guards, and other people whose job is to protect others.
A common interpretation of this trope is merely people not knowing how law enforcement actually works - This was part of why Police Quest was considered one of the most realistic games at the time it was made; because you actually couldn't just take what you thought was the obvious solution because it was either illegal, incredibly dangerous, or both. (Even law enforcement has to follow the law, despite some exceptions and what those games of cops and robbers may tell you.) Many times, the most obvious solution is actually a pretty good way to get yourself or others hurt or killed.
The Awful Truth is that this is justified - Police are more often than not, just everyday people who want to get through their jobs. It's easier to pin a crime on the guy right in front of you than to try and catch the real bad guy, who could be anywhere. In corrupt cities/states, it's even worse; law enforcement may have been bought out by a corrupt government or organized crime. Someone may cover their tracks well enough or exploit a lot of other loopholes to remain legally untouchable, e.g. Al Capone. In sparsely populated areas or small towns, chances are greater that the police aren't numerous/trained/equipped enough, but this is sometimes true of even big-city law enforcement who theoretically have to deal with a lot of stuff on a day-to-day basis. Also, the system often grades police by the amount of arrests they have made, and the amount of sentencing their arrests lead to, rather than their ability to actually catch bad guys. And, of course, some are just standard-issue bumblers. Finally, per case law, and charters and job requirements of some police departments (specifically at least the NYPD) police have no Constitutional dutyto protect citizens from harm, and some police follow this to the letter viewing their role as only to make arrests and issue fines, not to actually investigate or even save you from a criminal attack.
Some things police do in Real Life understandablyseem lazy or useless to outside observers, too, when they actually aren't - like sitting in their car eatingnote As anyone who has worked any security can tell you this is a side effect of having a job where most of it is waiting for something to happen as opposed to jobs where earning money is dependent on action or a crowd of them arriving and standing around for a simple traffic stopnote considering that any interaction can turn deadly - imagine how you would feel if you coworker was shot and you were sitting in your car two blocks away eating a donut.
See also The Only One and Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop, though they are not necessarily incompetent: It may just be that the "calls" are too nonsensical to be believed by someone who doesn't know they're in a show. You Have to Believe Me occurs when the police don't believe the person because the person is presenting their case in a fashion where no one reasonable would believe them. Lemming Cops is another related trope. Contrast I Fought the Law and the Law Won, as well as The Men in Black, who do believe your reports of ghosts/monsters/whatever and probably know more about them than you do, but are still bad news, and Militaries Are Useless when the authorities do try to help, but fail for dramatic tension.
For the complete opposite, see Police Brutality, though they can easily be combined - Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop being one example, where some cops are brutal and some are useless and some are both, and cops who are brutal but useless - as in the people they beat up and kill are innocent, while real criminals escape because they know how to play by the rules.
The AD Police from Bubblegum Crisis could save a lot of money by firing everyone except Leon and Daley. And Nene, since they'd still need a dispatcher.
Really, they just need Leon. Daley only exists to hint at Leon's closeted homosexuality, and Nene doesn't need to dispatch anyone because Leon just goes off to fight Boomers whenever. Then they could use the extra helicopter budget to fund his ridiculous revolver that can kill Boomers.
In an episode of Pokémon, the Sinnoh police are trying to stop a robbery in the Eternia museum. The object stolen was the Adamant Orb. However, the police force make some truly awful mistakes. Such as:
They arrest a reoccurring character, Nando, as a suspect, despite the fact that Officer Jenny saw the robbers (Team Rocket, naturally), of which there were two of, on the roof, who looked nothing like their arrested suspect. And this was an accusation being made by the same Officer Jenny.
When Ash and co. try to protest Nando's innocence, Jenny produces a picture of a Sunflora (a Pokemon that Nando owns, and that ran off during his arrest) making off with the Adamant Orb, and essentially declares "Ta Da! All the evidence we need!", despite the fact that A: a picture like that is not enough incriminating evidence and B: anyone who would compare this picture with one of a real Sunflora could see that the one in the surveillance photo looks like something in a bad Sunflora costume (it's actually Meowth in a Sunflora costume).
The police do not search anyone else in the building. Lampshaded by the Jenny from Viridian City (who came to the museum because it was her day off).
In the interrogation room, Jenny refuses to listen to anything Nando says.
And finally, in one moment when Team Rocket are fleeing the building, there is a massive crowd of police there waiting for them, but due to Team Rocket being previously sprayed by a Stunky, the smell emitting from them makes all the offices block their noses and they move into what looks like a guard of honor position allowing Team Rocket to run through and escape. What. It wasn't just this idiot Jenny. In a lot of Pokémon episodes, the Jennies can't or don't do anything to stop whatever crime is happening. And quite a few times, they do more harm than good. They've let Team Aqua escape once, and on many occasions, Team Rocket.
They do seem somewhat competent whenever Butch and Cassidy are involved in something. In fact, probably the one thing that James and Jesse are better at than most other Rockets, including them, is staying out of jail.
In Pokemon Special, Byron outright says that police can't handle evil terrorist organizations. The Gym Leaders and the kids who are strong enough to challenge them do that instead.
In Real Drive, the only police presence seen are rather unintimidating, cone-shaped robots. Even when a madman runs amok in a shopping mall, mugging passbyers with impunity, no authority figure makes an effort to stop him.
In Mouse, the titular protagonist's success as a thief can be mostly attributed to the police's inability to do anything except stand around and curse his name. For instance, in the very first scene in the first episode, he steals a valuable mask by lifting the whole museum and flying it away with helicopters. The police never think of maybe following the hovering building being carried off very slowly by a large, loud vehicle? Maybe in a police helicopter? Or with a car, even? Later he also steals a tower that conveniently has a floating base by breaking its foundations and towing it out of the harbor with boats. While the police stand in the docks and marvel at Mouse's wondrous "water-traveling contraptions" that they apparently haven't figured out. Seriously, people!
The Paradigm City police on The Big O are confounded by their uselessness in the face of Humongous Mecha attacks on their beloved town; the day is generally saved by self-styled "negotiator" Roger Smith as pilot of the title mech. This is a somewhat more realistic case as trying to take down a Humongous Mecha with a measly tank just won't fly. They'd probably be pretty good at their jobs if not for that.'
The police in Lupin III sometimes come across this way, but it's more to do with who they're chasing. Inspector Zenigata, for example, is usually shown as being good at his job, it's just that Lupin is even better at his... Zenigata doesn't stand much of a chance of success, but it's strongly implied that he's the only guy who has any chance at all against Lupin.
Detroit Metal City. For all the crazy stunts Krauser pulls off in public (which includes inadvertent assault on a police officer), the police never seem to bother with following it up or taking any of the band members into custody.
