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"Mackey's not a cop. He's Al Capone with a badge."
David Aceveda, The Shield
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Why they're in front of bars and not behind them, no one knows. The dirty cop often appears as a villain in both Cop Shows and Criminal Procedurals. This cop tampers with evidence to get an arrest, lets thugs off the hook for a bribe or discloses internals to the local mob. This cop may hand out vicious beatings or even worse to suspects or just anyone this cop doesn’t like, if not even worse. This cop makes most criminals and prisoners look like... well, saints.

Exactly how dirty a dirty cop is can range from simply taking bribes to let criminals get away with their crimes, to actively supporting the criminals, to being straight-up worse than the "regular" criminals who don't wear badges.

While the FBI is often portrayed as honest and upright, especially when directly compared to the CIA in stories, it is not unheard of for FBI agents to be portrayed as "Filthy Feds" on an individual or organizational level, in keeping with J. Edgar Hoover's controversial legacy.

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All too often an example of Truth in Television, for too many reasons to count. May escalate to Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop for entire precincts.

See "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word, Cut Himself Shaving, Rabid Cop, Suspiciously Idle Officers, Bigot with a Badge, Prison Rape, Small-Town Tyrant, Lawman Gone Bad, etc. (especially Cowboy Cop and The Bad Guys Are Cops). If a cop outright murders people, you've got a Killer Cop. A dirty cop who gets sent to prison probably becomes a Pariah Prisoner, hated by regular inmates. Compare Naughty Narcs where it is the Drug Enforcement Administration (or the equivalent drug squad) that is portrayed as corrupt and dirty.

If it is just a façade and the cop secretly has a heart of gold, it's Noble Bigot with a Badge.


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I am shocked, SHOCKED to find Tropes going on in this establishment!

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    Fan Works 
  • Harry has a rather cynical view of law enforcement in general in Harry Potter and the Mind:
    "There are two general kinds of person who become policemen, or aurors. One group is made up of starry-eyed young people who see opportunities, and want to change the world into a better place. Another group is made up of those who want an easy government job, and like to be able to bully and boss people around, ignore red lights, and steal an apple whenever they like.

