Follow TV Tropes


Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop

Go To

"Bad cops, bad cops
Bad cops, bad cops
Springfield cops are on the take
But what do you expect for the money we make?
Whether in a car or on a horse
We don't mind using excessive force."

Some cops are useless. Some cops are dirty. And some cops are an amazing combination of the two, with a healthy dose of Lawful Stupid to go with it. Police suffering from Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop are corrupt, useless, unnecessarily violent, or just complete douchebags on a power trip. In this town, The Bad Guys Are Cops.

Unlike just one Dirty Cop, or a small group of them, Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop describes an entire precinct (or world!) where police are monolithically terrible. Maybe they're all corrupt. Maybe just a few are corrupt, but the rest are so incompetent that they completely ignore (or feel powerless against) the swath of abuse, violence, and destruction the corrupt cops leave. Maybe they're all just completely insane. Whatever the case may be, here an old saying current in some circles has some merit: "It's such a shame that 90% of cops give the other 10% a bad name."

When this is more of an Implied Trope due to the fact that nobody bothers to involve the police in anything, you have Police Are Useless.

Perhaps understandably, their jurisdiction usually ends up being a Vice City or Wretched Hive. Depending on where you live, this may even be Truth in Television, though it's by no sane means the case for every police department. No relation to Good Cop/Bad Cop, though there can be some overlap.

See also Sliding Scale of Law Enforcement.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Dominion Tank Police has an entire police force filled with lunatic Cowboy Cop types who see nothing wrong with destroying private property in pursuit of evildoers. And they're the GOOD guys! In the manga? They're so bad, that the bad guy gets away scot-free... turns out he was the REAL protagonist.
  • The police in Black Lagoon are ineffectual, utterly corrupt and unwilling to take even the slightest step towards keeping order in Roanapur...and most of the cast like it that way. At one point, the police join in on a manhunt against someone who's got a bounty on their heads by one of the city's mafia leaders, much to her disgust. And that's not even taking into account the backstory of the main female character, Revy, as a child in New York, at the "tender mercies" of some dirty NYPD officers.
  • The duo of John "Sleepy" Estes and Daizaburo "Eddie" Ban in Mad Bull 34. Sleepy is an unscrupulous Cowboy Cop who seems to have "kill all suspects" hard-coded into his brain, while Eddie is a meek, cowardly milquetoast.
  • The Marines of One Piece fit this almost to a T; the ones who can actually fight worth a damn are usually either tyrannizing civilians for fun and profit, Ax-Crazy Knight Templars, or pushovers used to show how badass the enemy pirates of the current arc are. Even the few who are genuinely powerful and have some sort of moral fiber tend to be mysteriously absent around the countries literally run by pirates (Dressrosa, Totto Land, Wano, etc.), meaning the Straw Hats have to do all the heavy-lifting.

  • In a comedy routine, Trevor Noah uses this trope when comparing the Hair-Trigger Temper police of the US (bad cop) and South African Dirty Cop. He tells how you can argue with the police in South Africa when you're pulled over, but in order to do that in 'Murica, you have to be Too Dumb to Live. He drives his point home in this ending skit, in which a South African cop was brought to the US to teach the Amrican cops how to not be so violent. It ends with a police offering a third opinion to a convict who refuses to come out because either he'd get killed or spend the rest of his life in jail. The third opinion? It involves "a cold drink".