The police in Code Geass are an interesting case. While never shown to explicitly kick any dogs, they are generally included in Lelouch's "all Britannian authorities are corrupt and must be obliterated" mindset. This is implied in Lelouch and Suzaku's debate in an early episode about whether the Black Knights are heroes for Justice, or whether they are vigilantes who should just join the police force and work from within the system if they want to enact change (Lelouch comments that they'd simply be absorbed and corrupted by the system). They're not shown to protect or serve the Numbers in the Ghettos, and it's implied that they may have been involved in the smuggling of Refrain. The episode in which they gain the most (and any positive) coverage is when Lelouch geasses them into shooting Mao after Lelouch beats him using that tape trick.
In the world of Hentai, at least 25% of all cases of sexual intercourse would qualify as sex offenses. And yet the only times the police can be said to be involved in the case is when a policewoman is the victim, or a policeman is the perp.
A strange example in Codename: Sailor V: the police made to look useless by Sailor V showing it up by taking not only on the youma but also on many normal criminals (the first cops to appear in the manga found that Sailor V had captured the crooks before them again). So, what does their boss do? She hires Sailor V.
In One Piece most marines are completely incapable of stopping main heroes or any other more notorious criminals running around. Straw Hats and Whitebeard Pirates seem to do a better job helping distressed citizen. However, it’s justified, because most of said criminals can turn into elemental forces at will, have Super Strength and Super Speed or are otherwise beyond ability of normal soldier to handle. Only people who can fight them are others with similar abilities (mainly other criminals like Staw Hats). Whitebeard, on the other hand, is The Dreaded whose sole name and declaration of ownership of an island is enough to keep it out of harm’s ways. This trope is also subverted by most of the marine officers, who posses superpowers or are Badass Normals themselves and proved they are more than competent when it comes to chasing down the criminals.
Perhaps the biggest aversion of this trope is the battle at Marineford. Not only do they succeed in executing Ace as planned, but when Whitebeard and his entire army shows up to stop them, they kill Whitebeard and win that fight, too. The only thing that worked against them is Whitebeard managing to spark a second age of piracy in his dying moments.
The police in Detective Conan certainly mean well, and they seem generally competent at dealing with street-level crime. But they still end up relying on a high school kid to solve every murder case in town. Most cases involve the cops missing obvious clues, which Conan has to point out to them, and then standing around dumbfounded at the end while Conan reveals the killer's identity. On the rare cases when they do make an arrest on their own, it's usually the wrong guy, and then Conan has to save the accused by finding the real culprit.
The Roanapur police in Black Lagoon are totally corrupt and impotent to the point that they can't stop crime at all, and so turn a blind eye to practically everything while taking bribes.
Meanwhile, the Japanese police aren't exactly useless and are competent, but they're pretty ineffective at dealing with the sudden rash of explosions and massacres that occur during the Tokyo arc.
Naruto: While the governments do have safety nets to deal with rogue ninjas, these are incredibly inadequate. The people in charge of taking out rogue ninjas are NamelessFaceless Goons that get slaughtered by anything stronger than a stiff breeze while said rogues are, almost without exception, THE strongest ninjas in the world.
Death Note: The Police are discouraged to chase Kira, after he killed the false L, and he forces the FBI to surrender after he killed several FBI agents. Only a few police officers try to chase him, but they are not smart enough how to do it. They need the help and lead of people who do not work for the police, but by their own. That includes the anonymous master detective L, the college student Light (who is Kira), both for the Japanese Special Unit, and the teenage L-wannabe Near for the SPK.And many states surrender to Kira.
Mello is probably Genre Savvy enough, maybe that's why he allies with the mafia instead the police.
The irony, Kira needs the police because he need names and faces of arrested criminals to kill them.
Though other members of the investigation team still manage to contribute greatly. Even the normally-useless Matsuda has some pretty big moments.
In The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer, Nagumo quit his job as a police detective after an attempted-murderer was let off without charges being filed due to nepotism in the force. It's the last straw that leads Nagumo to conclude he's no longer able to actually help people and serve justice in the police. A later conversation with his former partner hints strongly that someone in the government is actively preventing the police from looking into the secret war, even when people die.
The police in Yozakura Quartet have their hands tied by orders from higher-up. The government, possibly influenced by the Senate, considers youkai-only problems to be hands-off. If the cops in Sakura-shinmachi want to get involved the head of the department has to decide it's gotten serious enough to warrant police involvement. What counts as "serious enough" has a pretty high threshold, though, and the one time they get orders to actively move out it's because a minor has been abducted and is about to be murdered and cannibalized, the kidnapper is also targeting one of their own, and the main characters who usually take care of everything are currently out of town. It's not even that the police can't contribute to a fight, it's that there's a lot of Fantastic Racism from their superiors who don't much care if the youkai are fighting among themselves.
Subverted in Samurai Flamenco. They're not actually useless, it's just that they tend to overlook many smaller crimes (like jaywalking and smoking in public) because it takes time from dealing with more serious crimes. The apathy is the reason protagonist Masayoshi takes up the Samurai Flamenco act. He can deal with the criminals that the police can't, or won't, deal with themselves.
In Batgirl Year One, Barbara Gordon goes to a Police Ball, and they are attacked by Killer Moth. Hundreds of cops against a guy with a glue gun and less than half a dozen of thugs; and the only ones who does anything are the bibliotecary with five-inch heels and Bruce Wayne dressed as a harlequin. Police can't be more useless!
Averted in an early Captain America story when the Sentinel of Liberty is trying to stop a number of destructive Sleeper robots. He decides he can't stop them on his own and races to a military base and they take little persuasion to help the superhero fight the machines.
The Runaways' first approach to discovering their parents are supervillains is to call the cops. Alex's explanation that their parents are all supervillains does not get them much aid. Part of this may be the extent of influence their parents have. Alex is also deliberately making their story sound insane.
In Superhero comics, police officers and security guards are rarely more than an annoyance for even the lowest-level supervillain. There are occasional subversions, however, when they save the hero's life or capture the criminal before the hero does.
One such example is the Metropolis Police Department Special Crimes Unit, which was organized to oppose supervillains as best they can. More importantly, they got their own mini-series to show that they are very good at their work. Mirrored in Superman: The Animated Series where Dan Turpin saves Superman or stalls the villain long enough for Superman to catch his breath and recover. The SCU gets to fight off alien invaders while Superman prevents natural disasters they are causing, and Turpin squeezes in a Heroic Sacrifice to rescue Superman from their leader.
The Gotham City Police Department also got their own ongoing series that highlights the difficulty of being a cop in a city full of costumed whackjobs. In the first story arc, they need Batman's help to apprehend Mr. Freeze, but run down the new Firebug on their own after he murders a girl who discovers his Secret Identity. Being Gotham, especially in the early years of Batman's career, it wasn't so much "Police are Useless" as "Police are Corrupt or Too Scared To Be Useful". Perhaps best illustrated in Kingdom Come where the Metropolice PD apprehends the Joker after he's released poison gas in the Daily Planet, before Superman.