    "After the young idealists are on the force for a few years, they find out that they cannot change the world after all. So they become embittered and hardened to suffering, or leave the force. So who does that leave waking the beat? The bully. The bully is not your friend."
  • Officer Macendale from Ultimate Spider-Woman is on the take from some powerful crime syndicates. However, he doesn't look the other way from crimes against mutants, because in his mind, they are as bad as he is since they justify hate with talk of protecting humanity.
  • The entire Las Vegas police force in the Worm fanfic, Intrepid. Taylor's first tip-off was the fact that they responded so fast to her chase. The second is when they have someone flinging lightning around at them while the cops box them in.
  • Deconstructed in Let the Galaxy Burn. Almost all of the Goldcloaks take bribes, but they don't do so because they're "evil" or "villains", but because they are poorly funded and so underpaid that they have to take bribes, as many of them can barely afford basic necessities on the salary they're paid. In particular, Janos Slynt is brave, cares about his men and fellow officers, works hard, and loves his family, to the point that part of why he takes bribes is so he can afford to give his children the education he never got. While some of them are cowards or assholes, those officers tend to be hated by the rest.
  • Subverted in Risk It All. Ren expects Detectives Renee Montoya and Harvey Bullock to press gang him into talking by dangling his underage gambling over his head, but they simply leave their contact information before letting him keep his silence. But the GCPD's reputation for being corrupt still doesn't assuage Ren's fears.
  • How Morgan was falsely convicted for stalking in Miraculous: The Phoenix Rises. After her failed attempt at stopping Julian's kidnapping, he worked with moles in the force to have her arrested, framed for stalking an assault, and had her hit with a memory drug during her confession to ensure her word was as unreliable as possible.
  • A prequel Craig Of The Creek fanfiction inspired by the Warrant song of the same name tells of Craig recounting an experience the previous year with two cops who were dumping two bodies down a wishing well.
  • In the NUMB3RS story Blaze Of Glory, Danny Levison who is a DEA agent and a friend of Don's from high school and the academy is revealed to have been taking money from drug dealers.
  • The WWE alternate universe story, The Horsewomen Of Las Vegas, depicts the LVPD as full of corruption. Among the dirty cops are:
    • Detective Daniel Bryan, who steers other cops away from the prostitution ring his wife and her sister run.
    • Police commissioner Eric Bischoff, who stacks a multi-jurisdiction task force with hand-selected cops who he knows are on the take.
    • Deputy commissioner Mike Mizanin, who is in the pocket of crime boss Charlotte Flair. In one phone exchange, he makes it very clear to Daniel Bryan that if Charlotte decides to kill him, he'll just sweep it under the rug.
    • Lieutenant Tara Victoria, who is also on Charlotte's payroll. She tried to arrange the death of Detective Bayley Martinez for getting too close to uncovering her corruption, then tricked Bayley into shooting and killing her own partner, Alexa Bliss.
    • Still to be determined if new detective Ember Moon is crooked as well.
  • Ruby Pair: The law enforcement on Cyberflox are all corrupt and in the pocket of local criminals.
  • In an Anti-Hero variation of the trope, Carmelita from Sly Cooper and Carmelita Fox and the Thievius raccoonus is the secret "Fourth Member" of the Cooper Gang, using her connections at Interpol to help gather intel for the gang and faking her hunt for them to maintain her cover. Since the Cooper Gang are an Anti-Hero Team of Karmic Thieves, she is less corrupt or Butt-Monkeyish than other examples.
  • One of the reasons why the abuse happening in Aldera went on for so long in Turning A New Leaf is because some of local law-enforcement are either members of the Meta Liberation Army or were payed off to look the other way.

    Music 
  • The second verse of Lupe Fiasco's "Handcuffs" is sung by a drug dealer, commenting on his arresting officer, making such remarks as "You ain't no better than me, just a hustla with a badge."
  • Dirty Cops is on the block. Looking for an easy fuck.
  • Phil Ochs' song "Here's to the State of Mississippi" depicts the cops in Mississippi that way:
    They're chewing their tobacco as they lock the prison door
    Their bellies bounce inside them as they knock you to the floor
    No they don't like taking prisoners in their private little war
    Behind their broken badges there are murderers and more
  • The N.W.A song Fuck Tha Police has quite a few of these
  • Chamillionaire's hit song "Ridin' Dirty" was about racial profiling with particular regards to cops pulling over black drivers and hassling them (known as Driving While Black). This is a common theme in hip-hop and rap songs.
  • Officer Devlin in !Hero: The Rock Opera, working together with Sinister Minister Chief Rabbi Kai to take down Hero.
  • Most people who only know the first few lines of the music hall song "If You Want to Know the Time, Ask a Policeman" think it's about how reliable the police are. The point is actually that they've lifted the pocket watches from drunks while escorting them to the cells. Subsequent verses recommend asking a policeman if you want to know where to get a drink after hours, if you want to know where your housemaid ran off to, if you want to learn to run and if you want someone to keep your wife company when you're away from home.
  • During the C.B. radio craze of the mid-1970s, several country music songs played on the theme of corrupt highway patrolmen (and the then-prevailing 55-mph speed limit), using masquerades to lure unsuspecting truck drivers into speed traps. These included:
    • "The White Knight" by Cledus Maggard and the Citizens Band. Written by advertising executive Jay Huguely (who recorded using the pseudonym Maggard), the song's antagonist was a Georgia highway patrolman who posed as a fellow truck driver who scouts for speed traps and, broadcasting there are no "smokies" in sight, the protagonist truck driver can drive as fast as he pleases... only to find out that it is a speed trap and that he was nailed for going 40 mph over the speed limit.
    • "C.B. Savage" by one-hit wonder Rod Hart, where a highway patrolman hopes to break up a ring of convoys who were protesting the national speed limit by masquerading as a gay truck driver. He is quickly able to exploit the homophobia of the lead truck driver in the convoy, and shortly after he pulls into a truck stop (in an effort to get away from the non-existent gay trucker whom he believes is stalking him) ... the patrolman reveals his ruse and that five of the truckers in his convoy are in police custody. The gay-themed song, when played on the December 18, 1976, broadcast of the radio program American Country Countdown led then-host Don Bowman to do a Beat after his outro for the song, noting, "I don't pick them, I just play them."
  • Warrant's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (no relation to the novel of the same name) concerns Sheriff John Brady and Deputy Hedge, two corrupt small-town cops who murder two people and throw them into the Wishing Well. The protagonist and his uncle witness them getting rid of the bodies, but do not tell anyone for fear of being next.
  • Jyuto Iruma from Hypnosis Mic.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Robin Hood's foe the Sheriff of Nottingham might just be the Ur-Example. The position of "Sheriff" in Norman England had a lot of power, because it gave the bearer responsibility for maintaining the law throughout the parish, and had proxy authority from the king himself. Later depictions just make him a typical robber-baron, but in the early examples of the legend, he really was a corrupt police chief. More than one sheriff ran his parish as a criminal syndicate, including in Nottingham, which is quite likely the inspiration.