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Year One: Gotham PD is almost entirely corrupt, with SWAT teams having no problem in leveling city blocks if they can get away with it. There is also Harvey Bullock, who manages to unite both evil AND incompetent (for a corrupt cop whose task is to hinder detective work, this can be an effective combination indeed). That is before he eventually turns over a new leaf, upgrading into a good and on/off incompetent copper.
  • Gotham Central takes the already-established corruption of the Gotham City Police Department (see above) and places an entire series within its ranks. It deals with the Major Crimes Unit, the portion of the department that is tasked with dealing with "freaks" (supervillains) and other major crimes, and is the only consistently honest branch in the entire department. Each member of the MCU is handpicked by the commissioner of police (originally Commissioner Gordon, and then Commissioner Akins once Gordon retires) to insure a modicum of integrity, and throughout the series they are forced to butt heads (often violently) with other departments who disagree on what constitutes "proper" policework. Even when they themselves are honest they cannot get much accomplished since everybody else is working against them, and they are often forced to accept when police corruption lets a guilty man go free since "it's Gotham."
  • Nightwing's city Bludhaven is even worse than Gotham — its police force is on the mob's payroll.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In Flashpoint 2: Advent Solaris, the Soleanna police force is even worse than they are in their original source material, it being revealed they make heroes trying to save the leader of their country play guessing games for their own amusement while also laughing at their choice of occupation. They also later on are revealed to be on the private payroll of the nation's regent, and gleefully turn against their ruling monarch - before all of them get gunned down with ease by robots.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Luc Besson is pretty fond of this trope:
  • Fallen Angel: Mark Judd is a former NYC cop who murders Stella, Eric Stanton's girlfriend.
  • The Fugitive: The Chicago Police Department arrest Dr. Richard Kimble for the murder of his wife and immediately call it quits, with the Orgy of Evidence of his fingerprints being all over the crime scene (his own home), the relentless disbelief that a one-armed man exists, and the resolve that Kimble killed his wife for her insurance money even if the Kimbles were already stinking rich (Marshal Gerard points this out, and they just say "she had more money"). The Reveal that the one-armed man, a crooked security consultant named Fred Sykes, was a former Chicago police officer just piles on a lot of unfortunate implications about the CPD's inefficiency that get tossed to their face by the press as the credits begin to roll.
  • It seems that Det. Jim Lipton's main task in Dead Silence is to harass the main character Jamie in every possible way he can come up with. He claims the protagonist's main clue as evidence, almost stalks Jamie when trying to prove that he killed his wife, tries to arrest him with no reason and, when Jamies refuses the arrest, Lipton ends up chasing him — an unarmed man — with a shotgun and probably wouldn't have hesitated to shoot him either. He is also Lawful Stupid to the core, refusing to accept the facts around him.
  • Lakeview Terrace: The racist cop harasses his neighbors, an inter-racial couple. The rest of the police force ignores it. The police force itself (and even the racist officer in question) aren't entirely corrupt, though. They're presumably just turning a blind eye on this particular case of abuse.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • There are elements of this in Batman Begins, as well, as Gordon is apparently the only police officer who isn't corrupt or complicit. (Gotham PD is getting better by the start of The Dark Knight.)
      Flass: [after accepting a bribe] Don't suppose you want a taste? I just keep offering, thinking maybe someday you'll get wise.
      Jim Gordon: There's nothing wise in what you do, Flass.
      Flass: Well, Jimbo, you don't take the taste... makes us guys nervous.
      Jim Gordon: I'm no rat! In a town this bent, who's there to rat to anyway?
    • However, at the rate in which he does or does not do anything about it, he could be considered by some to be a bad cop for his abiding of corruption. In The Dark Knight, Harvey calls him out on his continued staffing (in order to actually have a staff) of people shown to be dirty by Internal Affairs, which gets Rachel Dawes killed, among other things. In The Dark Knight Rises, the true events of The Dark Knight come to light, causing Gordon to be a Broken Pedestal, especially to Det. Blake, who is disgusted with him. Both times he responds with "I Did What I Had to Do", which sounds like it's more meant to convince himself.
  • While a sizeable portion of the police force in Sin City are either dirty or corrupt, it also subverts this as the rest are honest, decent, or just "a working stiff with a mortgage and a wife and a pile of kids", who are either powerless to do anything about the corruption alone, or not willing to risk their careers, lives and reputation. Cops like Hartigan, Mort (until he met Ava Lord), and "Jackie Boy" Rafferty, who was a straight up hero cop before he became burnt out and worn down from years on the force, reaching rock bottom and the level we see in "The Big, Fat Kill".
  • The London precinct in Hot Fuzz actually transfers their one good cop so he doesn't make them look bad. They try to get him back in the end because without him the numbers are terrible (talking about a 400% increase in crime rate "terrible"). It wasn't so much a matter of them being incompetent, as him being super-competent. The cops in Sandford village however definitely qualify for this trope. At least until they Took a Level in Badass
  • Last Action Hero has this appear near the end, in the real world. The Big Bad realizes he can literally get away with murder because the cops don't immediately arrive on the crime scene like they do in his native movie world.
  • In the French film La Haine, the police are both racist and more interested in harassing people from the banlieues than cleaning the banlieues up.
  • Sheriff Winston Hoyt from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) remake, who's eventually revealed to be Charlie Hewitt Jr., a member of Leatherface's depraved cannibal family. Most other cops who have appeared throughout the series are usually depicted as dumb and incompetent, or are just faceless victims.
  • Titular Ax-Crazy aside, pretty much every prominently appearing officer in the Maniac Cop series seem to be corrupt, dishonest or just incompetent. Even Jack, the protagonist from the first film, regularly cheated on his wife and didn't seem all that fazed when informed of her murder.
  • All the bad guys in Kiss of the Dragon are examples of this trope. They even manage to assassinate a liaison from the Chinese government! If that police department had any semblance of an internal affairs department, they should have been all fired, provided they survived the inevitable war with China.
  • In Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, the duo meet a department full of cops who are all racist, incompetent bullies.
  • In A Clockwork Orange, George and Dim are as violent and vicious as cops as they were in their respective gangs. Also, the only scene in which they're shown (as cops) has them being concerned with revenge, as Alex was known to tolchock both of them repeatedly.
  • In Bollywood films, the Indian police are either this or Invincible Hero types. No grey area. Ever.
  • The cops shown in Crash are all racist — even the ones who aren't.
  • The Element of Crime. Let's just say that with cops like this, you don't need mafia.
  • The New York City Police Department in Taxi (2004) (featuring Queen Latifah) is portrayed mostly as competent. The incompetent part is the character out of it, Detective Washburn. Not only is the guy incompetent (the first time we see him he ruins a drug bust and gets his partner shot) he's also a terrible driver, and bumbles along from one mistake to the other until the end, where he assumes the Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass position.
  • The entire police force in Rio are incompetent for failing to stop Dom and Brian in the finale chase in Fast Five. Given that all of them were corrupt and on the payroll of the Big Bad, they got what they deserved for betraying the police code for greed. Only Hobbs comes close to apprehending Dom in the film.
  • The NOPD is this in The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Terrence McDonagh is a flagrantly Dirty Cop, his partner is a Rabid Cop, the guy running the evidence room is letting McDonagh steal seized drugs for his personal use, and all the other cops are completely oblivious to his behavior, no matter how erratic and blatant it gets. At the end of the film, the protagonist is promoted to captain for Framing the Guilty Party.
  • All the cops in Super Troopers, with the grand exception Ursula, fit this trope to at least some degree. The Highway cops are mostly incompetent, and are usually too busy goofing off or playing games to do their jobs right. Farva takes this further, being the incompetent cop even as compared to his comrades by being an ignorant, obnoxious buffoon. The town police are bad, since they're unapologetic asshats who are more focused on their rivalry with the highway cops than doing their jobs, they're also corrupt and running protection for a drug running ring.
  • Played for Laughs with the mounties in Super Troopers 2 who stand by and let the enraged Canadian audience pelt the Highway cops with hockey pucks after Farva attempts to force them to take the Pledge of Allegiance. It's not that they couldn't have stopped it, it's that they're every bit as mad as everyone else in the town about it being turned over to the United States and felt the Highway cops deserved what they got for Farva's gaffe:
    O' Hagan: Ah, welcome, Officers!
    Ramathorn: "Welcome" to the guys who stood around while people threw hockey pucks at us?!
    Bellefuille: You gonna come up here talking all that "Make America Great" crap, you're bound to catch a face full of Canadian tomato.
  • The police in Surveillance are universally corrupt, incompetent, or both. For example, Bennett and Conrad spend their days shooting out the tires of passing motorists and then terrorizing them about how their speeding must have caused the tire to blow out.
  • In HOUBA! On the Trail of the Marsupilami, the Chiquito policemen aren't very concerned with upholding the law, for example ignoring an attempted mugging a dozen meters away. (And the mugger is trying to get arrested.)
  • The New Orleans policemen in The Big Easy, are increasingly worried Internal Affairs will look into their "widows and orphans fund". Protagonist Remy McSwain, while far from incompetent in the field, eventually admits his love interest is right, he has skidded so far down the slippery slope of corruption he's become a bad cop. The killers in the case full on are this trope.)
  • The two cops in Superbad are not only generally incompetent and irresponsible, but they completely fall for Fogell's botched fake ID that lists his name as simply "McLovin". It's eventually revealed that they knew all along about the fake ID, and played along because they wanted to show Fogell that cops can have fun, too.
  • Freebie and the Bean: Not only are the titular cops criminals who commit Police Brutality and steal, they're also terrible at their job. One scene has them getting into a loud brawl with a "hitman" who turns out to be an unarmed Cadillac salesman, right in front of the racketeer they're supposed to be inconspicuously tailing.

