In Los Angeles, a scanner is living in a rundown apartment with his son while going mad with psychic strain. When the police investigate the disturbance he attacks them and is shot in return, leaving his son behind. A cop on the scene takes the boy in after he sees the horrors of institutionalized psychics.
Years later, the now adult Sam Staziak graduates from the police academy to follow in his father's footsteps. Shortly afterwards a mysterious killer starts targeting police officers through brainwashing random people, putting the LAPD on high alert. Sam's father, now chief of police, enlists his son's powers to stop the threat.
This film provides examples of:
- Asshole Victim: A creepy doctor who subjects his psychic patients to horrible experiments is shown to have been killed by the main bad guy in a minor flashback, apparently to simply show him getting some comeuppance.
- Background Halo: When Sam Staziak is officially inducted into the LAPD, the police logo behind him is framed to look like a halo.
- Big Bad: Karl Glock is a former cult leader who causes the deaths of numerous cops out of petty revenge for getting arrested earlier.
- Bittersweet Ending: Sam defeats a disguised Glock at the hospital before he can finish his revenge by blowing his brain out through a metal plate protecting it. Despite dozens of dead cops and Sam nearly overloading himself, the LAPD can rest easy now that the hypnotist is defeated. The film ends with Sam training a new cadet.
- Body Horror: Staziak's unhinged father hallucinates that people's faces are literally bursting out of his head.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Various people around the city are brainwashed to respond to a hallucinatory trigger. This will make them perceive police officers as monsters and murderers so they will kill the innocent cops in what seems like self-defense.
- Cop Killer: The villain's plot to brainwash random people to murder Los Angeles police officers, which he is doing out of revenge for being sent to prison previously.
- Darker and Edgier: The film returns to the gloomy noir style established in Scanners II: The New Order. The third film, Scanners III: The Takeover, wasn't exactly lighthearted but featured a campy villainess who tried to take over the world by scanning people through a TV broadcast. Scanner Cop features a more realistic conflict between a scanner and a cop-killing hypnotist.
- Fortune Teller: The primary bad guy's Dragon and fanatical supporter Zena is a mystic who can tell people's futures with tarot cards.
- Godzilla Threshold: Sam takes Ephemerol to suppress his Scanner abilities, allowing him to lead a normal life. When an evil hypnotist starts brainwashing people to murder cops, Sam has to stop taking the drug and get his powers back to fight him. A lot of the drama of the film comes from Sam trying to keep the side-effects of being a Scanner in check so can continue to be a police officer.
- Grand Theft Me: While Zena is dying, Staziak scans her to find out where Karl Glock is hiding, following her into a mental world which is heavily implied to be Hell. She then tries to pull this trope on Staziak by taking over his body and letting him die in hers. He prevents it by scanning her mental projection.
- Happily Adopted: Samuel Staziak has a very good bond with his adoptive parents, who took him in after his biological father (a deranged scanner) died. His new father is also his boss at the LAPD, but neither of them appear in the sequel.
- The Hard Hat: At the end, Glock initially resists the Sam's psychic attack because of his steel plate, though it peels away the hair on his head. Sam then concentrates really hard and gets the desired result.
- Hero Stole My Bike: Near the climax, Sam brainwashes a random guy to confiscate his car so he can quickly race back to the hospital, where Glock is about to kill his previously wounded father.
- Hell: Staziak finds himself temporarily in Hell, when he uses his Psychic Powers to follow the mind of a dying woman beyond the border of life and death.
- Magical Defibrillator: Sam uses a defibrillator - using his telekinesis to move it - in an attempt to kill Glock.
- See You in Hell: Zena taunts Sam with this when she's dying after she's hit, as she's his only lead to the primary villain. In a variation, he then uses his psychic powers to literally follow her path into Hell to get the info he needs.
- Super Cop: Staziak is a cop with Psychic Powers.
- Technopath: Sam controls a computer with his mind to speed up the facial composition software.
- Your Head Asplode: Sam blows up Zena's head during the Hell sequence to stop her attempted Grand Theft Me of Sam's body. Whether this actually destroyed her soul or not isn't mentioned.