In a more general sense, this trope is averted more in Batman, where the GCPD or at least Gordon and co are important allies of the Bat, than it is in most superhero comics where it's played straight.
Another subversion occurred as far back as the 1960s in an early Spider-Man comic, where Spider-Man tracked down the crime boss known as the Big Man and captured most of his gang for the police but the Big Man gets away. Thinking that the Big Man is his boss, J. Jonah Jameson, Peter Parker returns to the Daily Bugle in hopes of helping the police catch him. It turns out, though, that Peter was wrong, and the police managed to track down the real Big Man, who was in fact reporter Frederick Foswell.
Averted in Starman. The O'Dares, a family of policemen (and woman), regularly help Jack because his father saved their father. They start by capturing the Mist while Jack fights the Mist's son and keep up that track record throughout the series. Jack & his father consider them friends and celebrate Christmas with them.
Elks Run looks like a case of this at first, and the initial two policemen sent to investigate don't survive very long. However, it's a major plot point that Conservation of Ninjutsu does not apply to the cops—if reinforcements come, everything's over.
Averted in Judge Dredd, the Judges are the only ones capable of reigning in the anarchy of the future because of their extensive training and military hardware, they're so heavily armed that they even have tactical nukes at their disposal in case of an invasion. Taking on a Megacity with anything less than an decked-out army of millions is suicide.
Powers is about averting, subverting, playing straight, and generally deconstructing and reconstructing this trope in a world of supers. Powered people aren't allowed to be cops, and the main characters work in a super-homicide department trying to catch and police people who can kill other supers. They're fairly effective most of the time, but other times they get completely stonewalled by politics, lawyers, most supers' celebrity and wealth, and the general difficulty of figuring out means, motive, and opportunity when powers and larger-than-life personalities come into play. If an actual fight breaks out they're often in trouble without a friendly super anywhere nearby.
Half-Life: Full Life Consequences: Not only does the only cop to appear try to give John Freeman a ticket for speeding (when he is trying to rescue Gordon Freeman), but he is headcrab zombie as well!
Legolas By Laura: Technically they're not police, but the guards - sorry, ''gards'' - assigned to protect Laura are thoroughly useless. The orcs sent to kidnap Laura get in, get out and get all the way back to Mordor before they tell Legolas that Laura was taken. Even then, Legolas had to ask first.
The 6th Day, like The Simpsons, combines this with For Inconvenience, Press "1". The system's voice-activated, and the answer to each question is an increasingly annoyed "Yes." The last straw is when answering that there's a direct and current threat to someone's safety still doesn't connect the hero to a human being.
In Air Force One, the President's entire Secret Service detail and the armed soldier holding the nuclear football are all killed without so much as wounding a single terrorist. Is slightly justified in that the terrorists are all wearing body armor and armed with heavier weapons while the Secret Service has nothing but pistols. Also justified in that the guy heading the Secret Service is in league with the terrorists.
Played straight in most Alfred Hitchcock films, due to his own fear of the police from a traumatic childhood experience. However, it's subverted in Dial M for Murder, with a cop that works against the innocent framed protagonist but eventually figures out what's really going on and sets up a trap for the villain and Frenzy, where the cop suspects the protagonist's innocence right from the start.
Generally averted in The Amazing Spider-Man where Captain Stacey and the NYPD are competent when dealing with the Lizard and Spider-Man. After finding out that Dr Conners is a danger to the city, Peter's first reaction is to tell Captain Stacey about it. First thing Captain Stacey does is mock him and have a cop escort Peter out. The second thing is get another cop to investigate Dr Conners to see if Peter's concerns are justified.
When chasing Spider-Man, they do so by having dozens of snipers and a few helicopters firing non-lethal weapons, then completely surround Spider-Man when he's on the ground and quickly handcuff him while he's barely conscious. Spider-Man is released by Captain Stacey when its clear that he's the only one that could stop the Lizard and protect Gwen who was in danger.
Angels and Demons has a really bad case of this. Although this was supposed to be a more or less rational thriller, a single assassin manages to kill the entire Italian and Papal police presence at a top-priority crime scene in city centre of Rome, using little more than a Silencer Pistol.
Shortly after, Langdon manages to convince two Carabinieris to accompany him to the soon-to-be crime scene to stop the killer in time. The van with the assassin and the next victim arrives boldly. The policemen, however, (instead of, you know, calling for better armed reinforcement, seeing how he had managed to kill a dozen others earlier), immediately try to sneak around the van, one by one (not even attempting to sneak in or something). They also are eventually sniped by the killer one by one, who then proceeds pushing his fourth victim into the water unhindered.
Later in the movie, Langdon and the Italian special units storm the presumed criminal hideout. But instead of following Langdon's directions like they were supposed to, they run off into the other direction for no obvious reason, even though Langdon begs them to stay with him. A few minutes later, he finds himself face-to-face with the armed assassin.
And The Da Vinci Code (the predecessing film), actually shows the police to be partially competent rather than completely incompetent. The French police, for instance, [[spoiler: may not have managed to catch Langdon and his cronies, but still managed not only not to leave them unguarded in the Louvre, but also to seal off the American embassy and all the public Transit of Paris, and managed to track them down very fast over and over, by investigating in the right spots, and asking the right people.
Langdon only managed to escape the first time due to an insider helping him, the second time, because a bank director hijacks one of his own armoured money transporters, in which he hides Langdon and Neveau (and convinces the police, that it can only be opened again upon reaching it's destination, Geneva), and the third time, because Teabing and his butler drive them from their property in a badass crashcourse through an off-track rough forest in their Land Rover, before the police manages to storm the Chateau.
The police in Britain is equally competent. They fail to stop the plane on the airfield, and Langdon manages to get out before the police catches up with the halting plane. Yet, they did manage to dispatch Silas and Aringarosa and to find Teabing, Langdon and Neveau, partially using investigation (but paying with a few injured police officers during the raid of Opus Dei House)]].
Played for Laughs in The Big Lebowski. When asked about leads regarding the Dude's stolen car, the policeman replies ironically: "Leads, yeah, sure. I'll just check with the boys down at the crime lab, they've got four more detectives working on the case. They got us working in shifts!"
The Blob, starring Steve McQueen, is perhaps the archetypal example. Which is odd because it actually plays against itself throughout with one cop willing to trust the teenagers and another (the former's subordinate) being extremely distrustful of them.
Subverted in Blue Velvet, where Jeffrey actually does consult a police detective and knows that he should just leave things to the police but keeps investigating on his own anyway. Admittedly, Dorothy Vallens repeatedly tells Jeffrey "no police" when he tries to help her, but it turns out she has good reason to be afraid- Det. Williams' partner is in league with Frank Booth.