  • All indication in Discworld is that the Ankh-Morpork watch used to be incompetent at best, brutal at worst, but since Guards! Guards!, things have gotten a lot better very quickly.
    • It's often mentioned that Ankh-Morpork trained watchmen are now in demand across the continent, and this is starting to cause problems for genre-savvy criminals used to the corrupt ones.
    • The Day Watch in Men at Arms are a classic example of the trope; the Night Watch at its lowest just failed to improve things, but Captain "Mayonnaise" Quirke's mob manage to make things significantly worse.
  • The Grapes of Wrath fulfills the "bad" part, if not necessarily "incompetent." The book attempts to justify it in that they're paid per arrest, with no penalty for arresting the wrong person, and with the economy as it is, they desperately need the money.
  • The two police organizations of The Hollows novels exemplify this troupe. Inderlander Security (IS) which is charged with policing the supernatural population is run by vampires who use it to cover their own criminal activity more than actual police work. Their human counterpoint the FIB is well meaning but lacks the manpower, training and resources to be effective.
  • As is often Truth in Television, the militsiya of the small Russian provincial town where Night Watcher takes place is utterly and unabashedly corrupt. This includes the General, who is (of necessity a political powermonger) with General Ripper tendencies, and both of the protagonistic cops in the Night Team, one of whom is a Sociopathic Hero Cowboy Cop, while the other is a homophobic Dumb Muscle that once raped a sleeping female vampire for kicks. Those three, at least, are actually better than they sound, but still.
    • Tha latter's catchphrase "Are there any faggots on the premises?" managed to become a minor Memetic Mutation.
  • Similar to the above example, much of the militsaya we see in Gorky Park similarly seem to fit this trope. Except for the protagonist, which only seems to get him in trouble.
  • Forest Kingdom: In the spinoff series Hawk & Fisher, not only are the title characters the only City Guards of Haven to have never taken bribes, they are also so freaking darn competent that the rest of the Guard looks exactly like this trope in comparison.
  • The cops in the Dirk Gently books claim, deadpan, to be an example of this trope. At one point, a detective asks Dirk to go outside and beat himself up, as all the police are too busy to properly brutalize him. In reality, they're not only pretty decent at their jobs, the same detective is a better Reasonable Authority Figure than Dirk, frankly, even deserves. There is one glaring exception to said aversion in The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, however. Well, it's not like they could write "Died from violating a contract with a devil" on the paperwork, now could they?
  • Incompetence has several police forces that are either completely useless or astoundingly overzealous. Special mention goes to the one officer suffering from "Non-Specific Stupidity", who manages to handcuff himself while interrogating a deli owner over a sandwich.
  • Happens literally in Prince of the City by Robert Daley. At the end of the book the DA is saddled with incompetent detectives who keep blowing cases and can't do investigations properly. He wonders where all the legendary NYPD cops went, and then belatedly realises he's put them all in jail for corruption.
  • In William Marshall's Yellowthread Street novel Perfect End, the central police characters discover that the leaders of the Hong Kong force were using one small police station as a dumping-ground for all the cops who were incompetent, gratuitously violent, or suspected of corruption. Not unnaturally, it really sucked for the local residents, until one of the cops pissed off a really hardcore criminal, who massacred the whole lot of them.
  • Eileen: The entire X-ville police force is far more focused with standing up for their own than promoting public safety. The police force kept Eileen's father on board for far too long after his alcoholism rendered him unfit for duty, crashing cars and behaving violently and erratically. They all also rally around Mr. Polk, another police officer who was sexually abusing his son. They even put his son in jail without bothering to find out why he killed his own father.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Adam-12: While Officer Edward Wells (Gary Crosby, in a recurring role) is by all accounts a very good officer, his jerky behavior and tendency to shoot first-ask questions later lead to major problems for both himself and his fellow officers. He also tends to believe his way of handling a given situation is the only way, which more often than not is not only wrong but also leads to more problems (like the time he arrested someone but didn't have the witness identify the man he arrested, who turned out to be an innocent bystander).
    • Several episodes dealt with other officers who, in one way or another, are ill-suited, bad or otherwise incompetent. All of the episodes point to Truth in Television: Most police officers are good, upstanding citizens and honorable police officers, but the occasional one who breaks the law, engages in police brutality, or otherwise mars the badge will quickly be found out and just as quickly ousted from the force:
      • A 1971 episode, "The Dinosaur", has Officer Art McCall who was retired due to injuries 8 years earlier be reinstated to the force. Malloy tells Reed that McCall actually died saving his partner from a gunman, only to have the doctor bring him back and that he's a "legend". However, as the shift goes on McCall discovers his Old-Fashioned Copper style doesn't work with modern policing - causing problems with most of their calls. Finally, after a woman is critically injured by a bomb planted by her stalker (that they were forced to let go earlier because McCall botched the arrest), Malloy dresses him down for his antiquated (and illegal) methods in handling suspects and victims. McCall realizes he's no longer able to keep up and retires again.
      • A 1972 episode, "Badge Heavy", focuses on police brutality, with Quinn Redeker (best known as the screen-writer for the 1978 Academy Award winning The Deer Hunter) cast in the role of the rogue cop. Reed eventually helps wash the cop out, but the final downfall happens only after the bad cop smugly explains his "tough" attitude on criminals in the locker room.
      • The 1973 episode "Training Division", Wells was actually saddled with a "know-it-all" rookie officer named Barnett, whose arrogance and insistence that he knows how to handle a given situation is not only bad but proves extremely dangerous ... especially when the officers are forced to deal with a sociopathic bomber, who hides a bomb at a grocery store. The rookie officer is unable to determine that the bomber's "hostage" is actually an accomplice; Reed isn't fooled and steps in before the other guy draws his gun. In the episode's moral, Precinct Chief MacDonald says that every officer makes mistakes, but the rookie's inability to learn from his mistakes — and no doubt, his ultra-arrogant pride that he was the greatest cop played the key part in all that — led to his downfall.
      • The 1975 episode "Pressure Point", where officers Reed and Malloy deal with an autistic rookie officer who hides his disorders, including stuttering. These all lead to a situation where he is unable to alert Reed and Malloy to a potential trap set up by the episode's bad guys; don't worry, the main protagonists use their instincts to save themselves and capture the baddies. Later, Reed and Malloy interrogate the rookie cop, who admits his shortcomings and resigns. (Reed and Malloy, albeit upset, are calm and rational when getting answers; the rookie's training officer, Jerry Woods, has a cow and wants to skin his hide.) It's all part of an episode explaining why police forces sometimes "discriminate" due to certain disabilities.
