Principal Skinner: Bart Simpson, on the side of law and order? Has the world gone topsy turvy?
That's right, man. I got my first taste of authority...and I like it.
A simple form of The Reveal
used to explain why Police Are Useless
, and why our otherwise normal characters don't simply ask the police to deal with the dangerous criminals. It turns out the police are the criminals
Generally speaking this trope is intended to rationalize why the main characters don't go to the police with their problems, which tends to be the logical response by normal people to outrageous things like murder plots. This can also be established in the back story and does not need to be displayed on-screen directly.
Often involves at least one Dirty Cop
by necessity. Can result in a Have You Told Anyone Else?
from the bad cops if someone comes to them in search of a Hope Spot
Unfortunately too often Truth in Television in a lot of countries
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Anime and Manga
- Fairly early on in Naoki Urasawa's Monster, Tenma runs into a couple of cops who work with/for Johan 'The Monster' Liebert. He doesn't know who else might be, and thus gets really paranoid about talking to the police... rightly so, since shortly afterwards, he gets framed for murder.
- Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys features this as a Hope Spot: the young detective hero has successfully contacted an influential ally in the upper echelon of the police force with his information on The Conspiracy. Surely things will turn better from there on right? Wrong - the police is already in the bad guys' pocket and you have just doomed everyone by revealing your hiding place.
- Third time's the charm for Urasawa, he pulls this yet again in Billy Bat. A man on a car trip through the racist-laden Deep South witnesses a group of Klu Klux Klan members burn a black man at the stake. He goes to the local sheriff, only to recognize him as one of the Klansmen. It's ultimately a subversion: the sheriff is indeed a racist, but the Klansman was his cousin, not him. The sheriff doesn't let personal feelings get in the way of his job as a lawman: he immediately arrests his cousin on suspicion of murder.
- Parodied in a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch. A pimp is telling an interviewer about his dealings with the Piranha Brothers.
Luigi: One night Dinsdale walked in with a couple of big lads, one of whom was carrying a tactical nuclear missile. They said I'd bought one of their fruit machines and would I pay for it.
Interviewer: How much did they want?
Luigi: Three quarters of a million pounds. Then they went out.
Interviewer: Why didn't you call the police?
Luigi: Well, I had noticed that the lad with the thermonuclear device was the Chief Constable for the area.
- A major theme in Batman: Year One is that most of the police department is corrupt — this is given as an explicit reason why it's necessary for Bruce Wayne to don a bat costume and terrorize criminals, as often some of the people he beats up happen to be cops who are in on the crime. The first real progress he makes is when he finds out that Gordon can be trusted, creating a legitimate outlet to fight crime.
- In Sin City, the police force is so corrupt, it's actually shocking when people find a cop who is clean. In the first story, police death squads are sent after Marv in order to silence him after he's framed for murder. In That Yellow Bastard almost the entire police force are willing to protect a pedophile Serial Killer son of a senator, going so far as to frame one of their own (probably the only good cop of the entire bunch). In The Big Fat Kill, a recently killed Domestic Abuser is exposed as being a hero cop, which is bad news for Old Town (because the truce between the girls and the cops forbids the girls to kill cops that wander into their territory, in exchange for the girls being allowed to protect their own and keep the cops and the mob out). In Hell And Back, the cops are in league with an assassin guild. At least in Hell and Back the police chief briefly rediscovers his morals long enough to help the protagonist finish off the assassins/human traffickers.
- In line with his Anvilicious Libertarian philosophical leanings, Dean Koontz has played this card a few times. Instensity has a last minute revelation that the Serial Killer is a young rising star in a local police force, Dark Rivers of the Heart has a murderous FBI agent who kills people he feels are too good for the world, etc.
- Animorphs played with a variant of this; in many cases the cops were controlled by the Yeerks and so going to them would be certain enslavement since they couldn't tell who was a controller.
Live Action TV
- The Vampires from Being Human have a lot of policemen among their ranks, because, well, someone needs to cover up all those bloodless corpses at crime scenes, right? Herrick and Fergus are examples.
- In the first series of Damages, the malevolent Bearded Man is revealed towards the end to be a cop.
- Right from the start of Les MisÚrables the police are vilified, especially Javert, who hunts Valjean endlessly because he broke parol.