The "party cop" from Cabin Fever. Instead of doing his job and helping the protagonists, he's only interested in partying. And talking about partying.
Changeling. First, the police (who, in that area, were extremely corrupt at that time) refuse to investigate Walter's disappearance until the morning after Walter's mother Christine reports it. Then, after months of searching, they give her a boy who isn't her son. They refuse to believe her when she points this out, despite many obvious discrepancies between his physical characteristics and Walter's (such as the boy being three inches shorter than Walter). It just keeps getting worse from there, with the police actively obstructing any and all attempts to locate the real Walter, simply to avoid losing face. An officer who has discovered a possible murder case is even ordered not to investigate because it could mean finding the real Walter's body and admitting that they never found Walter to begin with. They even go so far as to have Christine involuntarily committed to a mental institution to destroy her credibility. The staff there turn out to be no less corrupt than the police. The worst part is that Changeling is based on a true story.
The police are depicted as being extremely incompetent in The Chaser, to the point where they're more concerned with damage control over someone throwing shit at the mayor than they are with a missing woman and a man who confesses to be a serial killer and claims that he's holding her captive.
Lampshaded in Color of Night by Capa when Detective Martinez shows up just after he was almost bitten by a rattlesnake planted in his mailbox.
Just like a cop! Never there when you need them!
A somewhat more well-thought out example happens in Demolition Man. The San Angeles Police Department has been reduced to a peace-keeping force for a city full of petty crimes. As such, when Simon Phoenix, a real criminal awakened from cryogenic stasis, starts making trouble, the police are utterly incapable of stopping him. Only Spartan, a cop from the same era, is up to the challenge.
While reporting a ghost is pretty ridiculous, it's hard not to shake your head when the police officers in Dead Friend laugh in Ji-won's face and call her crazy when there are a bunch of random, unexplainable and downright impossible deaths happening around the city.
In Live Free Or Die Hard, this is subverted due to the police being rendered incapacitated by Gabriel's cyberterrorist attack (blocking cell phone signals and causing gridlock on highways).
Showcased in the idiotic Jennifer Lopez movie Enough. As one review put it, "I wonder how exactly the judge would word his ruling. 'While it is true that your husband has beaten you and that you have produced three separate and unrelated groups of reputable witnesses from around the country who say that he has committed at least a dozen serious felonies, including threatening to murder six different people, the mother of his child among them, I rule that custody goes to the father and furthermore proclaim that he shall not be prosecuted for these crimes because he is rich. Even though J-Lo is now rich too, via her father. I just hate women. And children. Bwoohahahahahaha'"
Ferris Buellers Day Off: The police don't believe Ferris' sister when she calls them about Principal Rooney breaking into her house.
It's worse than that. It takes her several minutes to finally convince the police to show up, and it likely takes several more for them to get to the house, and when they finally do, they immediately turn around and arrest her for making a fake call, there being no intruder present. Because, after all, if an intruder is found out, it's not like they'lltry to leave the area or anything.
She even had evidence; the intruder went and left his wallet in the house.
Four Lions just might represent the high point of cinematic police ineptitude. Not only do they fail to stop a suicide attack (and arrest the wrong guy when they get wind of it): They arguably cause more mayhem than the terrorists they were trying to stop.
The sheriff in Frailty automatically assumes that Fenton is lying when he comes and tells him in a total panic that his father has murdered at least two people and immediately has a sit-down with his father as the first course of action. Then again, the movie's such a Mind Screw, so it's hard to tell how much, if any of the story told is true or not.
In Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, Tommy Jarvis desperately attempts to warn the police of Crystal Lake/Forest Green after he accidentally brings Serial Killer Jason Voorhees back to life, but nobody but the sheriff's own daughter will believe him. Jason's subsequent bloodbath only convinces the cops that Tommy himself is the killer, acting out a delusion of Jason's return. Never mind that the sheriff's daughter can vouch for Tommy because he was with her during two of the murders. The cops are only forced to accept Tommy's story when they are attacked by Jason himself at the camp, and promptly killed.
Subverted big time at the beginning of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. The FBI spring a trap on Jason and actually take him seriously, attacking him with a small army's worth of firepower and an airstrike, managing to actually blow him to bits. It doesn't keep him down, but it was a very impressive effort.
Played straight with the Chicago Police Department. They suspect and arrest Richard Kimble for his wife's murder within hours and don't appear to do any investigating into his (truthful) account of what happened, whereas Kimble, once he escapes, is able to track down his wife's killer within weeks. To make matters worse, the guy is a former Chicago cop, resulting in the Unfortunate Implications of the department deliberately letting an innocent man take the rap in order to let one of their own walk.
Averted with Gerard and his team of US Marshals. Although technically incorrect in their pursuit of Kimble, they are not the least bit incompetent, and end up being his allies in proving his innocence.
The remake of Fun With Dick And Jane had one part where a Latino man impersonates Dick with a picture ID. And it works.
In Gremlins, Billy's efforts to warn the police about the title creatures get blown off. But hey, would YOU have believed him? It gets even worse when those same cops see a man being mauled by the creatures and they don't bother to help him.
A MAD spoof of the film makes fun of this. A cop tells Billy, "The police never listen to the hero until it's too late!" Then he mentions films like The Blob.
Billy suffers similar disbelief and a helping of mockery from the security team in the sequel. They wise up when one gremlin tears through their surveillance system and assaults them.
Also played straight, since earlier in the movie Michael single-handedly slaughtered the entire Haddonfield police force. There's a reason the state police were called in.
In Rob Zombie's Halloween II (2009), Sheriff Brackett asks Andy, one of his deputies, to protect Annie. To say he fails horribly shouldn't come as a shock.
The cops in The Hangover, both movies are pretty useless. In the second movie, the cop at the desk is merely extremely apathetic to the guy's problem of Teddy being missing, simply giving them a monk who has Teddy's clothes and ID and dismissing it as not being his problem from there. The cops in the first movie, however, are pretty extreme in ways that screw everybody. First, they arrest the guys for stuff they did last night, fair enough, they did break some laws. Then they more or less refuse to help them with Doug being missing. Then they show uselessness in a way that helps the protagonists, but simultaneously screws them over, as they allow them to escape their arrest with no charges in exchange for being tased, something all officers involved are clearly getting a huge thrill out of doing.
Subverted in Hocus Pocus. The apparent cop who bullies the children begging for help (insulting Max's manhood) is only a man in costume on Halloween. It plays Adults Are Useless straight, though.
The cops in Home Alone are poster children for this trope. When Kevin's mother calls them to report that her eight-year-old son has been stranded alone for at least a day, she spends several minutes being bounced around between two bored cops who can't be bothered to try to comprehend what she's telling them before finding someone else to foist her on. Eventually, they dispatch a third cop, who then waits all of 45 seconds after knocking on the door of Kevin's house before concluding that no one is home and leaving.
