"Any minute now, the cops'll be here to solve this mess out. I'd appreciate it if somebody could get some barf bags ready."
— Overheard at the site of a car crash.
A trope specific to murder mysteries, invoked to suggest that the crime is so gruesome (sight and/or smell) that it turns the stomachs of hardened investigators. Alternately, the Vomiting Cop is a rookie on his or her first case, or it is used to show how seasoned and jaded the veteran cop is.
There are two variations:
Finding the corpse: an unpleasant set of remains is found by the characters. One of them runs around the corner or sticks their head out of shot and throws up.
Arrival at the scene: the detectives show up. We see one of the police officers (an extra) throwing up in the bushes.
Ciel Phantomhive of Black Butler fame does this not once, but twice in the manga. First time was in reaction to witnessing the death throes of Mary Jane Kelly, which happens both in the anime and manga. The second one was manga only: he vomits in reaction to his Stalker with a Crush rebuilding a sacrificial chamber, the very one Ciel almost died in pre-series. Combining the mental trauma with the brutal murder of children younger than he is a few chapters before likely did it. Justified since Ciel is only thirteen years old and is not technically a cop, though he does investigate on the Queen's orders.
Detective Suk in Monster does this at a crime scene and is later made fun of for it.
During the "Jungle Cruise" episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Togusa, the rookie of the team, has to run to the guardrail clutching his mouth after using a direct cyber-link to the investigator on the scene, experiencing everything, including the smell in perfect clarity. He didn't throw up, but came pretty close. The experienced members of the squad just watch the video feed, but most of them could also turn off their sense of smell if they wanted to.
Mentioned but not seen in Ghost in the Shell: Innocence, where Ishikawa oversees a crime scene by himself, explaining that the rookie with him got reacquainted with his lunch, and he sent him to personally take the corpse to lab as a "learning experience".
George Godly, upon finding the corpse of Jack the Ripper's final victim, who had been subjected to then unheard of levels of mutilation in From Hell. Whether or not the real Godly left his breakfast at Miller's Court or if this was simply an invention for dramatic purposes is one of the few subjects that Alan Moore's lengthy annotations to the book is silent on.
In the Italian horror comic Dylan Dog, this is a Running Gag: Inspector Bloch, Dylan's former superior from Scotland Yard, is always in need of some anti-emetics and often complains that they don't make them as effective as they used to do.
Occurs in the Lucifer comic when the cops apprehend Charlie Gilmour for the murder of his wife and child.
Fell: Somewhat subverted, in that it's not at a crime scene. Fell threw up when the insane Medical Examiner dropped a piece of organic tomato into a victim during the autopsy, took it out and ate it despite Fell's repeated assertions that he would shoot him if he did so. The Coroner just replies that it was organic and he'd have to go out of the city to get another one.
Thunder from the Judd Winick run on Batman and the Outsiders threw up on one of her first crime scenes. It was a crime scene where people had been sealed into a city bus and burned alive.
Albrecht in The Crow, after seeing Gideon's corpse.
The police officers who found The Joker's early experiments in Batman: The Man who Laughs.
Global Frequency: The police officer who arrived on the scene still wets himself whenever he sees cutlery.
In X-Men Noir, rookie Peter Magnus asks for a mint on the way to the crime scene for his first murder case. His veteran partner Fred Dukes refuses to give him one. When they see the body, Peter pukes; Fred didn't give him the mint because he knew that would happen and he would've just wasted it. This is a case where anyone would have done the same, though - the woman was missing her eyes, her nose, her upper lip...
In the Batman spinoff Streets of Gotham, Robin calls the police for backup after finding that the orphans Humpty Dumpty had taken were actually corpses he'd found and was trying to heal. The boy barely gets half way through the call before handing the communicator over to Batman to go throw up. This is Damian Wayne, the resident stab-happy assassin of the Bat clan we're talking about here.
