Police involved in a Hot Pursuit will not make even the slightest attempts to preserve their own safety or welfare, or that of Innocent Bystanders. Whatever risky or insane driving the bad (or sometimes good) guy does, the cops will simply follow in his tire tracks, trying to imitate everything he does, no matter how much injury to themselves or damage to their car will result.
If the bad guy plows though a farmers' market, the cops will do the same to chase him.
If he jumps an open drawbridge, the cops will do it too (or at least try).
And if one cop wrecks the rest will mindlessly plow into him, sometimes without even making an attempt to avoid a wreck, 'cause the resulting pile of twisted metal is cool.
Sometimes this is done for humor, but most action movies/TV shows portray this as normal police behavior.
Combining this and the fact they have guns makes them an easy stand in for the Redshirt Army in situations where the military isn't likely to be involved and possibly also Adults Are Useless if the protagonist is a kid.
Of course this is quite different from Real Life where police have training and procedures for pursuits. Watch any TV program on the subject and you will see the police are very careful, to the point of backing off and following by air if it looks like civilians will be harmed. Real Life cops will generally terminate (end) a pursuit when it becomes too fast or dangerous. Just as with other kinds of "unprofessional" behavior by the police, though, this trope may be relatively more justified in historical settings, since most police jurisdictions were less regulated and had much more freedom of action before about the 1970s or so.
Subtrope of Artistic License Law Enforcement.
- In Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, this is played for laughs when an obstinate police officer (who looks suspiciously like she wandered off the set of You're Under Arrest!) gives chase to Sousuke and Chidori double-riding a stolen bike using her squad car and fails epically. The next time we see her, she mentions she's on probation due to wrecking the car.
- In the Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt episode "Death Race 2010", Panty and Stocking chase after a ghost appropriately named "Speed Freak" through the city. Every last police officer in Daten City ends up chasing after it as well in their efforts to stop him. Thousands of police cars pile up into a mountain on top of him, but Speed Freak still easily tosses them aside.
- In Mind Game, it is a bunch of Yakuza crashing their cars like lemmings in pursuit of the protagonists.
- It happens quite a lot generally in the Lupin III franchise as a whole, but is taken up to 11 in The Fuma Conspiracy where the police chase our protagonists through a crowded market, across a river, over a rickety bridge and through a traditional Japanese bathhouse. The trope is somewhat subverted in that the police cars mostly survive the chase, but they still managed to cause a lot of property damage and mental scarring to the poor bathers.
- Sin City has wave after wave of cop cars getting wrecked or blasted by hookers in many stories that feature car chases. Leading a squad car into Old Town is the best way to avoid the cops.
- In the Werner story "Werner macht die Grünen blau", the two cops Bruno and Helmut, made punch drunk by Werner, try to chase him but end up driving on the wrong side of an Autobahn believing that everyone else is driving the wrong way.
- While Buford T. Justice is The Determinator in Smokey and the Bandit, the poor highway patrolmen who try to follow the Bandit off road or over a jump dramatically bow out of the pursuit shortly afterwards.
- Parodied in The Blues Brothers (picture above), with an unbelievably large number of cops. Made funnier in that, since the heroes are driving an old police car, and the use of unnecessary violence in the apprehension of the Blues Brothers has been approved, the cops should be able to stop them, but they don't have the benefit of being on a Mission from God.
- The sequel was even worse, actually breaking the first film's world record for cars smashed. Check it out.
- Taxi 2. Dozens of police cars follow the main characters. Wherever the main characters' car goes, the police go as well — all of them. The damage caused by the followed car is nothing compared to the destruction caused by the cops. Eventually one cop wrecks and all of the others plow into him and into the resulting wreckage. Not one police car survives. Accompanied by a great sound track, as well.
- Batman Begins. Many cops engage Bruce Wayne's Tumbler in a high speed chase through highways and back streets as he's trying to save Rachel's life. Several spectacular crashes occur, with two or three car pileups, explosive caltrops being deployed, and the Tumbler even flattening another police cruiser. When Bruce gets back to the Batcave, Alfred (who has been following the news reports of the chase) tells him "It's a miracle no one was killed."
- Also, Batman Returns: Batman's coming up to a narrow alley, pursued by a few cop cars because the Batmobile was being controlled by the Penguin in an attempt to frame him. Batmobile jettisons stuff to become the Batmissile, which can squeeze through the alley. The cop cars... can't. Cue half a dozen cars all smashing into each other in a magnificent pile-up.
- Double subversion in the movie Short Time: the main character engages in this sort of behavior during a car chase... because he is actually suicidal. However he ends up miraculously surviving and gets a commendation!
- The SFPD cops who make the unwise decision to try to chase James Bond (who is driving a stolen fire engine) across the Third Street Bridge in A View to a Kill. The commanding officer makes the foolish mistake of stopping where his car gets crushed by the counterweight when the bridge is lowered.
- The cops and FBI agents in Eagle Eye stupidly follow the protagonist through cross traffic at red lights, smashing into innocent civilians along the way. One even tries to ram him head-on!
- Older than all of these are the Keystone Kops silent films. They all feature wild slapstick chases from a pack of rather silly policemen.
- Partially averted in The One, where the police SUVs backtrack to avoid oncoming traffic on a bridge, and call in a helicopter to help track the suspect. However, they still end up crashing at the end of the pursuit anyway.
- Used in The Matrix series to almost comedic effect, the Lemming Cops will always follow The Agents pursuing the heroes no matter what, being as reckless as The Agents are, causing much potential loss of human life as The Agents do, in their simple binary pursuit of the heroes, and becoming, as needed, the vessels that The Agents use to continue to chase the heroes down.
- Played for laughs in Beverly Hills Cop, as the police cars storming into the Big Bad's mansion to rescue the heroes get into a chain-reaction rear-end collision when a pair of Mooks crashes during an attempted getaway.
- In Unstoppable a bunch of cop cars make a tight turn to keep up with an out of control train, causing one of them to completely flip over in the process...even though there was absolutely no reason to pursue so recklessly (or at ALL), especially given that there was nothing they could do except hurt bystanders.
- The original Gone in 60 Seconds (1974), where the police were played by actual LAPD officers, has a scene where only one car was supposed to crash, but the rest of the cars crash anyway because they found it fun (plus H. B. Hallicki provided the cars, which he'd bought over the course of several years, so they didn't have to answer for smashed up cars), although one officer was almost crushed by the light can on the top of the car.
- The Vegas cops in Diamonds Are Forever not only crash into parked cars, walls, and each other as they pursue Bond, but they try to copy his Ramp Jump and Car Skiing with disastrous results.
- In the chase at the beginning of Striking Distance, the police continue to pursue a suspect even as their cars fall apart. Several end up over a hill.
- In The Art of the Steal, the two motorcycle cops chasing Crunch in Warsaw follow in into the subway and on to a train: all while still on bikes.
- This trope is one of the basic comedic ingreditents of The Dukes of Hazzard. In almost every episode, the General Lee is chased by Sheriff Coltrane, and often also by one or more of his deputies in their cars. Despite the chases usually ending with one or more totalled police vehicles, Coltrane seems to enjoy the chase just as much as the Dukes.
- Lampshaded in an episode of Reno 911! in an interview with Deputy Travis Junior, he mentions an incident when he was chasing drug runner "Fast Eddie" McLintock with about 15 other cruisers. The lead cruiser wrecked and started a pileup. Deputy Junior mentions that he saw the wreck about a mile up, as he was the last in line, but he just floored it, because how often do you get to be in a 15 car pileup?
- Subverted in Blue Heelers when Jonesy pursues a suspect. When he is ordered to terminate the chase, he does (reluctantly), but does not acknowledge it to his superior, and when the suspect wraps his car around a tree Jonesy is very nearly brought up on disciplinary charges - the only thing that saves him is the discovery that the driver was probably on his mobile phone. Before he was chasing the suspect on a dirt road, when he couldn't see in the dust only to discover the suspect had stopped the (stolen, natch) car in the middle of the road, causing the police car to smash into it before flipping the bird and driving off.
- And subverted again in several episodes before that. The most notable example would probably be Brad, Susie's ex husband, who became a paraplegic after a pursuit ended in a crash. He blames himself for what happened but listening to Brad and the pursuit controller he was at least as in control and unlemming-like as most examples on this list, his only possible fault in hesitating to follow the order to terminate when he reports the suspect going 140 KPH (about 85 MPH) on a bad road.
- Happens in the MacGyver (1985) episode "The Thief of Budapest". A lot of police cars get totalled as a result.