Hot Fuzz: Although Nicholas Angel himself is an obvious subversion, the central device allowing the plan of the bad guys in the movie to work is based around the idea that the Sanford Police Force are a bunch of incompetents who've been lulled into such a false sense of security and complacency by the tranquility of the village that they will respond to even blatantly obvious acts of homicide with the assumption that it's an accident of some kind. And they do, to the extent that their complete inability to recognize the blindingly obvious at one point leads Nicholas to doubt his own sanity. Ultimately subverted, however; once their eyes are truly opened to what's really going on in their village, they transform almost immediately into an efficient, competent unit more than capable of kicking ass and taking names.
Partly justified because the police chief is in on the conspiracy, and deliberately trying to keep all the other cops complacent.
Also London's police department. They pretty much throw Nicholas out for making the rest of them look bad, and then beg him to come back in the end, when they realize that the crime rates are going up in his absence.
An extremely sad example of Truth in Television is depicted in Hotel Rwanda. During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the United Nations soldiers stationed in Rwanda were not allowed to shoot the militiamen who were slaughtering Tutsis all across the country. Most of the native Hutu police took part in the genocide themselves. Within less than two months, over one million civilians were killed.
Jack: I'm only allowed to leave four soldiers stationed here, Paul. And they're not allowed to shoot.
To a completely idiotic degree in Identity Thief where the cops don't do anything at all to stop an identity thief from Miami despite knowing where that criminal will be, they don't even make a phone call to MPD or the Feds at all by handwaving it with Hollywood Law. They even let the Jason Bateman character to kidnap the criminal, essentially having do their jobs.
The cops in Intruder on two instances. First is when they come to check a disturbance caused by one the workers' ex-boyfriend and then quickly leave without putting any effort on finding him and second is in the end where they arrest the wrong people for the killings.
Many James Bond films, particularly (for some reason) the ones with sequences in America, see Bond having to avoid getting arrested by the police as well as staying on the villain's trail. Luckily, they're all hopeless drivers.
This actually makes perfect sense, since what Bond is doing actually is illegal. Most of the movies, after all, take place on foreign soil, where Bond has no legal powers whatsoever and would doubtless be arrested as the spy he is if the cops found out what he was doing.
With the U.S., it's a gray area-in some cases he's working with Leitner and the CIA and his actions are sanctioned, in others (like Licence to Kill) he's operating without authorization.
Averted in the horror movie Jeepers Creepers. When the two frightened, teenage heroes from out of town run to the small-town police in the middle of the night with wild stories about a monster pursuing them, the police utterly break the formula by being quick to believe them and trying their level best to protect them, with the entire force finally facing down the monster in a standoff. Their efforts prove useless, though, as it has a Healing Factor.
Not necessarily. They just needed more men and larger guns: when they showed up at the end in full body armor and armed with assault rifles, they force the thing to flee. It was quite obviously worried about being killed at that point.
Played for Laughs in the Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World. While running wild through the streets of San Diego, a Tyrannosaurus Rex is confronted by a fleet of police cruisers. The dinosaur roars a challenge, and all the police cars promptly turn around and take off, leaving the city and its civilians to fend for themselves.
In Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Sgt. Mooney doesn't just ignore the protagonists — he gets dozens of calls from citizens under attack, and declares all of them to be pranks... and ends up an Asshole Victim for it. On the other hand, his direct superior does believe the kids, when given enough evidence, and ends up displacing the protagonist as the film's real hero.
In The Last House on the Left, the sheriff and his deputy are incompetent buffoons. They even buy into Krug's half-assed alibi about being a passing preacher. And when they hear of Mari's kidnapping, they not only find out where she is located, but also that they were there a few minutes ago. Oh, and they were late to the Roaring Rampage of Revenge Party.
The Lifetime Movie of the Week, A Cry For Help, doesn't even begin to describe this trope. First off, the abusive husband already has a restraining order against him, but it doesn't stop him from marching on over to Tracy's house. Then Tracy calls the cops, who take their sweet ass time getting there. By the time they do, the husband has stabbed her multiple times. This also draws in a crowd, who now are witnesses to this crime. The cop also restrained a guy who was restraining the husband, who pretty much beats her up. Guess what the cop does? He stands there and looks as the husband beats her up and rants on how she should die. While they did call an ambulance and restrain the husband from clawing at her while she was on the stretcher, the fact that they could have done so much more and could have prevented some of the damage done onto Tracey got them sued for it, makingthis... For reference, this is based on a true story, and the resulting lawsuit considerably improved the average police response to domestic disturbances.
"Manos" The Hands of Fate may be one of the most credibility-stretching examples. The police, who spend most their time harassing a young couple at Make-Out Point, finally hear a gunshot fired by the protagonists, who are being chased through the desert by an insane cult. The cops don't get four feet away from their car before giving up and deciding that the gun was probably fired somewhere in Mexico and that it doesn't concern them.
"Sound does travel a long way at night."
In the B-movie pastiche Monster, the Genre Savvy mentor instructs his successor that the police will never show up until after the monster is defeated. In the end, after The Hero dunks the monster in a vat of liquid nitrogen, he wonders where the cops are and realizes that it must still be alive. After defeating it one more time, the cops finally show up.
Averted in The Monster Squad when the character Eugene writes a childish letter to the military about Dracula; they actually show up at the end. And again with Sean's dad, a cop, who immediately gets on board to help his son once he figures out what's going on.
Also the schtick of The Naked Gun movies for the most part. Lt.Drebin does get his man in the end, but getting there is a comedy of errors.
No Country for Old Men has an ideal example of the police doing absolutely nothing useful whatsoever for the entire course of the film. They might has well have never been there, including the star sheriff played by Tommy Lee Jones. The worst example has to be when they first visit Llewyn's trailer, which turns out to be empty, but someone has clearly been there due to the milk being left out and cold. The sheriff dismisses the idea of mentioning that the murderous psychopath Anton Chigurh is around, due to them knowing nothing about him—it doesn't occur to him that others in the park might have seen him, most notably, the person who directly interacted with him, the owner of the park, as well as any others who probably noticed him breaking into Llewyn's trailer. Later in the film, Sheriff Bell learns that Llewyn is headed to El Paso, and promises Llewyn's wife only he will go to see him...which is at least six hours from where he is at the time. Sheriff Bell does not alert the El Paso police that there might be a massacre exactly there, nor does he seem too concerned about the fact that it's probably safe to say Anton will be there, too. The obvious happens when a simple phone call to the El Paso authorities saying a massive gun battle was about to break out there would have given them some cause for concern. Instead, he lets all of it happen without telling anyone about the inevitable shootout that's definitely going to occur before he gets there.