Averted by Deena Pilgrim of Powers; she's slipped and fallen into blood and brains and the only thing she did was curse out the cop who didn't tape off the crime scene, and even the worst murder scene she's ever been to, all she did was step outside. But anytime that she's been teleported(or even just near someone who's teleporting), she pukes.
Turnabout Storm has a variation. While Twilight is excited to take part in an investigation, when she and Phoenix come across a body-shaped tape outline and asks what it means, Phoenix's explanation isn't of her liking.
Twilight: Ugh... I think I'm going to be sick... Phoenix:[Inner monologue] And all that eagerness seemed to go away in one fell swoop...
A version appears in the Thor fanfic All Earthly Things Above, in which the stoic, nigh-omniscient Heimdall ends up vomiting for half an hour while seeing what Loki does to his erstwhile captor.
Although not shown, dialogue between two on-scene cops reveals that the coroner is also puking in the bathroom.
In Dead Right, an amateur movie that Edgar Wright made when he was younger that features on the Hot Fuzz DVD, Barry Stern's newbie partner vomits slightly into his hand when they find the body of a woman who had recently been murdered. On the Alternate DVD Commentary (slightly different from the usual examples in that it is included on the DVD itself) with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost essentially lambasting the movie at every step of the way, Pegg mocks the vomit effect as looking as though the actor simply spat out "a chewed up Texan bar".
Dead Bang (1989). The alcoholic cop played by Don Johnson runs down an outlaw biker and is immediately sick on him. The biker is so grossed out he agrees to spill the beans as long as Johnson doesn't spill his a second time.
In the 2006 version of Casino Royale, Villiers, M's male secretary/arm candy, is sickened by the sight of Bond's murdered love interest. Aww.
Parodied in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, wherein every cop on the force throws up spits when they learn that Lois Einhorn is a man. Couple that with the facts that Ace himself threw up when he found out, and that he had a...tryst with Einhorn, and you can connect the dots.
And the dolphin!
In the novel Jaws, upon finding the corpse of Chrissy, Chief Brody vomits. He keep sit together in the film, though.
Done constantly in Suicide Club, almost every time dead flesh is exposed, often by multiple cops.
Averted in Fargo, where the sheriff bends over and (almost) pukes mainly because she's pregnant, not just because the crime scene is gruesome.
The boy who throws up repeatedly in Super 8 just happens to be the one who plays the police detective in "The Case".
Done in Demolition Man by a cop watching his colleagues (on a screen) getting killed by Simon Phoenix.
Averted in Sudden Impact, where Harry Callahan's pet peeve isn't eating around dead bodies or crime scenes. It's putting ketchup on the hot dog you're eating around dead bodies or crime scenes.
The autopsy variant is Played for Laughs in Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Professor Van Helsing performs an autopsy in front of a class of medical students, all of whom either faint or throw up. At the end of the scene, it is revealed that he tries to gross the students out on purpose and gets great satisfaction from making everyone sick.
The movie Another Heaven opens at the scene of a corpse where the brain has apparently been removed and cooked in a stew. When the police figure that out, everyone starts to vomit. Then one of the detectives claims to have tasted it a cop goes for a second round.
At her first crime scene, Anita Blake threw up on the corpse.
In Stephen King's The Dark Half, when a body of a brutally murdered man was found by Norris Ridgewick, a deputy of a small-town sheriff, he threw up, but managed to avoid the corpse.
In the later novel Gerald's Game, Norris again throws up, when he finds what is in the truck of Raymond Andrew Joubert, a necrophiliac cannibal (for example, a sandwich with a human tongue). A character says that "the State Police would have torn him a new asshole if he'd puked on the evidence. On the other hand, I'd have wanted him removed from his job for psychological reasons if he hadn't thrown up."
A cop in King's short story The Mangler throws up on the job for the first time in his fourteen years as a policeman after seeing the remains of one particularly grisly death, where the poor individual had been run through the titular machine and was hardly recognizable as human anymore.
