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Dirty Harriet

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"I know what you're thinking. Did she serve up six bottles or only five as part of her lap dances? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a 1944 Magnum, the most expensive wine in the joint, and will blow my bikini clean off if we have it in stock, you've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, hunk?"

A Dirty Harriet scenario is when a female law enforcement officer goes undercover in a role only a woman is expected to take, like stripper or prostitute. This allows for the natural tensions of undercover work and of course allows a reason for her to wear little clothing. There is a good deal of variation in the trope, allowing for non-law enforcement characters, non-sex work infiltration, and occasionally non-females (but still able to pass as one or serving in the role).

Note that while this does happen in reality, it's very controversial, and legally and morally delicate. It has a very high chance of going spectacularly wrong and can easily turn into the sort of situation where a would-be arrestee is suing the city or the state or the feds for entrapment or worse. The real-life prostitution stings shown on various cop documentaries usually entail the undercover officer doing just the absolute minimum to make it absolutely clear that the client is really buying sex, and once money has changed hands excuse herself while her colleagues (who have been monitoring the situation from the next room or a parked car) storm in and make the arrest.


This also appears in Spy Fiction. See also Fair Cop.

The term has also been used to describe female police officers depicted in film, TV and literature as being just as deadly as their male counterparts (or, specifically, Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry character)note . But that is not what this trope is about.

See Stripper/Cop Confusion for a humorous inversion of the trope.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Code Geass: In season two, Action Girl Kallen is forced to work as a bunny-girl at an upscale casino as part of the Black Knights' plan to recover the amnesiac Lelouch/Zero. She's almost dragged off for a "bunny hunt", but Lelouch intervenes.
  • Episode 15 of Samurai Champloo.
  • Minnie May in Gunsmith Cats filled this role as she had experience as the real thing, and easily passed the "audition" because of it.
  • Nina in Monster resorts to this in order to find her brother.
  • In Cat's Eye, police officer Mitsuko Asatani was once disguised as a bartneder wearing Playboy Bunny suit.
  • Trinity Blood has a fleeting scene where Catholic nun Esther is used as a bait to catch a criminal. Blatant fanservice, that.
  • In Ninja Slayer, supporting protagonist Nancy Lee one time masquerades as a prostitute to try to gain easy access inside a Syndicate facility. It works a little too well, in fact.
  • The title Space Cop of Birdy the Mighty: Decode does this in episode 5 to figure out who was behind a terrorist attack.

    Comic Books 

  • Tomcats: When Michael first meets Natalie, he's a bit surprised that she's a prostitute. He's even more surprised when he gets his face slammed against a wall, put in handcuffs, and finds out she's really a cop.
  • In Miss Congeniality the titular character is an FBI agent that infiltrates the Miss United States pageant to find out who's threatening it.
  • Averted in Stir Crazy. When a paralegal goes undercover at a strip joint, she does so as a waitress.
  • Pam Grier's character in Coffy goes undercover as a call girl for a local drug dealer/pimp in order to infiltrate the criminal underworld, although she's a vigilante, not a police officer.
  • In the Pam Grier movie Foxy Brown the protagonist goes undercover as a prostitute to exact revenge on the local crime lords, just as in its Spiritual Predecessor Coffy.
  • Banlieue 13: Ultimatum opens with one of the leads going undercover as a dancing girl in order to stage a major sting against a series of crime bosses. The twist? Both the movie's leads are male. But it must be said that Cyril Raffaelli looks stunning in a dress.
  • In X-Men: First Class, in order to infiltrate a Hellfire Club private party, Moira MacTaggert strips down to her undergarments and pretends to be one of the call-girls. Done fairly well as it's shown that she's not all that comfortable with it and is acutely aware of how vulnerable she is.
  • Undercover Heat. Police officer Cindy Hannen (Athena Massey) goes undercover in a high class whorehouse to catch a murderer. She discovers that she's very good as a prostitute. Also played with when she does a roleplay as a (dominatrix-y) cop for one of her unwitting clients.
  • In Khalnayak Ganga (Madhuri Dixit) goes undercover as a dancer to try to catch Ballu (Sanjay Dutt) and save her boyfriend's reputation. She gets in waaay over her head, however, when Ballu develops feelings for her.
  • In The Warriors, Ajax ends up getting arrested when he attempts to rape one of these. She then proceeds to cuff him to a park bench and call for back-up.
  • The Roger Corman sexploitation movie Stripped to Kill and the inevitable sequel. A Serial Killer is killing strippers, so a policewoman becomes a stripper to lure him out.
  • Angelina Jolie's character in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) poses as a dominatrix in order to assassinate a target.
  • Played with in True Lies. Helen Tasker thinks she is doing this, but it's actually a setup by her husband, who really is a secret agent, to give her the excitement he thinks she's looking for. Before he can reveal everything, actual terrorists kidnap them both and things escalate from there.