The Other Guys both parodies and plays this straight, then again they play it so straight it might also be parody. The chief repeatedly shuts the guys' investigation down and ignores all of the evidence they're getting because he told them not to investigate anymore. Subverted because Da Chief actually does know full well that there is something going on. In fact, he just wants to keep the two titular guys away from the danger zone (he is probably the most timorous Chief you'll ever see in modern media). In the end, they actually convince him to help them for a change and to support them in their pursuit. He does.
Pain and Gain: The Miami police write Kershaw's story off as "delusional alcoholism" and don't do anything about it. Even after Ed Du Bois presents a lot of evidence to them, they don't take any action because they're afraid it would make them look bad for ignoring Kershaw before. It isn't until after the Sun Gym gang claims 2 more victims that the police try to arrest them. Then averted when they finally take action, as they're able to apprehend the gang in short order without a lot of trouble.
In Jodie Foster's movie Panic Room, the protagonist calls 911 only to be put on hold. When the police do finally show up, it's because her worried ex husband called them. And still the cops are dissuaded from sticking around. Somewhat subverted, in that she is the one to tell them it was a false alarm, and one of the officers suspects (correctly) that she is under duress.
Subverted in Pineapple Express. The heroes avoid going to the police because one of the villains is a cop. When Seth Rogen gets arrested, he finally spills his guts to the arresting officer, who immediately believes his entire implausible story and vows to crack the case. After getting "rescued" from the cop, Rogen berates his friend for ruining everything.
The entire premise of the Police Academy movies. Somewhat subverted though, as the bad guys are even more incompetent.
The opening sequence of Predator 2 had the LAPD having a gunfight with a much smaller group of Colombian drug dealers and the police were the ones who were defeated. Justified because the drug gang had better weapons, including grenade launchers, while the police were limited to pistols and shotguns. They were also holed up in a better position. And what's worse, the SWAT-team wasn't available because they were already engaged in a similar situation elsewhere.
Taken to ludicrous extremes in the Prom Night (2008) remake: a police department cannot prevent a former high school teacher armed only with a knife from murdering several people despite knowing exactly where he's going. He also manages to evade them all... by putting on a cap.
The Purge: Justified Trope. One of the rules behind The Purge is that the police cannot respond to any calls for 12 hours. As a result, if you get into trouble, you're on your own.
Subverted in the Die Hard-on-a-bus film Speed where the police are actually competent at helping out the protagonist, forming an escort to prevent collisions, mapping out a survivable route with the help of a police captain from a chopper and blocking off roads so the bus won't explode. It helps that the protagonist is another cop, but that just goes towards subversion, too. The S.W.A.T. officers provide the exception; they try to assist the woman off the bus while on the highway, despite knowing that the killer is watching and told them explicitly not to do that.
In Spider Man 2 the titular hero's 10-Minute Retirement caused the crime rate in NY to skyrocket by astounding 75%. That's right. One man, albeit a superpowered one, managed to contain almost as much crime activity as the whole NYPD did. Like Batman before him it was more the knowledge that Spider-Man was out there that kept most of the lower-level criminals at home, leaving only guys like the Green Goblin and Doc Oc to take over. Once word gets out that Spidey is gone (thank-you, Mr. Jameson) they come out of the woodwork and crime skyrockets, with the press inflating the figures to sell more papers.
In Superbad the two cops are a good deal less mature than the teenage protagonists.
In the French film franchise Taxi, the police forces of Marseille are completely incompetent except for Petra. It says a lot about their boss' abilities that in the third installment he talked about his brother, who copied one part of the exam wrong from him, got zero points and thus couldn't become a police officer.
The first movie plays the trope differently: Most of the cops except Emilien are decent enough, they are just outside the area of expertise to catch those particular crooks. The chief is peculiar... but not outright incompetent, the implication being that the pressure of this crime wave is getting to him. The sequels make the cops outright dumb and dangerous: Only Petra is in any way competent, and the cops are more dangerous to the city than the criminals themselves.
In the fourth film, Petra and the French Intelligence stage a Batman-Gambit using the cops' incompetence.
Thompson and Thomson in the Tintin movie. One man they talk to gets nervous at mentions of the pickpocket they are looking for, evidently doesn't want police officers in his apartment, and when they are inside, they find dozens of wallets on the shelves. He claims he is a wallet collector and they believe him.
In Trick 'r Treat, when Mr. Kreeg is being menaced by the evil spirit Sam, he calls 911...and is immediately put on hold. Sam then cuts the line, and no patrol cars or other emergency response are ever dispatched to the location of the call to check up.
In WarGames the FBI is sure that Lightman is a criminal:
Nigan: He does fit the profile perfectly. He's intelligent, but an under-achiever; alienated from his parents; has few friends. Classic case for recruitment by the Soviets.
In all fairness, he did hack into a national defense computer & immediately fired up the ICBM software. You can understand the mistake.
Booking getaway tickets to Europe would also be a clear warning sign.
Scream: This is zig-zagged; during the finale of the first film, the only cop present - Dewey - is taken out very quickly, and it's Sidney and Gail that put an end to everything. In the second, the police hold a single press conference, and only show up again at the end after everything has been settled. By Sidney and Gail again. In the third film, police are more prevalent, but again, the only cop on the scene is taken out rather quickly, and Sidney, Gail and Dewey (no longer a cop) deal with it. During the fourth, the police have a strong presence (most likely due to being under Dewey's command, given he's dealt with this several times before) but are nowhere to be seen when several deaths occur. The Zagging comes in when you consider that despite their efforts usually accounting for nothing much, the police actually do actively try to help the protagonists, for example, imposing curfews, posting bodyguards to Sidney (and by proxy, those around her) and usually believing the protagonists almost immediately when it becomes apparent that they're being targeted.
The basis of Lance Manley's possibly true memoir Stab Proof Scarecrows: about his (short) time in the English police. It shows an organisation obsessed with looking good at the expense of public safety with Race & Diversity the focus of attention rather than actually solving crime.
Part and parcel of the Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys books, since having a competent police force would render the need for crime solving eighteen-year-olds unnecessary. The same goes for Trixie Belden.
In Tamora Pierce's Provost's Dogs novels, this seems to be the case for Day Watch and any of the Dogs portrayed unsympathetically. Taken up a notch with Sir Lionel of Trebond, in charge of the Dogs in Port Caynn, who is, not only incompetent, an incredible coward willing to put up with huge amounts of criminal activity to save his skin.
Averted with the Special Investigations unit in The Dresden Files, led by Karrin Murphy, who among other things has taken down a tree-monster with a chainsaw. Though the unit still calls in Dresden for consulting, it's mentioned a few books in that they've learned enough to handle most of your usual supernatural riff-raff without the wizard's help. There are also things with enough power that getting the police involved would lead to a bloodbath. Several times Dresden convinces Murphy not to involve her unit by telling her what he's facing is "worse than the loup-garou", a Nigh Invulnerable variety of werewolf that rampaged through the station in the second book.