      • Side note on "Pressure Point": Perhaps aware of some of the rookie officer's shortcomings, Reed and Malloy are calm with him both during the shooting incident and an earlier landlord-tenant disturbance. In that earlier incident, the rookie recites verbatim the code for breaking-and-entering to one of the subjects; Reed, having determined that the woman was not a suspect, allows the rookie to finish, then privately (and in Malloy's presence) helps him understand why his handling could have been dangerous. The latter incident sees Malloy shout down Officer Woods when he blows his stack with the rookie officer.
  • Andor: The Preox-Morlana corporation has a private security force, but amongst the planets under the corporation's control, they're essentially the police. The pair of officers who try to shake down Cassian in episode one are textbook Corrupt Cops (visiting brothels and stealing money) but it's clear the law-abiding officers are little better being thuggish, stand-offish, violent, and not accountable to any civilian they torment. In the quest to arrest Cassian, they brutalize an innocent woman (Bix) for being suspicious, kill an unarmed civilian (Timm) who attempts to intervene and throw their weight around against anyone they think looks out of line. Even the somewhat sympathetic Syril opens fire on a pair of civilians in a panic when they startle him.
  • The Andy Griffith Show: Barney Fife, although this is comically played up (thanks to Don Knotts' vast comedic talents) as it is more his overblown know-it-all attitude that makes him who he is and made him one of television's most beloved characters. His worst area is arguably his ineptitude with firearms.
  • A.N.T. Farm: Darryl Parks.He isn't necessarily a dirty cop, but he doesn't follow all of the rules and he definitely abuses being an officer of the law. He is more of the imcompetent, played for laughs,Police Are Useless Disney version of this trope.
  • Family Matters: Lt. Murtaugh, an egotistical, thinks-he's-the-greatest-cop superior officer played brilliantly by Barry Jenner. More often than not, Murtaugh would bumble his way through a given situation only for his subordinate, Carl Winslow, to handle the situation correctly and save their hides. Two other episodes highlighted serious mistakes made by Carl's other fellow officers:
    • "Good Cop, Bad Cop": Eddie complains that he was the victim of racial profiling by two overzealous cops. Carl at first refuses to believe Eddie, since Eddie had lied before about late-night carousing, and this latest incident did take place late at night when he was supposed to be home. When Harriette asks Carl to at least get the other side of the story, he does ... and Carl finds out that the senior officer is indeed a severe racist who stopped Eddie simply because he was "a black in a white person's neighborhood." Carl is furious and says he will report him to the captain; he then urges the rookie officer – sensing potential and that he had made a mistake that he can learn from – to examine his own attitudes.
    • "My Uncle, the Hero": Carl is leading a tour of the police station for his nephew Richie's class, and the predictably dull tour is about to end flatter than a pancake ... when a young officer's brief inattention to an un-handcuffed sociopathic bank robbery suspect leads to a brief hostage situation involving one of Richie's friends. Carl is able to talk the robber out of doing something he'd regret then, after the situation is resolved and the suspect taken to the holding cell, Carl takes the young officer aside and sets up a meeting time to discuss the situation and the mistake he made.
  • 24 gives us CTU, who we are repeatedly told are a premier Counter Terrorist Unit and whose badass reputation apparently is based upon their performance over the course of the show. This is strange, since over the course of the show they usually find out about major terrorist attacks mere hours before they are scheduled to be executed, and in the process of dealing with them often uncover more terrorist threats that were linked to them- on several occasions, they fail to stop them, so over the course of a decade America falls victim to chemical, biological and even nuclear attacks with tens of thousands of people killed. Several prominent political figures are also targeted for assassination on their watch, including several domestic, foreign and ex-Presidents (several succeed- if the official isn't killed, they are often at least crippled). And agents almost always manage to let personal problems get in their way in the middle of a national crisis, at least on the occasions when they aren't The Mole, of which there is at least one every Day (and sometimes even the moles are bogged down by their private lives). Other perils of becoming an elite counter-terrorist agent is criminals, traitors, and terrorists find it easy to blackmail or threaten you, or hold your close friends or family hostage. And if they manage to capture one of the perps and hold them prisoner, don't expect them to remain their long- they invariably tend to escape, die, or escape and then die after killing a whole bunch of people.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard:
    • Rosco P. Coltrane, in many instances aside from his frequent inability to catch the Duke boys and his poor driving skills. For instance, his inattentiveness to several "10 Most Wanted" suspects he has arrested allows the criminal(s) to escape. In another episode, he (along with Boss Hogg) are smitten by a beautiful, conniving woman they have just hired as a deputy; a simple background check would have found she was the boyfriend of a syndicate bank robber and murderer (one who was to spend the night in Hazzard). In the later episode "Enos' Last Chance", Rosco's arrests an escaped syndicate criminal convicted of murder and robbery, but when he brings him to the courthouse for booking, uncuffs him and briefly turns his back, the wily criminal escapes!
    • Enos Strate, who has been shown to be a competent lawman on many occasions, even slips up once in awhile. His biggest mistake came in the 1983 episode "Too Many Roscoes", where he gets upset when Rosco's double (an experienced bank robber) flubs simple facts... and he is unable to call him on this when "Rosco" recalls a scheduled armored car delivery to exact detail.
  • Murder In Coweta County: In this 1983 adaptation of real live events surrounding the life of Meriwether County, Georgia, land baron John Wallace and his killing of a sharecropper (in a neighboring county), Wallace (the "master" of "The Kingdom") had the entire sheriff's department and court system under his thumb.
  • The short lived Australian comedy Bad Cop Bad Cop is all about this.
  • The Reno Sheriff's Department from Reno 911!, although with much more emphasis on incompetence over brutality.
  • Turn Reno 911! 180 degrees, and you've pretty much got The Shield. With the caveat that just about every cop in the department is focused on catching criminals, and they ultimately are quite effective. Their methods leave something to be desired, though: only Dutch Wagenbach is show to be consistently honest, and even he turns to Rabid Cop in the pilot.
  • There appears to be grand total of one cop in the Firefly 'verse who's not incompetent, corrupt or both.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 99% of the Sunnydale police department is either corrupt, or "deeply stupid".
  • The Wire. The entire BPD is painted as some combination of incompetent, corrupt, or averse to actual police work. On the bad side (bordering on sadistic, even) you have Walker, then on the incompetent side you've got... cripes... half the main cast of the show. Valchek, Burrell, Polk, Mahone, Prez is shown as incompetent early in season one, but he gets better, much like Carver. Even the seemingly good cops like Lester and Jimmy aren't above convincing everyone that there's a serial killer on the loose. The crown for King of the Morons, however, undisputedly sits atop Herc's bald bean. He is dumber than a sack of hammers, frequently outsmarted by people who are obviously guilty, and he's so over-zealous that he frequently abuses people who are obviously innocent.