  • Discworld: Nobby Nobbs. Yes, he's a man, or at least male. It's complex.note  In fact, Nobby's looks are so astounding that a footnote made sure to point out that although narrative law would normally demand a Attractive Bent-Gender moment, the trope withered and died in the face of Nobby Nobbs.
    • Even better: in one instance, his partner for that operation is the very attractive Sgt. Angua, a werewolf. Nobby can't imagine she'd be the bait (and feels a lot safer with her as backup rather than the other way around).
  • In one Stuart Macbride's Aberdeen detective novels the fanservice aspect is averted. The officers posing as streetwalkers are plain and unattractive, because an attractive street-corner prostitute would make people suspicious.
  • Holly Lisle's Last Girl Dancing is a textbook example of this trope: the protagonist is a female cop who goes undercover as a stripper to find a serial killer.
  • In Shatterglass, part of Tamora Pierce's The Circle Opens Quartet, a serial killer stalks the female yaskedasi, or members of the entertainment class. Quite a few police officers (of both genders, but mostly women) go undercover as yaskedasi, but this is played straight when someone else comments that the grimly staring few who can't dance, juggle, or sing really stick out.
  • Dexter's sister Deb did this at the start of the first book, when she was working in vice. The tone of the books is much more negative than that of the show and Dexter as narrator spends some time on how incredibly unattractive Deb, a beautiful woman, managed to make herself look in such skimpy clothing. She wasn't trying, either, she has no fashion sense. By contrast, Deb in the show has a perfectly good fashion sense.
  • In Assassins of Gor Elizabeth Cardwell goes undercover in Ar as a slave girl. Of course, this being Gor and she being female, she immediately starts heading in the direction of Becoming the Mask.
  • In The Golgotha Series, Kate is a detective who goes undercover as a prostitute in Golgotha's brothel.
  • In Monster Hunter International, Heather in Alpha is mentioned to have worked undercover in such a position as a city police officer to bust a drug ring before returning to her hometown in Michigan and even jokes about it a bit to Harbinger.
    "The one with all her teeth? That's the undercover cop."