In the early Sherlock Holmes stories, the police inspectors of Scotland Yard were outright idiots, overlooking clues and coming to false conclusions. In The Sign of Four Holmes proclaims, "I would rather have the help of Toby (a dog) than the entire detective force of London!" This was improved in later stories, as Inspector Lestrade, especially, was shown to be more lacking in the specialized knowledge and Hyper Awareness that Holmes possessed, than simply being a moron. Holmes even praised Lestrade and Gregson for their courage and tenacity, even if their own detective skills were lacking by comparison.
This was in response to the development of forensic science; when Doyle started writing the stories, the police often failed to take statements from witnesses at crime scenes. As time passed and investigation improved, so did their treatment in the stories. Holmes was always better than them.
Indeed, it's said that the real Scotland Yard detectives read Holmes novels, and took hints. It's worth noting that many things that Holmes does that are common police procedure today were barely given a lip service in the 19th century.
Even leaving aside the lack of development in forensic science, at the time Doyle started writing the Metropolitan Police had developed a reputation for being woefully incompetent and corrupt. It was also around this time that the Jack the Ripper murders occurred, and it soon became apparent that the police were completely ill-equipped to deal with what was going on; as a result of this, serious and long-needed reforms began to be introduced.
Even the ones with the Order are still incompetent, except for Moody. Tonks loses every fight she's in. No Auror can handle Bellatrix Lestrange... who is beaten by a housewife. Another Auror loses in battle with Neville's grandmother. It would seem Mc Gonagall was fibbing when she told Harry about the high standards just to qualify for training for the Aurors in an effort to trick him into focusing more on his studies.
In the Montmorency series, especially the fourth book, the police do very little to help, including capturing the wrong person on a few occasions. But they try. Really, they do.
The City Watch in the Discworld novels started out in Guards! Guards! as basically an intentional parody of itself; the Thieves' Guild was better at regulating crime, for one, and eventually the watches were filled up by Vetinari with useless no-hopers, led by an alcoholic Sam Vimes on nights. Then events happened, propelling things to the current status.
Cops tend to be fairly useless in Stephen King's books. Even when they're persuaded to investigate the strange goings-on in a particular novel, they have a tendency to get bumped off before they can help the heroes.
There's a BIG exception on Needful Things, though; the main character, a small-town sheriff, manages to single-handedly fight off a demonic Puppet Master. Most of his deputies manage to handle themselves half-decently considering the circumstances, too.
In Very Bad Deaths, Russell is hunting Alan, a serial torturer/killer, from information gleaned by his telepathic friend's brief brush with Alan's mind. When Russell gets a police officer to listen to him, she can only help him as a civilian because the police can't legally act on any of the (scant) information he has on the Alan.
The police in Incompetence, as the book's title suggests, are completely useless. Examples include an officer suffering from "Non-Specific Stupidity" who manages to handcuff himself while arresting a suspect, a food safety officer who brings SWAT teams on restaurant inspections and a police captain with anger management problems so severe that he opens fire at the pavement when told to calm down. The one police officer shown to display any form of competence is said to have zero promotion prospects due to this fact.
In Goose Girl, Ani/Isi is snatched off the streets during the festival and the King's Soldiers, who are there, don't do squat. Later she points this out:
"Did you know that there are men who call themselves Peace-Keepers, obeying their own code of law and not the King's, sworn to keep the streets safe because the King's soldiers do not, or will not?"
In The Inkworld Trilogy, Meggie and her aunt go to the police, but the police refuse to come. Also subverted, when one of the police turns out to be employed by the Big Bad. Precisely one cop, who is able to hide the illegal activities of a town, which include regularly kidnapping people.
In the Children of the Red King series, the police appear occasionally, but there's not really anything they can do about say, a murder committed by a 300 year old magically animated sword. Generally, they just ignore it and hope the endowed people can solve their own problems.
A military variant happens in The Destroyer #113, "The Empire Dreams". The neo-nazi villains successfully blitzes London three times because the same obstructive RAF officer keeps refusing to take the reports seriously. The first time he rejects the reports because they were made by a farmer and a meteorologist and who would fly WW 2-era planes anyway? He later rejects a second report because it says the planes come from the direction of the English Channel, and the first planes obviously came from Ireland. In the third case they actually have a tight security net up, but fail to consider planes launched from within Britain, so he rejects those claims too, because "nothing can get through our security measures". He then accuses the near-hysterical official reporting the bombings of being drunk, while gunshots, explosions and screams can be heard in the background. The villains later seize Paris by kidnapping roughly over a dozen important officials, including the French President, and torturing them until they sign a surrender. The entire coup is carried out one morning without any mention of interference from bodyguards or police, and the new regime has their jackbooted neo-nazi skinhead troops marching in the streets the same day, with no visible resistance at all.
Amelia Peabody and her husband, who are detective archeologists, routinely ignore the police in their detective work. Justified, in that their adventures happen in Egypt in the 1880s to 1920s, where the police are indeed ineffectual, violent and corrupt. Things get better by the end of the series, but by then, their habits are ingrained, to the chagrin of the new police inspector.
In Death series: Played with. Averted with Eve Dallas, who is a cop and the best officer to go to if there's a problem. Played straight with other police groups, because they are inexperienced, incompetent, lazy, insensitive, too stubborn, too territorial, have a lack of instincts, out for glory, dirty cops, and so on. Fortunately, Eve's squad has closed a number of cases, which shows that Eve is not the only effective cop out there.
A variant occurs in Animorphs, where going to the police or even sometimes the army is out of the question because a percentage of the force are controllers and going to either cover up whatever it was to keep the invasion secret or just turn in the Animorphs or both. It's hard to tell who's a controller and who isn't.
Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Played very straight! The cops know who killed Barbara Rutledge in a hit-and-run in Weekend Warriors, but can't do anything about it because the driver uses Diplomatic Impunity. Indeed, the Vigilantes operate under this assumption, and considering how the police are often incompetent or in the bad guy's pockets, that assumption may not be too far off!
Enid Blyton's popular Famous Five series has the Big Bads committing heinous acts and the police completely unable to find even the smallest piece of evidence against them. In the end, the police are the ones who arrest the Big Bad, but it is a certain group of teenagers and a dog who find all the clues and figure it all out.
The NYC police in Psmith, Journalist don't take any of the gangsters seriously, even when they're out to kill the main characters. Even if taken into custody, the gangsters can always provide each other with alibis and get themselves released.
In Neil Gaiman's Coraline, the titular character calls the police after her parents disappear without a trace. While she explains herself in terms that may sound like a child having a nightmare, it's still no laughing matter when she tells how her Other Mother probably made them disappear; rather than brush her off, it would seem more likely for the modern police to interpret what happened as murder or kidnapping over custody disagreement.