    • If cops on the show talk about "Doing it the Western District way" you can expect excessive brutality and brain-bending stupidity to follow. Especially with Herc.
    • BPD are pretty competent and they definitely are not crooked. In most cases (like the killer scam) were examples of circumventing the rules with surprisingly realistic outcome happening. McNulty, Kima, Lester, Carver and even Herc are shown as very competent if somewhat rebellious (save for McNulty, who is a typical Cowboy Cop). Prez is cocky and inexperienced, but learns quickly. The whole premise of the series was to show that police efficiency is influenced by far more factors that competency and honesty (e.g. political ambitions, public opinion and chance).
  • The Bill, started as a low key cop show, then featured the cops more than the crime and finally went into all-out soap mode. By the end you could have halved the crime rate in Sun Hill by asking the local drug gangs to take over policing the area.
    • Before the Crime Time Soap era, this was Tony Stamp's opinion of the London Met's infamous "Territorial Support Group", whose primary responsibilities were public order and crowd control. The unit had (and likely still does have) a reputation for being a dead-end dumping ground for officers who were known to be a bit too happy to get stuck in but hadn't landed themselves in sufficiently serious trouble with Professional Standards to justify giving them the sack. Tony's nickname for them was the "Thick and Stupid Group".
  • Prison Break:
    • Except for the Warden (who's naively oblivious), the other COs at Fox River are corrupt. And technically all are incompetent, considering the escape.
      DOC Member: Why did these inmates have so much time to dig a hole in the floor of the guards break room while working prison industries?
    • Then the show brings us Agent Mahone (who goes around killing the escapees because he's being blackmailed for killing a different criminal earlier in his career.) And Agent Self.
  • Burn Notice:
    • While the show is fairly realistic in everything it portrays save its hyper-competent conspiracies and cops are usually very useful for Michael Weston, even though they're also usually (justifiably) after him, sometimes you wonder how neglectful the Miami Metro-police is considering how often Michael finds himself in a siege against non-silenced fully automatic armed thugs that never, ever even try to be subtle and take every chance to empty a magazine. In the middle of the city. For hours. With no policemen ever in sight.
    • One of the worst examples is in the finale of season 4. A literal army of thugs are accompanying Voughn to corner Michael into a non-finished hotel in the middle of the city, shooting whenever he pops his head out, and the police only ever shows when Michael sends out a signal to the police with the highest possible alert. And even then it only takes a little obfuscating from upwards in the chain of command for the full force to just ignore the shootings literally down the bloc.
  • Subverted with the police in Kamen Rider Kuuga, not only do they accept that Kuuga is on their side (despite only one of them knowing anything about him...which he doesn't tell his coworkers, but they're actually capable of doing something to the Monster of the Week. The police in Kuuga are the hardest subversion of this in the franchise.
    • Kamen Rider Agito, the sequel to Kuuga (Kuuga and Agito are shown to be part of the same canon. In the Agito arc of Kamen Rider Decade it's even lampshaded) is perhaps a close(er than others) second; while the police in general can't do anything to the Monster of the Week, they did make the G3 system, something that could fight them...granted it started out pretty useless(even in its debut fight)...and the only real reason its first user even became its first user was to buy his silence about an event they didn't want people to know about (not that he knew about this, he thought he got it because he was the best man for the job)
  • Murray the cop on The Odd Couple (1970) is so incompetent that Oscar Madison refers to him as "The only cop who's gonna retire a rookie". In "Natural Chilbirth", he tries to find a missing pregnant girl and brings a different pregnant girl back, despite her protests. Felix Unger tells him "That's all right. You did your best. That's what's so tragic."
  • After Manny of Black Books, gets four seasons of The Sweeney and an espresso machine for his birthday, he goes a little mad and ends up accidentally blagging his way into a real police case. In order to keep up the delusion, he agrees to do a good cop / bad cop routine, resulting in this:
    Bad Cop: You better start talking Nogsey, or I'll feed you to the sharks... (nudges Manny to play good cop)
    Manny: (awkwardly) ...You have... beautiful eyes...
    • He finally snaps under the pressure when the other policeman leaves him in the room with a suspect. Luckily, his mad babbling freaks the suspect out so much he winds up confessing.
  • The Thai police in Bangkok Hilton fall into Well-Intentioned Extremist territory, as they're sincerely trying to deal with the drug trade. But the fact that they dismiss Kat's story without making any attempt to pass on her information on Arkie Ragan to the authorities in Australia comes across as this.
  • On Copper the police officers assigned to the Five Points neighborhood are all corrupt by modern standards. However, the group led by Det Corcoran is actually quite competent and fair in their own way. In contrast the group led by Sgt. Byrnes is extremely corrupt (they prefer that a murder victim has no relatives since it allows them to loot all of the victim's possessions) and really lazy in their investigations. This culminates in Byrnes failing to realize that a murder victim was quite obviously poisoned and dying himself when he eats the food the dead man was previously eating. Consequently, Corcoran takes control of the precinct and uses the incident as an object lesson on why too much corruption and incompetence is detrimental to a copper's well being.
  • The cops of Lake Top in Top of the Lake. Their leader, Al, is in the pocket of the local Small-Town Tyrant, smacks suspects around, and spends his time alternately patronising and creepily hitting on the female protagonist, a police officer from the city. He's also running a paedophile ring. The other cops are less characterised, but are all corrupt, lazy and insensitive.
  • The list of cops on Gotham who have any interest in actually fighting crime starts with Jim Gordon and extends to the Major Crimes detectives who are actively gunning for him. After that the list gets very short.
  • The 70's anthology show Police Story had several:
    • A true story involved a patrol officer who carelessly opened a box with a bomb in it getting one of his hands (and one hand of his partner) blown off. The second officer (eventually nicknamed "Captain Hook") came back to the force despite having a hook for his primary hand.
    • Another was the inspiration for the series SWAT had a detective put in charge of the SWAT team making more and more mistakes, getting someone killed and eventually having a complete breakdown during a crisis. He then came back in another assignment.
    • One had a patrol officer who was too lackadaisical about his job, then gorging on junk food making him too sick to go out. His partner wound up alone and was killed on duty for lack of backup. He then quit the force.
  • Played for laughs in the "Quality Polis" series of sketches on Burnistoun. The sketches feature a pair of officers (implied to be representative of the whole department) who abuse their power for their own amusement, for example using a noise complaint to invite themselves to a man's party and threaten to arrest him if he doesn't let them in. They're also extremely dim and oblivious to actual crime that happens right in front of them.