    Pinball 
  • In Safe Cracker, you can bribe the bank guard with points to get past him... but he'll arrest you if your bribe isn't generous enough.
  • "Payoff Panic" in Capcom's unreleased Kingpin requires hitting enough targets to pay off a Dirty Cop.
  • Heist!: The police of Ocean City unlawfully serve two separate parties.
    • In the backstory, the cops have been paid off by Mr. Big and are effectively tools he uses to enforce his control of the town.
    • The protagonists (who are all criminals) can exploit their corruption by bribing them with donuts to get out of an arrest.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The Big Boss Man played it straight as a heel, handcuffing his opponents and beating them with his nightstick.
  • Later, The Mountie (a.k.a. Jacques Rougeau) played the heel cop, using cheap, dirty methods to beat his opponents. Then he would handcuff them and zap them with his shock stick.

    Radio 
  • The BBC Radio 4 Out of the Blue is about a police conspiracy to create a riot at a peaceful demonstration, with the intent of increasing police powers and overthrowing the government. The heroic copper spreads the word to the protestors, who are ready to make citizens' arrests of the agents provocateur as soon as they start causing trouble. Meanwhile, he arrests the deep undercover officer whose been inciting an environmental group, in full view of the man's "comrades".
  • The BBC Radio 4 drama G.F. Newman's The Corrupted, set in 60s London, features a succession of police officers who basically run a protection racket in partnership with local gangsters.

    Roleplay 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, George Bush is a dirty officer in the Maar Sul's SAVAGE who accepts bribes and looks the other way when the Totenkopfs act and does his best to help the cult's evil cause whenever he can.
  • Equestria Chronicles: The royal guard is corrupt and abusive, although its officers try to keep things safe and reasonable.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Blades in the Dark: The Bluecoats, who are the beat cops in Duskwall, are institutionally corrupt, and essentially no more than a gang that runs a city-wide protection racket. Pay-offs from private citizens are not only their unofficial source of income, but their entire budget comes from "donations" from the city's elite, who use them to suppress worker riots and keep people like the player characters out of their homes. The Inspectors, the Shattered Isles' equivalent to the FBI, defy the trope. The Inspectors are paid well enough that they have no need to take bribes, thoroughly vetted for loyalty to the Empire, and constantly rotated to new duty stations so they have no time to form ties to any locals.
  • One of the game pieces added to later editions of Clue is Sergeant Gray, a police detective who is himself a suspect in the murder of Black/Boddy. Supplemental materials give him other skeletons in his closet as well.
  • In Planescape, despite the fact that the Harmonium is supposed to be most appealing to Lawful Good types, there are so many Lawful Evil members walking the beat who use their power as Sigil's police force as an excuse to extort, beat, threaten and otherwise harass anyone they don't like that every Sigil native presumes they're all dirty. Especially because the Faction is the game's poster boy for Order Is Not Good and the rot goes all the way up to the top, meaning that even good Harmonium members will close ranks to protect their corrupt members, under the justification that solving such problems is a matter for internal affairs.
  • Pretty much universal among the privatized police forces of Shadowrun. Lone Star and Knight Errant's privatized police are nearly all on the take; investigating crimes doesn't pay much in this world, and taking criminals in means a lot more paperwork than either shaking them down for bribes or arranging an accident.
  • One of the vignettes in Transhuman Space: Toxic Memes concerns a pack of feral dogs that turn out to be led by uplifted dogs working for a local cartel. The ultimate leader is revealed to be a police dog who faked his own death during a raid on the cartel.

