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Basic Trope: A renegade police officer who bucks authority and plays by his own rules.
Straight: Bob is a detective who routinely cuts corners in his investigations in order to identify and apprehend the guilty party, creating tension between himself and his superior officer.
Exaggerated: Bob engages in flagrant breaking of the law in his investigations, resulting in lots of deaths, destruction and property damage. Although his superiors hate him and Internal Affairs has sworn to throw him off the force, he nevertheless remains an integral part of the department.
Bob breaks some rules set by the police force, but he does follow most other rules. He only breaks minor procedural rules, which only results in a minor infringement notice.
Every other cop in the precinct acts according to all of the traits and tropes that typically define a loose cannon cop. Bob challenges the system and plays by his own rules by going through proper police procedure.
Bob's methods of fighting crime are ludicrously over the top; for example, he responds to a purse-snatcher by stealing a tank and running the purse-snatcher over with it.
Bob's methods of fighting crime are ludicrously incompetent.
The typical 'Cowboy Cop' character of Bob is transplanted out of a police/law-enforcement environment and into a less action-oriented or critical profession — such as a librarian, an insurance agent, a milkman, etc. The same tropes — such as the rule-bending and the "You're a loose cannon!" exchanges — are played out straight.
Everyone in Bob's precinct is an exaggerated version of the By-the-Book Cop - except Bob, who takes one or two very minor liberties with the law. Because of this, he's painted as a Cowboy Cop.
Zig Zagged: Bob flaunts some of the rules, but with others he's a complete stickler.
The writers have a hearty disdain for the system and create the character of Bob in order to explore how in order to secure justice sometimes it is necessary to act outside of it.
The writers feel that a charismatic rebel will interest more viewers than someone who strictly follows the rules.
The writers are rather unoriginal and sloppy with facts regarding how a modern police department functions.
Lampshaded: "You're a loose cannon, Bob!"
Invoked: Bob actually wants to get fired from the police department and initially acts in a reckless, rule-flaunting fashion to see this come about.
Exploited: Gangster Alice uses Bob's cowboy cop tendencies against him in a Batman Gambit so a hapless patsy is blamed for her crimes, since Bob killed him while making the arrest.
Defied: Bob becomes a By-the-Book Cop who actively discourages anyone from even trying to become a Cowboy Cop.
Discussed: "Bob may play by his own rules, but damn if he's also the finest cop in this whole department".
Conversed: "How's a character like Bob lasted so long in the police without being severely disciplined?"
Bob's methods of fighting crime are dangerous, corrupt and ultimately harmful to justice. Because he cuts corners, his cases get justifiably thrown out of court and guilty people walk free — and there's no one else to blame but him. His recklessness and violent approach to solving crimes endanger not only himself, but his fellow police officers and innocent civilians as well. In breaking the law to try and catch criminals, he is ultimately hypocritical and no better than the criminals he claims to despise. In short, he's someone who has no place being a police officer.
Alternatively, Bob becomes a Rabid Cop instead. The more he becomes a maverick, the more he breaks the rules, to the point that he becomes more dangerous than the criminals.
Reconstructed: Although Bob's methods are questionable, the reason why he's still part of the force is because sometimes they're the only ones that work. Furthermore, being too bound by the rules can create inherent risks and dangers in itself.
"I don't need no stinkin' link to get back to Cowboy Cop"