  • The parody song "Go Cops" by Rucka Rucka Ali (set to Kesha's "Tik Tok") is about a group of police officers getting high on duty and harassing minorities.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Street Fighter: the Storytelling Game, Interpol relies on fighters from a highly organized illegal street fighting circuit to take down Shadowloo operations because 50% of every single local police force in the world is on the take (basically if there is a small sheriff's office with only a sheriff and a deputy, at least one of them will be on the take).
  • In Shadowrun this trope is commonplace. Thanks to many police forces worldwide being privatized and given incentive to turn a profit and nothing else, police in low-income areas tend to be staffed by the worst the precinct has to offer. Corruption and Police Brutality are common, and many police officers hold metahuman prejudice that gets overlooked as long as their employers do not complain. And then there are the CorpSec outfits, which supply the megas with in-house security, which makes the public police look professional by comparison.

  • West Side Story features Officer Shrank (Bad Cop) and Officer Krupke (Incompetent Cop) - not that Shrank is particularly competent, it's just that the Bad is more important in his characterisation.
  • Great Britain shows almost every named police officer in the Met as being corrupt, incompetent or both. The service comes under fire for the Accidental Murder of a black vicar because he was carrying a carrot in a bag in Lidl, causing a ridiculously (in the darkest sense possible) poor cover-up. On top of this, Commissioner Sully Kassam ends up embarrassing himself at almost every opportunity, by having an affair with someone he shouldn't have been, admitting constantly that "the one thing I haven't got is a clue" and committing career suicide when his demonstration of a taser results in him racially abusing an officer, becoming an internet meme as he slowly edges towards being fired. The corruption aspect is eventually played more seriously with Assistant Commissioner Davison, who partnered with Free Press to try and solve a case, only for things to go horribly wrong.