In the Ancient Egyptian mystery novel Eater of Souls, a serial killer's initial crimes go unsolved — indeed, virtually unnoticed — because the head of the city's police force is a lazy status-seeker who writes the victims off as "A death, not of the city", simply because he doesn't think his superiors in the nobility would want to be troubled about something as sordid as murder among visiting merchants or villagers.
After Honor Harrington is attacked by a crewmember who tries to assassinate her, she instantly deduces that he was under some kind of mind control, which the military police brush off as denial that someone she knew was an enemy agent.
This, however, isn't shown to be the norm, but simply a narrow-mindedness, rather than genuine incompetence, of the investigator in question. Overall, most police services in the Honorverse are shown to be quite competent, and even when corrupt, they at least aren't completely bumbling in their corruption.
Also, Honor didn't deduce anything, she knew that Lt. Mears was under some sort of influence, because of her empathic sense. Which she had to present as being that of her treecat, to keep The Masquerade. The investigator simply didn't believe in the 'cats Psychic Powers, because at that time they were more of a hypothesis rather than an established fact, and were dismissed even by many respectable scientists.
Generally averted in Adventures in Odyssey, where most of the police are played straight and do their jobs just fine — sometimes in detail. However, there was one notable exception early in the show: Officer David Harley, an absent-minded, bumbling police officer who was a recurring character and ready-to-go comic relief. However, he was pulled off of the show when parents complained that he was presenting the wrong image of police to kids.
The radio play Sorry, Wrong Number is about a bedridden woman who overhears on the phone, in detail, a conspiracy to commit murder. When she calls the police, they aren't really interested in looking into it.
Given how prevalent the military version is in Zombie Apocalypse fiction, it's worth noting that it's averted in Unhallowed Metropolis. The main deciding factor in whether a country or region still exists is whether or not there was a swift and effective military response, whether it consisted of actual military strikes to curtail the Animates, erecting fortifications, or simply fleeing to more defensible geography.
Depending on the GM, it can happen and be justified in the d20 Modern Urban Arcana setting, by the fact that the police/army are not being properly trained/equipped against supernatural threats. (Even highly trained Navy Seals will have a hard time bypassing a lycanthrope Damage Reduction 15/Silver without, well, Silver Bullet, which are not standard issued in any military force.)
Averted and played straight in Warhammer 40,000, on the ground level, most Imperial Nobles have all sorts of law enforcement; from Enforcers, to Guard, to Police, all of which are usually not much better than a gang of ugly theif takers who simply enforce the will of the ruling Noble. The ubiquitous police force used by the Imperal Government proper, however, are the Arbiters. These guys carry more guns and heavier armour than SWAT teams, tend to be fanatics who have borderline worship of the law, and have a habit of beating most unimportant suspects to death.
World of Darkness has shades of this, and sometimes jumps headlong into it. While it can be justified, there are other times that are extremely questionable.
One flavour short story involved a pair of cops practically wetting themselves after firing at a man who was drinking blood from a corpse. Since - to the reader - it's obvious the man was a vampire, it appears justified, but the police officers - having fired only at his torso - had no reason to believe it wasn't a regular guy in a bulletproof vest (probably on drugs, too), it really makes these cops seem particularly incompetent.
Played for Laughs in Arsenic and Old Lace, where the beat cops who visit the Brewster house to pay their respects to the protagonist Mortimer's sweet old aunts remain cheerfully oblivious to: (a) the mysterious disappearance over the past several years of a dozen old men who've entered the residence; (b) the sudden appearance of a highly wanted Serial Killer; (c) the fact that Mortimer is tied to a chair involuntarily and is about to be tortured to death by said serial killer; (d) the presence of said killer's equally wanted accomplice in the same room even after the killer himself has been recognized and captured. By contrast, the one time they do act rationally is the one time that Mortimer wishes that they wouldn't: when his sweet old aunts innocently confess to the murders they've committed right in front of the police captain.
In Shortpacked!, Ethan calls 911 after his Roadblock poster and Roadblock action figure start sexually harassing him. He gets hung up on almost immediately, as you might expect.
The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! has two local cops named Baskin and Robbin (as opposed to the two recurring federal agents, Ben and Jerry) who diligently ignore all the seemingly nonsensical "crank calls" they keep getting about flying saucers, unicorns, dragons, robots, and the like. Like so.
Daisy: This isn't like [dad] at all. We need to go find him. Cooper: Shouldn't we call the police? Daisy: Yeah, sure. And then we can have ice cream with a nice lady from the DSS. And she'll ask us why Daddy's not home, and why he's an owl, and why he doesn't wear pants, and so on.
In Sluggy Freelance the two-man police force in Podunkton actively discourages people from reporting crimes. Deputy Edsel is a straight example, whose first response in the face of an emergency is to say, "Somebody should call the police!" Officer Tod, however, is actually quite skilled, but he prefers to just let Oasis chop criminals into little pieces, while he gets paid for doing absolutely nothing.
When Zoë tries to tell some apparently less dishonest policemen that she was kidnapped into a building that turned into a rampaging ground for "zombgeeks" (don't ask), she runs into a downright parodic version of the trope. Sure, her story is extremely implausible, but the policemen are also ignoring the fact that when they went to check it out, "a rocketship made of mucus and unidentifiable bits burst through the roof." Apparently they thought this wasn't anything unexpected because "it's a Monday."
In the Web Comic''Zeera the Space Pirate,'' Zeera at one point tries to go straight and joins the space cops, only to discover that the space police are so corrupt that piracy was actually a more honest career choice, and she reverts to being a pirate. Since then, she has met a few cops who are honest and are trying to reform the organization.
Suicide for Hire; the cops never seem to get anywhere. A rash of gruesome teen deaths goes unheralded by the news and not investigated in any detail, and acts of violence in public go ignored, such as when Autumn pulls a knife and attacks another girl at the prom. They did respond and do their best to deal with a case of domestic violence (the author of the comic has been trained to work with victims of domestic violence and didn't want to make light of it) but the victim's non-compliance meant they couldn't convict the attacker.
Ansem Retort: the police have been muzzled by a state law that all crimes committed by people on TV are ignored to protect the entertainment business. Notably, the closest Axel came to being actually punished for his many, many crimes against humanity was before he was on TV.
In Mayonaka Densha whenever the police show up they only serve to make the situation worse or just don't do anything at all. Then again, they are being lead by the man himself, Inspector Lestrade.
Every example of the police in Drugs And Kisses, much to the delight of the main characters
Survival of the Fittest has the Denton police force, who are either too corrupt or too incompetent to deal with any of the gang violence rife in the city. This is to the point where the gangs practically run the place, shootouts and mass brawls being a common occurrence.
Bee and Puppycat: While Bee is waiting to cross the street, two police in a cop car drives to the intersection and stops to glare at her to make sure she doesn't jaywalk while ignoring two kids running across the street to chase a duck.