    Theatre 
  • Played with in the case of Assistant Commissioner Davison in Great Britain. While his ambition to get promoted is one of his more negative traits and he cooperates with Free Press much more than he should, he is ultimately a Well-Intentioned Extremist that seeks to combat more serious forms of crime. He also has some morals, as shown by his horror when the sting operation goes horribly wrong and an innocent man dies as a result. The rest of the police are more blatantly corrupt, trying to cover up the Accidental Murder of a black man that they mistakenly shot in a Lidl supermarket, believing him to be armed when he actually was carrying carrots.

    Toys 
  • Beast Wars: Uprising: A large number of the Maximal Command Security Force are said to be corrupt, for several reasons: The pay's not so great, they're treated shabbily, and many recruits only signed on because it comes with an exemption from The Games. Not helping is that some of the laws they enforce are ludicrously stupid and petty (for example, they're allowed to arrest people who look at their reflection for too long), so actually working out who's corrupt and who's not is difficult.

    Visual Novels 
  • Exploited by Mortelli and Saul in Daughter for Dessert to get the protagonist acquitted. Mortelli “loses” and taints all evidence against him.
  • In Kirisawa's route of Metro PD: Close to You, the 2nd Unit's investigation into a drug ring becomes much more complicated when they come across indications that the Chief of the Detective Bureau is involved in the drug ring in some way. He is indeed dirty, and has been for a long time, including acting as a mole for the mafia back when he was serving under the command of Kirisawa's father.
  • Ace Attorney: The series focuses heavily on law enforcement, so it's natural that our lawyer protagonists are going to find some bad eggs.
    • Played With in the case of Detective Tyrell Badd from Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth. He's the third 'leg' of the thief Yatagarasu, but the Yatagarasu are a group who only "steal the truth," meaning they work to expose corruption in society through means outside of the law. Badd himself is at worst an Anti-Villain and a Knight in Sour Armour, and once his role is exposed he turns himself in.
    • And then there's Damon Gant in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney who is a dirty police chief, and was strongly implied to be forging evidence before he killed anyone. There's something seriously broken about the Ace Attorney legal system.
    • Valerie Hawthorne from Trials and Tribulations, who helped fake a kidnapping and lied on the stand to frame her accomplice for her stepsister's (faked) death. Ironically, once she decides to come out with the truth, she's murdered by said stepsister.
    • Apollo Justice introduces us to Daryan Crescend, who is an international affairs agent who smuggles cocoons into the country (for good reasons) and kills Interpol agents (not for good reasons).
    • Dual Destinies brings us a dirty bomb squad member in Ted Tonate, who sells the bombs he dismantles in the black market and offed a detective who caught him stealing one.
    • Dual Destinies also gives us a played-with example in Bobby Fulbright, a cheery and justice-loving detective who's probably the morally cleanest police officer in the games... but we never meet Bobby Fulbright; by the time the game begins the Big Bad has killed and replaced him. The fake Bobby Fulbright was only there to destroy some important evidence that could have uncovered his identity, although his help was completely genuine in cases that weren't involved with his mission.
    • In addition, Dual Destinies deals with the fallout of having so many corrupt members of law enforcement and the legal system: the public has zero faith in the legal system, and as a result, the majority of the legal profession has no qualms about being dirty, as long as it gets a victory.
    • The Great Ace Attorney has Inspector Tobias Gregson, who at first seems like a By-the-Book Cop, turns out to have a serious case of My Country, Right or Wrong mentality. First, he tried to covertly get back classified information containing national secrets from a murder culprit in exchange for giving said murderer info on the case for his cover story. Secondly, Gregson turns out to have been part of a conspiracy in London in where he took the role of a Secret Police strategist as part of the Big Bad's goal to create a crime-free British Empire.