    Video Games 
  • A lot of it is All There in the Manual, but in Grand Theft Auto III, Liberty City cops are mostly corrupt and/or incompetent. Of course, in GTA's world, pretty much everyone is.
    Andi: "In nearby Carcer City, a good day for law and order as police chief Gary Shaver was cleared of corruption charges in a controversial decision by the court. Let's hope those missing witnesses turn up safe and sound."
    • It gets even worse in Grand Theft Auto IV. In this version of Liberty City, police are so far above the law they're practically in low-Earth orbit. Very frequently, cops will cause massive collateral damage just to catch one lawbreaker. And let's not get started on NOOSE.
    • Hell, a lot of crime-focused Wide-Open Sandbox games will have this trope in full effect with the setting's police force, so the player doesn't feel so bad about killing them.
    • Surprisingly averted by a number of multiplayer clans, who actually roleplay as the police and try pretty hard to be better at it.
  • In Ace Attorney, detectives are partnered with prosecutors rather than other cops. Until Investigations (where he's with Edgeworth after the latter's Heel–Face Turn) this applies to Dick Gumshoe and whatever jerk he's been partnered with this time. In Apollo Justice, though, Ema Skye was actually more of a Jerkass than the prosecutor she was paired with (as she was bitter and irritable for being stuck with a job she didn't really like), mixing up the dynamic.
    • And then subverted in Dual Destinies, where Detective Bobby Fulbright is both remarkably good and remarkably bad at his job, while the prosecutor seems to be less concerned with justice than with victory (as per usual). The subversion comes when Fulbright is revealed to be The Mole, and all his competence and incompetence was just a ploy for him to advance his own agenda.
  • The cops in Heavy Rain aren't terribly competent; Blake the Jerkass detective is more interested in beating people up than finding the truth and he hasn't been able to get even close to a real suspect for the Origami Killer in years. His captain is revealed as being equally incompetent when he backs up Blake and thinks that totally circumstantial evidence has their Red Herring suspect "dead to rights." However, the cops display hyper-competence whenever it'll impede the progress of the main characters, such as setting up a road block less than a couple of minutes after Ethan's been driving down a highway the wrong way. In other words, it's an inversion of Be as Unhelpful as Possible, where the cops do everything they can to block the plot.
  • The police in EarthBound (1994) spend most of their time standing around being incompetent (when they're not corrupted by Giygas). However, after you defeat Frankie and the first My Sanctuary guardian in Onett, you're called into the chief of police's office, where they take turns attempting to inflict police brutality upon you before the chief himself attacks. Granted, it's implied that they're under Giygas' control.
  • Most of Cole Phelps' partners in L.A. Noire fall into this: Rusty Galloway is an alcoholic, violently aggressive jerkass, Roy Earle is an extremely Dirty Cop, and Herschel Biggs is an apathetic burnout who never got over his PTSD from World War I. Only Stefan Bekowsky is an honest and hard-working cop, but even he's dismissed by Earle as a "pushover."