    Live Action TV 
  • Without a Trace: Elena. Samantha, the obvious choice, has already been to the club as an FBI agent, so can't do it. If you can't have a voluptuous blonde, a Latina does the job just as well.
  • The Bill: Cathy Bradford, but there are other examples.
  • Ashes to Ashes (2008): Alex Drake arrives in 1981 dressed as a prostitute. Later, in 1.05, she pretends to be one again - unfortunately for her, she isn't the mark's type.
  • Dexter
    • When we first meet Deb, she's working in the vice squad (that would be Miami Vice), assigned to a prostitution sting operation and is desperate to get assigned out of it. Especially when she ends up helping out at a murder scene... still in her disguise.
    • In season 3, Angel's new girlfriend is also undercover as a prostitute. Which he learns when he tries to hire her.
  • The pilot episode of Airwolf features the F.I.R.M. getting an American agent employed as a belly dancer in Libya. Her cover is blown and she is killed later. They then decide to send in another belly dancer, who gets kidnapped by the evil Dr. Moffett, tortured, and ends up dying from dehydration in the Sahara. As the second agent is a Love Interest of Stringfellow Hawke, her death gives him a personal stake in the mission to recover Airwolf.
  • Angel: In the original plan for the second episode, Kate Lockley was to be introduced as a police officer infiltrating a prostitution ring. In the version that made it to air, she was investigating disappearances from (or hanging out at) a popular singles bar.
  • Cagney & Lacey: In episode 1 of season 1, no less, leading to Lacey's classic snark as she and Cagney stand on a streetcorner in extravagant hooker outfits:
    Det. Lacey: "They call these plain clothes?"
  • Lois Lane in Smallville, although technically not as a cop but as a reporter. Not that anyone cared what her motivation was.
  • In Lois & Clark she did this as a showgirl to get inside info on a crime ring. She was pretty good at it. Lex Luthor was highly amused when she appeared on stage. Meanwhile, Clark, who was working the same story undercover, fretted a lot and didn't have that much remorse fingering Lois to the female mob boss he's ingratiated himself with when they are caught sneaking around in order to preserve his cover.
  • Law & Order: SVU: Happens often with Olivia Benson.
  • Played with in The Shield:
    • A detective has to go undercover to catch a mob that's beating up prostitutes. Male prostitutes. Shane is very upset when he's forced into the role.
    • Shane has no luck with this kind of thing. On another episode, the Strike Team had to find out which stripper at a club was luring johns into the alley and then robbing them with her boyfriend. When Vic tries it, he gets a blow job. When Shane tries it, he gets a tire iron to the head.
  • NYPD Blue
    • In one episode Det. Kirkendall goes undercover as a call girl to get evidence against a suspected murderer. The operation is portrayed as unusual and risky (since there is good reason to suspect that her customer will try to kill her), is not undertaken lightly, and is not played for Fanservice.
    • Detective McDowell impersonates a prostitute to get close to a drug dealer who is surrounded by armed henchmen. It's not an extended undercover operation — as soon as she is in the same room as the dealer, her colleagues storm the place. In the resulting scuffle, her top (that didn't cover too much to start with) gets torn open, providing a gratuitous Lingerie Scene.
  • Miami Vice: Practically the only thing Gina and Trudy ever seem to do is go undercover as prostitutes. At least, this tends to be the only time they get the spotlight; otherwise they are mostly support for Crockett and Tubbs.
  • In the first season of the 1980's cop show Hunter, Hunter's partner Dee Dee McCall poses as a street walker quite often (from the very first moment we see her, actually), usually to gather information rather than as a part of a sting operation. In later seasons she doesn't do it as often, but it still happens. Somewhat unusually, this is not played for fanservice, at least not in the case of McCall herself - she tends to wear considerably more clothes than her supposed "colleagues".
  • On 21 Jump Street, Judy joined the Jump Street program because it was the only way she'd be able to get any other type of assignment. Of course, this didn't mean that she didn't still get just such an assignment occasionally.
  • Happens all the time on Reno 911!!, with a few different outcomes.
    • Deputy Weigel, the squad Butt-Monkey, scares off the johns.
    • Deputy Williams winds up knowing her young client from her old neighborhood and starts off giving him an angry lecture, before commenting on how well he's grown up and shutting off the recording equipment.
    • At one point, the other deputies roust the prostitute hangout, only to find Deputy (Jim) Dangle among them, dressed as one. He tries to invoke the trope and convince them that he's undercover, but the others slowly catch on to the fact he is moonlighting as a gay prostitute as they leave.
    Dep. Junior: "Doesn't he have Fridays off?"
  • Pepper Anderson in the 70's series Police Woman (played by Angie Dickinson) and her colleagues went undercover in almost every episode. Since she was the only woman in the vice squad, some of her assignments fit this trope. In at least one instance her cover was blown when she refused to have actual sex with a client.
  • Detective Shraeger in The Unusuals starts out in vice, dressed as a hooker. She's soon transferred to homicide, though.
  • In Robin Hood Kate pretends to be a drunken tavern wench in order to distract one of the outlaws' targets, a job that includes a low-cut dress and lots of makeup. She hooks up with Robin in the very next episode. Hmmm...
  • Third Watch: Maritza Cruz, the tough-as-nails female cop (played by Tia Texada). The very first time we see her, working on a prostitution sting, she's wearing "six inch heels with a postage stamp of polyester stuck up my ass."
  • The first episode of Southland briefly features a female vice cop undercover as a Streetwalker.
  • White Collar has FBI agent Diana undercover as a prostitute in an episode of the second season as part of an operation to bring down a corrupt politician.
  • Lost has a Show Within a Show called Exposé about a group of secret agents undercover as strippers.
  • One episode of Two and a Half Men has Charlie getting busted by one of these. This clues him in that his sexual life is getting out of hand (not that sleeping with many women is news to him, but in this episode, he was so unhinged that he literally broke his balls after sleeping with six or seven girls in the same day).
  • In the reality series Armed And Famous, both female celebrities(Trish Stratus and LaToya Jackson) went undercover during a prostitution sting. In contrast to typical portrayals, this wasn't played for Fanservice, and both were dressed very casually.
  • Cracker, series 3 episode "Brotherly Love": Penhaligon dresses as a prostitute hoping to lure a man believed to be murdering prostitutes. There's extra tension in the put-on because Penhaligon was still recovering from being raped by a colleague.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation. In "Preemptive Strike" Ensign Ro goes undercover to infiltrate a Maquis resistance group. She passes on her information to Captain Picard by meeting him in a bar, where she tells him to pretend he's buying her sexual services. This adds a level of awkwardness to their interaction (while Ro shares some Belligerent Sexual Tension with Commander Riker, she's never had any with Picard whom she regards more as a stern Parental Substitute). When they meet a second time, Ro has come to identify with the Maquis, so this trope gives Ro's actions as a spy a sleazy feel that doesn't make her feel any better about what she's doing.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: Phryne goes undercover as a Spanish fan dancer at a gentleman's club in "Murder Most Scandalous".
  • In the Season 13 finale of CSI, Morgan goes undercover as a prostitute to try to find a serial killer. This entails her removing her dress, although we see nothing below the shoulders... and later almost ending up a victim of said killer herself.
  • In Charlie's Angels, the standard operating procedure of the Angels is to go undercover. Some of these assignments involve posing as prostitutes, exotic dancers or in massage parlours, which gives many opportunities for Fanservice.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Detective Stevens poses as a High-Class Call Girl in order to get an interview with the madam of an exclusive escort service in "Gods & Insects". The squad room breaks into applause when she returns still in her outfit.
  • Father Brown: In "The Crimson Feather", Bunty goes undercover as a burlesque dancer.
  • The 1985 TV movie Operation Julie opens with a roomful of undercover police watching film footage of them pretending to be hippies to investigate drug selling at a pop festival. They especially appreciate the shots of their female colleagues walking around topless.
  • Decoy: Casey's first assignment requires her to go undercover at a carnival. The only job she can find is dancing in a harem outfit with three other girls outside a tent.
    Barker: From the far-off lands of mystic Persia, from the palace of a thousand delights, come these exotic enchantresses of the East, whose sensuous and curvaceous movements have never before been seen by anyone outside the closely-guarded walls of the Raja's harem.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The New World of Darkness sourcebook Tales from the 13th Precinct features a vice cop who gets sent on this type of assignment by default.