    Webcomics 
  • Paradigm Shift has vampires working for the FBI.
  • In the "Phoenix Rising" Story Arc from Sluggy Freelance, Officer Tod is actually a former mob enforcer. He's found a pretty sweet gig where, as long as he covers up the local Vigilante Woman's numerous murders, he can just sit back, do nothing, and collect a fat paycheck from the government.
  • Girl Genius: While Beausoleil does do his duty to thwart various schemes against the Master he also embezzles from Voltaire's private cheese stock. He is also a key figure in a nearly successful rather murderous plot to usurp the Master himself, having given his loyalty to a new and presumably better-paying boss.
  • One Polandball strip has Poland volunteer to participate in a Good Cop/Bad Cop interrogation by Germany since he has a lot of experience with it. So when he and America are alone, he leans in and... tells him he'll get rid of the evidence for a price.
  • Sonichu has an entire faction of evil, brainwashed stormtroopers modeled after police known as The Jerkops. They're fan-favorites, so much that the author brought them back despite almost liquidating the group for good.
  • Unholy Blood: Large portions of the Korean police are secretly minions of the Big Bad God and are helping him with his illegal activities.
  • In El Goonish Shive, this is both Conversed and Discussed. Elliot is ignorant of the prevalence of this in Real Life and thinks it's mostly a fictional trope. Liz enlightens him by telling him to search for news about police misconduct.
  • Sheriff Ludo from Serix, which surprises the other characters since "the last crooked cop died three centuries ago in the Cop Wars."

    Web Videos 
  • Gronkh's mini-Let's Play of the game "Die Polizei" (a police simulator) was about being a racist, sadist, foul-mouthed asshole, to emphasize the bad quality of the game and spice it up.
  • Something Awful: Dungeons & Dragons: Joey, when he spends the time skip in charge of the Bonerton City Watch. The Paragon-Tier LP opens with Algernon walking in on him extorting money from Algernon's bar.
  • Pokemon Pals: All Officer Jennys are corrupt. One takes bribes, another helps run a fighting ring, and another agrees to let Ash go if he doesn't report that she sicked a Growlithe on him after macing him in the face.
  • BuzzFeed Unsolved discusses this trope frequently in the True Crime seasons since it's sometimes the reason why cases are unsolved in the first place. This was particularly notable in the Sodder Children episode, where the authorities located only a few miles away showed up hours after the house was set on fire, and in the episode about the Keddie Cabin Massacre, where it has often been theorized that the authorities were covering something up, due to the sheer negligence that was shown to the case.
    Shane: '70s and '80s police were always just like, "Oh you murdered someone?" [beat] "Got 40 bucks?"

"Your lampshades, Monsieur."

"Oh... thank you very much."


 
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Alternative Title(s): Corrupt Cop, Corrupt Cops, Dirty Cops, Filthy Feds, Crooked Cop

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Sheriff Toadsworth

Sheriff Toadsworth tries to stop a bandit duo. They merely pay him a little and he walks off pretending they don't exist.

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