A hospital variation occurs in Pet Sematary, with a candy striper being the one who vomits after seeing a victim of a car accident who has a head injury so severe that his brain is visible.
Erast Fandorin, on his first crime scene (in his defense, it was an exceptionally gruesome murder).
Making Money had a cop that vomited after Moist managed to remove Cosmo's glove, just to give an idea on how disgustingly, nose-cacklingly decayed Cosmo's hand had become. So many... colors. So many... wiggling things.
Also, Cheery Littlebottom puked in Feet Of Clay, upon seeing her first murder victim.
Not a murder mystery, but in the X-Wing Series, Gavin Darklighter throws up when he sees and smells someone in the worst throes of the Krytos Plague. He's not a cop, but an extremely green pilot who, during the crisis, was sent to try and help the sufferers. He'd seen some bad ones before, but this was the worst. Gavin was able to pull himself together and do his job after, and later he told his love interest that he'll be all right, and that scares him.
"There is a Gammorean in there who has been turned into a mass of jelly. The disease killed him, but it did so in a way that didn't let him die until he could experience every fragment of pain possible. [...] I've seen more death in my time with Rogue Squadron than I have ever seen before, but nothing was so hideous as this. A year ago I would have run screaming. Now I just clean my boots and wait for guys with sterilizer units to show up. I'm changing and I'm not sure I like it."
The main character of Rob Grant's Incompetence notes that coroners often try to make detectives sick while inspecting corpses. He also notes that while they have yet to succeed with him, it's not a game he enjoys. This is just before he speaks to a coroner who stitches faces from one corpse to the buttocks of another. As a hobby.
Inspector Morse has been sick in the novels, and even on good days he is pretty squeamish about crime scenes.
Happens occasionally to Chief Hanks of Joan Hess's Maggody mysteries, particularly in The Merry Wives Of Maggody in which she has morning sickness as well as corpses to deal with.
On several occasions, Harry Dresden has surveyed crime scenes, and other cops mention that they had a bucket waiting. It's implied that the reason that the bucket was there in the first place was because the other cops had already used it.
Happens occasionally in Peter Robinson's Inspector Alan Banks novels, usually to a young police officer who isn't used to seeing dead bodies (at the beginning of A Dedicated Man for example). Happens to Banks himself in the short story "Like A Virgin", though this is partly due to a hangover.
In The Sword of Truth, there was a serial murderer whose style made a hardened combat general throw up.
In Mercedes Lackey's Changes, four spies are murdered by their replacements and left to decompose in a sealed room for a couple days in summer. The result makes several of "the most experienced and hardened Guardsmen ... violently ill." The crime scene investigators aren't fazed at all, though.
Deconstructed in Simon Hawke's The Wizard Of Rue Morgue, in which a gendarme ponders how cops who throw up at their first sight of a murder victim are often glad to have done so later on in their careers, when they've become desensitized to such things. Having that memory helps veteran police to reassure themselves that they're still human, however hardened they become; it's the rare officer who doesn't barf, cry, freak out or otherwise react to the sight of their first corpse that other cops find worrisome.
Freferuck Forsyth's The Negotiator has an example when the President's son blows up due to a bomb set in his person. However, the vomiting was induced to have an excuse to kneel and hide the detonator chip in the nearby mud.
In Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels, the title gumshoe sometimes throws up — not because of what he sees, or what he does. Specifically, though Spenser's a fan of resolving problems through fisticuffs, he's not a fan of killing. In at least two books (Mortal Stakes and A Catskill Eagle) he loses his lunch after killing someone. In the first case it was arguably self-defense (he knew the victims were trying to set him up to be murdered, and simply acted more quickly than they did); in the second case it was outright murder (done to protect a pair of prostitutes he had put in peril of their lives). By his lights both were morally justified, but he still wasn't easy about it.
The Dexter novels: Almost every crime scene where Dexter arrives has a vomiting cop nearby. Dexter is so used to the sight that he doesn't see anything out of the ordinary with it. He simply snarks about the mess and noise.