    Video Games 
  • Anachronox: Stiletto Anyways makes her first appearance as a stripper before it turns out she's undercover as an assassin, killing three mobsters halfway through the performance. Afterwards, the bar owner thinks it's a great act and wants to hire her full-time.
  • Dead or Alive: Christie went undercover as an erotic dancer in order to get close enough to assassinate her target in her Dead or Alive 4 ending.
  • A T-rated variation in Jak II: Renegade: The Underground is allied with local crime lord Krew, but since Torn doesn't trust him, so he sends Tess to work at his saloon as a barmaid (and nothing else) to pass his secrets along.
  • Inverted in Lula 3D: Lula is a porn producer and prostitute who goes undercover at a strip bar to track down kidnapped actresses.
  • In Final Fantasy VII Tifa Lockhart does so to get data from Don Corleo, then Cloud and Aerith do it too to free Tifa.
  • Played with by Mass Effect. One of the early Citadel missions involves a young woman working in Chora's Den, a sleazy, mobster-owned strip club in the Wards (The heavily populated, urban sections of the Citdael). She is working at the club to pass on information to the local police, and she very specifically points out that she only serves drinks on the bar. Of course, she then complains that she could be earning more money by dancing.....
  • MOTHER 3: While she wasn't necessarily hired as a stripper, Kumatora worked as a waitress at a night club in order to locate and rescue the amnesiac Duster.
  • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, one of Jensen's old partners will be undercover as a prostitute.
  • In Grand Theft Auto V, it's possible to get caught in a sting operation when picking up prostitutes.

    Visual Novel 


    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in South Park, when a (male) police detective goes undercover as a (female) streetwalker to bust a prostitution ring... and gets a bit too deep into the role. To the point of marrying the (also male) leader of the ring and only revealing that he's a cop after the honeymoon.
    • Cartman goes undercover as a hooker when deputized by Barbrady so he can learn to read.
  • Catwoman poses as a stripper in order to get close to Rough Cut in DC Showcase: Catwoman.

    Real Life 
  • US trucking companies that have policies against their truckers letting anyone into their cabs (especially prostitutes) have been known to hire undercover "lot lizards". These girls will target truckers from the company that hire them, and ask if they want a "bedtime story". If the trucker lets them into the cab, they get fired.

Alternative Title(s): Prostitution Ploy


Example of: