The place shown in this feature is real and identifiable. The police officers likewise are of this place. But something is awry. The cops are wearing uniforms with elements that do not look like the ones they wear in that place in Real Life. In extreme cases, the whole uniform will be wrong. This may well fly over the heads of viewers not from said jurisdiction, but to locals, especially those who have some kind of relationship with law enforcement, this may be a bit of an eyesore. Why couldn't the costume department make a bigger effort at authenticity?
This could be caused by several factors. If a show has a low budget and has episodes set in different places, faithfully reproducing various uniforms would likely be a demanding task. Another factor might be that the show is attempting to avoid legal issues based around things like trademarks or jurisdictional laws against impersonating a police officer or unauthorized wearing of a uniform. In other cases, it just might be that the producers are deliberately trying to obscure the actual setting for one reason or another.
Notably, works set in New York City or other major American cities often avert this trope. This may have something to do with the appearance of the NYPD uniform being familiar to many, perhaps also with some shows and films set in places like NY or Boston having a good enough budget to faithfully replicate the look. On the other hand, works, especially American, depicting Canadian Mounties often inaccurately portray them as wearing their distinctive, historical red dress uniform on a normal workday, something no doubt often done deliberately in order to play into the stereotype.
See Hollywood Military Uniform for the military counterpart.
- Earlier editions of Tintin: The Black Island had Scottish coppers wearing weapons. This was corrected in later editions.
- Ernest Goes to Jail: For some reason, the prison guards have pink jackets. Even though the jail, Dracup Maximum Security Prison, is fictional, this is implausible to say the least.
- Fargo: The sheriff-like uniforms worn by Chief Marge Gunderson and her subordinates, with their seven-pointed stars and brown and tan coloring, are nothing like that of the real police of Brainerd, Minnesota, which is a standard blue one with an oval shield-shaped badge (however, the state trooper's uniform was more accurate). This seems to have been done deliberately to underscore the small-town nature of the characters.
- Goodbye Lenin: when Alex is arrested he's held in a jail manned by police officers wearing the standard green Volkspolizei uniform, while in reality prison guards in East Germany wore blue uniforms with gray piping and insignia.
- In Home Alone, the uniform worn by Joe Pesci at the beginning of the film doesn't match that of a proper Chicago Police officer; for one thing, the cap is a generic octagonal police officer's hat and doesn't have the CPD-style "Sillitoe Tartan" checkered band. Another inaccuracy is that his badge is a generic shield-shaped badge, not the star-shaped CPD badge. Justified, however, because he's not a real police officer, but a criminal casing several homes in the area to see which ones will have their owners away for the holidays so he knows which houses to rob.
- In Pursuit of Honor: when the deserters cross the border into Canada with the horses they took from the US Cavalry, they are met by a patrol of Mounties, all on horseback and in full dress uniform complete with scarlet tunic, which in itself is inaccurate for the period (in the 1930s there was already a more practical "everyday" tunic). They wear shoulder flashes bearing the inscription "Royal Canadian Mounted Police" in gold lettering, which, while in themselves more or less authentic, do not belong on the full dress uniform. A more minor inaccuracy is the fact that the "Montana peak" on the Mounties' Stetsons is creased as on American campaign hats, with the four dents aligned two in back and two in front, whereas RCMP Stetsons and most other Canadian campaign-style hats have one dent in front, one in back, and one on each side.
- In The Green Mile, the prison guards wear uniforms; however, uniforms were not standard for death row corrections officers in the 1930s. The filmmakers knowingly fudged this detail for creative reasons.
- In Crash Road, a 2007 Czech comedy, police officers are shown who ostensibly belong to the Czech state police and whose uniforms and badges seem on the whole similar to the latter, but whose caps have elements of those worn by some Czech municipal police forces (six-pointed crown, diced "Sillitoe tartan" band).
- The Three Investigators: One story featured a Classy Cat-Burglar using a henchman dressed as a cop. When arrested for (among other things) impersonating a police officer, he pointed out that the henchman was wearing an NYPD uniform (the series is set in California) and thus that charge didn't apply to him.
- In Pinocchio's Promise, a Walt Disney Beginning Reader from the 1980s, a policeman helps Pinocchio get back a clock that J. Worthington Foulfellow (the fox) tricked him into handing over to him. His uniform is fantastical, having elements of an old American Keystone Kops-type uniform (helmet, star) combined with "European", partly civilian elements (cape, knee breeches and hose, buckled shoes). Remember that Pinocchio is set in Italy and that in the original novel, the protagonist has encounters with actual Carabineri, whose distinctive uniforms are well-rendered by various illustrators.
- In Sledge Hammer!, the cop uniforms are deliberately left "generic", just as the city in which Sledge is a detective is never specified. Given that Sledge is a maniacal Cowboy Cop with borderline Dirty Harry tendencies, this is probably wise.
- In the pilot episode of Due South, there are a number of inaccuracies in the RCMP uniforms worn, ranging from Bob Fraser's boots not being laced up the proper way to Benton wearing a cap badge (from a fire department) on his Stetson hat. Subsequent episodes would remedy these errors, but still have RCMP members wearing the red ceremonial uniform far more frequently than would be the norm in real life. Apparently when Leslie Nielsen guest-starred, he took Paul Gross to one side and showed him how to correctly tie his boots (Nielsen's father had been a Mountie, so he knew the proper way to lace them up).
- I (Almost) Got Away With It: This show recycles generic badges, uniforms and police cars a lot. American officers in any given town typically have a shield-shaped badge and a shoulder flash marked "POLICE DEPT." Attempts to portray non-US uniforms may be very inauthentic. A particularly egregious example in the episode "Got to Pretend I'm a Priest" shows officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police wearing caps that make them look like porters.
- Fatal Vows: Varies, but law enforcement officers' uniforms are somewhat erratic. However, for example, a Montréal police officer's uniform with a believable shoulder flash appears in an episode set there.
- Invoked in-universe in an episode of Castle when Beckett notices that three uniformed officers in the front row of an arraignment have the clasps and buttons made of the wrong metal (tin instead of brass) and realizes too late that they're three accomplices in place to free the person being arraigned.
- Rookie Blue: The cops in this series, inconspicuously set in Toronto, wear shoulder flashes with an emblem containing similar elements to the real-life emblem/cap badge and have rather generic-looking shield-shaped cap badges. Their uniforms are similarly generic, lacking the red pant stripe and cap band worn by Ontario municipal police forces.
- In NCIS: Los Angeles, the uniforms of LAPD officers were portrayed realistically in the first few seasons. They changed later with generic badges and LAPD patches.
- In the season 5 episode "Exit Wounds" of Criminal Minds, this is taken even further, by using a typical sheriff deputy uniform and title "deputy" in a show set in Alaska. Alaska's constitution bans sheriffs and sheriff's deputies, as well as borough (county-level) police.
- Zigzagged with Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. Some episodes taking place in Japan and Singapore show actual depictions of police uniforms that are researched, even if the show was filmed in the US. In an episode set in Cuba, not all uniformed officers wear berets and have shoulder patches. They also don't use Western-made pistols.
- In Kidou Keiji Jiban, Jiban's Cyborg body has permanently mounted rank epaulettes that show the rank of Commissioner, while his badge is an American sheriff star.
- Unsolved Mysteries: Zig-zagged. Many episodes actually avert this trope, perhaps in part due to use of footage of actual law enforcement officers, but there are slip-ups. For example, one episode, set in part in Ireland, has two Gardai (Irish policemen) with American-style shield-shaped breast badges.
- Averted with British Edutainment series Police, Camera, Action!: the cop uniforms are real, but the situations that presenter Alastair Stewart was involved in during the 1994-2002 series were Kayfabe. They actually are period-appropriate uniforms.
- Zig-Zagged with The Bill, as while they've generally Shown Their Work (due to receiving special permission to use authentic UK police uniforms), some eagle-eyed viewers notice the uniforms seem like a mishmash of several British forces uniforms (at one point, they had near-identical uniforms to the Royal Ulster Constabulary in a 1990s episode, which ties it to the 1990s explicitly.
- Averted in both Dragnet and Adam-12 — every uniformed officer that appears in either is dressed exactly the same as a real LAPD officer of the period, and the badges used by the main characters are authentic. Jack Webb was a notorious stickler for detail and had a good relationship with the police department.
- In the episode "The Killing of a One-Eyed Bookie" in Ultimate Force, Henno and Caroline run into what was suppose to be a Royal Ulster Constabulary checkpoint designated to surprise anyone who's suspected of being a paramilitary member of either pro-Republican or Loyalist groups. It was only until Henno steps out of an unmarked sedan to face the supposed RUC officer eventually led to a shootout. The SAS finds out that the gunmen were pro-Republican fighters and had acquired genuine RUC uniforms, but got details wrong such as having old cap badges on peaked caps and using dress uniforms while one of them had a green web belt and a green holster. The armored Land Rover SUV was also reported to be looted from a RUC station. Caroline says that they could've fooled anyone who doesn't pay attention. But not Henno.
- Carl in Family Matters is a police officer in Chicago, but his uniform has a generic shield-shaped badge instead of the star-within-a-circle badge of the CPD, his cap doesn't have the "Sillitoe Tartan" checkerboard pattern, and the patches on his sleeves are also wrong.
- Arrested Development: In-universe and played for laughs when Gob asks some of his friends to pose as police officers to scare George Michael straight. Said friends work for a stripper agency called "Hot Cops," and show up in very tight "cop" outfits with tiny shorts. And a construction worker for some reason.
- Dan Vs. gives us "Sergeant Saskatchewan", the most intently overly patriotic Canadian superhero ever. As he's based on a Mountie you'd assume he'd wear the RCMP sergeant emblem (three chevrons pointing down with a crown above them) or at the very least the Canadian Armed Forces sergeant emblem (same deal, just a maple leaf instead of a crown). Instead he wears the American staff sergeant emblem (three chevrons pointing up).
- In 2014, officers in Chateauguay, Quebec donned black cowboy hats and vests with sheriff's stars in order to protest a bill of the provincial legislature which was meant to reform their pension plans.
- Uniformed officers of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) protested to get an increase in wages by wearing camo pants in 2017 since they're not allowed to walk off the job and strike.