    Web Animation 
  • In Babushka: the Movie and the game of Among Us that inspired it, the streamer Masayoshi role plays as a cop since his character is decked out in a police uniform. It's not the most flattering picture of a policeman, as he plays his cop with a hick accent who enjoys throwing his weight around, basically being a Meddlesome Patrolman to the crew mates he encounters while being completely clueless about and helpless to stop the actual impostors. After his death the ghost of one of the crew rips into him for his performance, and he tearfully confesses to being a rent-a-cop.

    Web Comics 
  • The Podunkton police force from Sluggy Freelance. Officer Tod is a former mob enforcer who lets the town's Vigilante Man do all the work, while Deputy Edsel, upon seeing the police station is on fire, runs home to call the police station and report it. Seeing as how the town used to be completely controlled by drug-runners, it's likely that competent, honest cops wouldn't have had a very good life expectancy.
  • The Bison Guards in The Water Phoenix King are supposed to be protecting the highways from the bandits infesting the hills thereabouts, but they'd rather stay at the inn where it's warm and dry and there are pretty barmaids who freelance on the side. And those are the good ones — some of them joined up for the opportunity to beat down uppity peasants as well as a paycheck, and prefer bullying the immigrants and foreigners, human and otherwise, who have dared invade their realm looking for work to chasing baddies and getting shot at (or worse!) Fortunately for business in Vasgol, Our Heroes are on hand to do the job — one Elven Ranger with PTSD , one Ax-Crazy Dark Magical Girl, one Fun Size Fallen Angel, and a whole lot of coffee to keep them going. Yeah, it's a mess.
  • A hit and run is reported and one officer seems eager to go take care of it, right after he hoses a bit of blood off his car in a Biter Comics strip.
  • The police force in Leftover Soup is as trigger-happy and unscrupulous as it is useless at actually stopping any serious crimes.
  • The Last Cowboy is a webcomic where, in the future, humanity is dying off, and aliens have begun moving to Earth. By this point, the police force on Earth consists mainly of aliens, and the few humans on the force prefer aliens to humans.

    Web Original 
  • SMPLive: The server cop role, which is given out to different members every once in a while. They are always either corrupt or incompetent, usually creating bizarre laws just to have a reason to boss people around and attack them.
  • The Wretched Hive city of Denton in Survival of the Fittest is partially such due to the fact that the police force are either corrupt or really just plain bad at their jobs.

    Western Animation 
  • Harvey Bullock plays with this trope in Batman: The Animated Series. When it comes to doing things by the book he is hopelessly inept, but when it comes to straight up getting results or when thrown into the fray he is shown to be as capable at fighting and improvising as Batman.
  • Chief Wiggum from The Simpsons, although the Chief and his men tend to lean more towards ignorant and bumbling. They can be corrupt, but aren't usually viciously corrupt like most of the examples listed in this trope (although they are corrupt, no doubt about that.) In general, their relationship with local mob seems to be less genuine malice, and more that they're both too gullible and too suckered-in to even recognize individuals like Fat Tony as criminals. The motto engraved into their badges is "Cash Bribes Only."
    Smithers: Shouldn't we call the police?
    Mr. Burns: Every last one is on the take! And I should know, I'm the one on the give.
  • Officer Barbrady on South Park.
    Cartman: Respect mah authoritaaah! *clubs man in the kneecap*
    Officer Barbrady: No, you've got it all wrong! That is not how you uphold the law! *grabs baton from Cartman* Hit them in the head, they go down faster!
  • On Family Guy the cops try Good Cop, Mentally Challenged Cop on suspects.
  • In Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, the Crown garrison on Tortuna engage in "routine torture," regularly accept bribes, and can't seem to organize a picnic without a Slaverlord present.
  • The two regular cops on Futurama behave this way.
    Leela: (after stopping them from savagely beating Fry) You guys were out of control!
    Smitty: That's our job! We're peace officers!
    URL: You gotta do what you gotta do.
  • On The Venture Brothers, Brock and Doc are brought in for the murder of Jean-Claude LeTueur and get interrogated by aggressive muscleman Sgt. Heat and bumbling moron Lt. Collar. Heat slaps Doc every time he tries to talk, and Collar does a weak job of making a Quip to Black-style pun on the details of the killing. Doc gets fed up and eventually derides them as "The bad cop and the retarded cop".
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Sheriff Stone of Crystal Cove is so inept that Scooby-Doo looks him in the eye and calls him the worst police officer he's ever met. Stone's response is to growl that the talking dog has been talking to his lawyer again. The sheriff is more willing to allow fake monsters to terrorize Crystal Cove as it would attract tourists to the town, no matter how dangerous they truly are. He improves in the second season, but it's obvious that he's mostly doing it to impress the new mayor, Janet Nettles, whom he has a crush on.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls (1998) this is subverted, except for one cop named Mike Brickowski, who, after being fired, manages to get Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup in a trap made of an air tank filled with knockout gas, a crane, reinforced chains (made by Mojo Jojo), and an Acid Pool within the police impound. His own fellow officers bust him.
    Officer Brickowski: This is just another story of a good-cop-gone-bad.
    Blossom: You're not a "good-cop-gone-bad", you're a bad cop gone WORSE!
  • In the Trollhunters episode "Mistrial and Error", when Claire tries doing the Good Cop/Bad Cop routine to get RotGuts to tell them about a suspected changeling, Blinky misreads the signals and thinks that he is playing bad cop and proceeds to threaten them with a live dwärkstone.