In Unnatural Issue, a squad from the White Lodge in London is sent to investigate the Yorkshire Manor of a reclusive former member that has gone around the bend. When they find that he had killed all the household servants a couple of days ago (in high summer) Dr. Maya Scott (physician and Earth Master) bolts outside to become violently ill; which is understandable given that the victims were still going about their jobs, she could tell that their souls were locked into their rotting bodies, and the perversion of Earth Magic the renegade Whitestone had gone in for would sicken even a (sane) Earth Master inured to the filth and pain of London's slums.
Played with in Broken Homes, in which Peter retreats from a body-dump site with his hand clamped over his mouth and other officers nod sympathetically, assuming it's this trope. It's not — he's holding back giggles after resisting the urge to make a tasteless crack about zombies — but he opts to let the other police think it is.
In the second "Rizzoli" novel, "The Apprentice", the titular character prides herself on NOT being this, being loathe to display any form of weakness in front of her male colleagues, to the point where she won't even swipe Vicks Vaporub under her nose to block out the stench of a decomposing body. However, it's neither the sight nor stench that finally makes her lose control, it's when the coroner reveals that the rape/murder victim they're examining was sexually assaulted AFTER she was strangled. In a later book, she blasts another female cop for throwing up at an especially gory crime scene, telling her she's making all female cops look bad—yet she's very sympathetic when her male partner has a similar reaction.
Live Action TV
Subverted in one episode of Taggart when on seeing a guy with the back of his head bashed in, experienced detective DCI Burke suddenly gags, but doesn't vomit. DS Reid says he's seen worse. Burke's reply is that it's indigestion from the falafels he ate- he's on a Health Kick.
In the 5th season finale, Nick happily examined the intestines at the scene while the experienced cop threw up.
Nick did have to leave a scene in the first season to throw up, though it is implied that this was due to smell of the blood in the air, not the gruesomeness and Nick ignoring Grissom's advice to "Breathe through your mouth".
Averted by Sara when she forced herself to smile, thereby suppressing her own gag reflexes at the sight of a boxer's spit bucket. (Saliva is her personal Blow Chunks Button.)
In at least two cases of spectacularly disgusting corpses (one had been reduced to mushy soup in a duffel bag, and the other was a saponified corpse in a barrel), everybody looked nauseous and there was at least one on-screen gag reaction.
The rookie version is also used in the very first episode, when the newbie throws up while watching an autopsy. (Subverted later when Greg manages not to while watching his first autopsy.)
At least once, Catherine deliberately tried to gross out the rookie cop that was supposed to be guarding the crime scene. She excused him to let him get some fresh air (and possibly puke in privacy,) which was a big mistake, since the killer was still in the house and attacked her.
The 'whilst watching and autopsy' version seems to happen frequently enough to almost be a trope of its own - it's happened (or almost happened) to numerous rookies in CSI and its spinoffs, as well as other shows as seen below.
The opening titles of Quincy M.E. included a variation in which five police observers are watching an (off-screen) autopsy performed by the title character; as the titles progress they turn away from it one by one, each with an obvious need to vomit and/or faint (again, off screen).
In the show that shot comes from, it turns out Quincy is doing it to these observers on purpose so he can get out of doing the demonstration and get back to his cases.
Parodied in an infamous Saturday Night Live sketch: the sight of a murder victim provoked a rookie cop to throw up; the sight of the Vomiting Cop churned other characters' stomachs and theythrew up, causing everyone who saw that to throw up, making even more witnesses throw up - it was implied at the end of the sketch that all of New York City was vomiting. Notable cock-up: Chris Elliot's vomit tube didn't deploy right away, causing him to ad-lib a line about dry heaving. It then deployed while he was distracted.
One of the cops was 8 months pregnant, and at the end Chris Farley, who was running the spinning newspaper gag, started to puke after watching it spin too much.
The 'Crunchy Frog' sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus, where mentions of chocolates such as Cockroach Cluster, Anthrax Ripple, and Rams Bladder Cup causes one of the Hygiene Squad (who actually ate some of the candies in question) to throw up.
In the Hollywood Bowl live performance, the unfortunate Hygiene Squad can't rush out of the room but instead eventually vomits into his helmet - to which his superior gives a glare, causing him to put the helmet back on his head. (SFX material: beef stew.)
In an audio recording of a live performance, an announcer notes that the constable's reaction is "the longest continuous vomit on stage since John Barrymore puked over the corpse of Laertes during a performance of Hamlet in 1941."
Harry, a hardened cop and a legend of his force, walks in on Dexter killing a murderer that kept getting away. He proudly trained him; however, seeing and realizing what he's created, Harry is violently sick.
Season 5: Cira Manzon, a young Hispanic officer, vomits after she saw one of the Santa Muerte murders. This is the rookie variant of the trope.
Done on Heroes as the fourth member of a hit squad describes how the other three were killed to Danko. The man a shapeshifter and is actually the killer. Though whether he's vomiting as part of his act or out of guilt is never made clear.
Happened to an off-screen investigator in the pilot of Fringe upon inspecting a plane whose passengers fell victim to a flesh-rotting something-or-other.
Parodied in a sketch of Kids in the Hall, where a cop vomits at the sight of a corpse and then at an expired parking meter.
In an episode of Smallville, Clark impersonates a coroner's assistant and it is assumed he leaves the area to vomit when he goes in search of his own clues.
Played dead straight early in Smiley's People after a Russian defector's head is blown to pieces.
Connor on Angel vomited at one crime scene where an entire family had been brutally murdered for being unknowing MacGuffin people. It's not the gore - Connor grew up in a demon dimension and takes his daughter being a rotted, maggot-infested corpse without qualm, but the realization that they were a family, which he has massive unresolved issues with.
DS Dan Twentyman in Moses Jones does this - visibly - upon discovering a mutilated corpse.
Stargate SG-1 gets one of these moments in "Enemy Mine." A member of an SG team is doing surveys and disappears, and SG-1 is called in to assist in locating him and finding out what happened. When they find his mutilated body skewered on a frame as a warning to the humans, Major Lorne turns away to puke in the bushes. Teal'c, of course, remains The Stoic.
A few seasons later, a couple cops start throwing up after entering the house full of dead cult children.
A whole roomful of cops nearly succumbed to this trope on The Closer, when an ice cooler containing a folded-up human corpse was opened in the middle of Brenda's office. Justified even for the most hardened veterans, given how long the body had been decomposing in a tiny airtight space. Hilariously averted by Lieutenant Provenza, who while everyone else is dashing out the door, grumbles about finding someone to clean up the mess.
Also done in the episode "Head Over Heels," where Brenda and a colleague are interrupted at a diner when the mutilated body of a victim is discovered in a nearby dumpster. While discussing what they've found, Brenda eventually succumbs to her disgust and turns away to vomit. Justified in that they having breakfast only shortly before.
Cadaver-free, serious variant: On NCIS, an amnesiac Gibbs threw up after his old mentor, bringing him up to speed on events since he'd lost his memory, told him about 9/11.
Used on Rizzoli & Isles, when a veteran cop provokes a nauseated rookie into throwing up in the autopsy-room sink with quips about burnt corpses and tomato soup.
A variation is seen in an episode of Law & Order: UK with a vomiting firefighter at a fatal arson scene.
Bones: TV Scientist Dr. Bunsen Jude, "the Science Dude" acts as Brennan's Squintern-of-the-week to convince her to come on his show to talk about how fun science is. After looking at a corpse for a few minutes and giving his expert opinion, he grabs a bucket.
When science gets icky it's all right to get s—bleh
This happens to the Cop Of The Week a few times on Criminal Minds. At one particularly brutal scene, a character remarks that the vomiter had driven eight hours to get to the crime scene, threw up in the bushes, and was about to be sent home.
Parodied on Seinfeld, when Jerry's car is stolen and a similar model turns up torn apart in a garage.
Gus from Psych usually gets queasy at the sight of dead bodies. He's not a cop, but he and "psychic detective" Shawn work closely with the police to investigate murders.
In a less-messy medical counterpart to this trope, one of the nurses on Kingdom Hospital would faint every time she had to enter the operating room and saw a gruesome surgical procedure in progress.
In the season finale of Broadchurch, Ellie retches and nearly vomits when the murderer is found. Considering the killer murdered a friend's eleven-year-old son, who he'd been in love with, and was her own husband, it was justified that she was so shocked.
On Empty Nest, fed up with her sister Barbara's bullying, Carol Weston publicly humiliates her by forcing her to admit that she threw up on the coroner the first time she saw a dead body.
In one comic in Manual of Exalted Power: Alchemicals, a box is delivered that turns out to contain a man who had been burned to death. One of the aides present at the scene responds by blowing chunks.
The "rookie cop" variation is used near the beginning of Persona 4. It's more or less his handiwork he is vomiting at. And it was probably just shock due to him not having known until then that his victim would die due to his actions. Although it's just as likely that he was faking it, or at least exaggerating, to throw suspicions off him.
Taken Up to Eleven in the third chapter of Paradigm Shift, with a throwaway line about the officers attending the scene being offered counselling. And for good reason; there's dead bodies, and then there's half-eaten dead bodies in several pieces.
Both Sanchez and an unnamed cop become this upon discovering the titular character's crimes in episode 2 of Waverly Films' Puppet Rapist.
Used in the Season One finale of Shadow Unit, in which the ever-impeturbable Nikki Lau vomits outside the old Villette house after Chaz is evacuated. Subverted somewhat as her reaction is not just about the awfulness of what's been done in the house (and the mess it's made), but the fact that it was done to and by a colleague and friend.
The Cracked feature 8 Bits episode "The Horrifying Crime Behind Every Pokémon Game" has a rookie cop woof his cookies when he opens a dusty Pokeball, presumably with a dead animal inside.
Danny, the Safety Patrol photographer and Plucky Comic Relief in Fillmore!, is often subject to this trope, often after seeing minor acts of vandalism.
The Simpsons - a squad of cops break in on Comic Book Guy and Mrs. Skinner naked in bed - Lou promptly throws up, and Wiggum reassures him "It's okay, you wouldn't be human if you didn't react like that."
Spoofed a couple of times in South Park in one Officer Yates vomits after uncovering some toilet paper used on a house, and again after finding out Michael "Jefferson" isn't black.
Supposedly one of the police who discovered Jack the Ripper's mutilated final victim took a moment to vomit in a corner. Unsurprisingly - the photograph of Mary◊ Kelly◊ is horrific enough in black and white.
Practically a rite of passage for Real Life homicide investigators. Also for EMTs, hospital interns, mortuary personnel, sanitation engineers, sewer workers, those highway crews who collect and dispose of roadkill...
There is a tradition in some police forces (etc.) that if a rookie doesn't have 'the worst' happen to him, they'll take him to a diner and order scrambled eggs & brains with hash browns; and lots of ketsup. That usually does the trick.
Most crime-scene investigators' supply kits, in addition to the tools of the trade, also contain a barf bag or two. Most evidence collection kits naturally have paper bags (anything with blood stains or other biological material on it needs to be packed dry in a breathable bag, or they will get moldy really fast), so there's no appreciable difference.
Not cops per-se, but along the same theme. In April 1945 Generals Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton visited the Ohrdruf-Nord concentration camp. Despite being a tremendous badass and a hardened war veteran, Patton was still so horrified at what he witnessed that he walked behind the barracks and threw up there.
At autopsy,Vicks Vaporub is standard equipment,especially for 'stinkers'. A little under the nose helps a lot with the gag problem.