- JAG: In "Dangerous Game", a Virginia deputy sheriff pursues a speeding car with civilian dressed Navy Seals and accidentally gets himself killed. The Navy Seal who drove the other car stands trial for negligent homicide. While this is obviously not played for fun, the writers were genre-savvy enough to have the sheriff back at the station watching Smokeyandthe Bandit.
- Happens in first episode of season 2 of Stranger Things, in which a police chase of some bank robbers ends with Kali using her powers to make one of the officers imagine a tunnel ceiling collapsing in front of him, causing him to slam on the brakes, and then the two squad cars behind him to collide with him. Meanwhile, Kali's crew gets away unscathed.
- The Kill Point: During the initial robbery, an off-duty FBI agent who happened to be present in the bank's lobby at that moment, pursues the robbers and immediately starts a gunfight outside the building. A single person against five heavily armed suspects with only her sidearm for back-up. She's lucky a security guard just happened to circle back to back her up, or all she would have accomplished is getting herself and/or innocent bystanders killed. They fall back into the building and turn the whole thing into a protracted hostage situation instead, and she later dies from her injuries in the hospital anyway.
- Cops in the Grand Theft Auto series are completely reckless in their pursuit of the player — they'll follow you off cliffs, into water, and plow through traffic, often causing explosive pile-ups. Sometimes the player's "Wanted" level will increase because so many cops have killed themselves in the chase. It gets even more ridiculous when, in Vice City, you turn on the cheat where going fast enough causes cars to fly.
- Sometimes the cops in GTA4 take the "lemming" part a little too literally...
- Even on foot it goes sideways as many GTA police simply cannot swim.
- In Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, besides escaping into a safehouse, the main/only way to get your wanted level to zero is to force the cops tailing you to crash, one at a time. While incredibly fun, this isn't the smartest mechanic, as it only counts when an occupied cop car crashes. Hitting an unoccupied one or killing a pedestrian officer will actually increase your wanted level.
- The same also seems to, very ironically, apply to paramedics too - the ambulances seem to exhibit much the same behaviour as the cop cars, causing more fatalities than they prevent: it's very common for them to run over half a dozen people in their attempt to reach a single wounded person, then run over a few more after they're done.
- Half-Life 2: Metrocops/Civil Protection officers. Unlike the Combine Overwatch Soldiers, they don't really have a good grasp of tactics; cops will regularly charge toward you disregarding cover or environmental hazards, and they do so in large groups. Practically the only thing they care to avoid is thrown grenades. This can lead to some amusing moments early on in the game- particularly, during a segment of Route Kanal, a train comes down the tracks a squad of Metrocops happens to be rushing toward you on...
- Need for Speed: Most Wanted: Crashing into one of the marked buildings or roadside objects during pursuit will cause it to crush down on the police cars chasing you.
- The cops are a lot stupider than just running into obstacles which they almost always can't avoid due to going too fast. They'll gladly run into their own roadblocks, sometimes opening a hole for the player they otherwise couldn't have achieved, and they will happily go zooming over the same jumps the player can, destroying their car in the process. Indeed, it sometimes makes the radio chatter feel full of Narm since they sound so much more intelligent on the radio than they actually act.
- In Need for Speed Carbon, a cop car will often take up position in front of your car and stay there with remarkable precision. You can steer the cop car into oncoming traffic.
- Played around in the Hot Pursuit series. The AI-controlled basic police are not any smarter, but the interceptor units, human or AI, are competent enough to be able to stop the racers.
- When the cops are after you in Driver, they seek to chase and ram you no matter at what costs, up to kamikaze-like head-on collisions when both you and the cops are driving at maximum speed. This is justified by the fact that nobody can get out of their car, and the squad cars are actually the police's only weapon against you. In the sequels, the cops are smarter, but still not smart enough not to chase you over ramps.
- The cops in the Midtown Madness games are ridiculously single minded in their attempts to run you off the road, including crashing through other traffic.
- Scarface: The World Is Yours. One essential missions involves a high speed chase with the cops flying off a high ledge to crash into the debris below and die horribly. Their 'crime'? Stealing donuts. So ... yeah.
- Just Cause 2 gives us the notoriously thick Panauan military/police force. When on Rico's tail, they'll do anything to take him down, including crashing into each other and exploding, plunging off cliffs, blithely ignoring their burning vehicle that's due to explode in seconds, and sending streams of weak jeeps and motorcycles to challenge an armored vehicle.
- Cops in the Saints Row franchise are particularly dense, though they are mostly good about not plowing into cops on foot. Rival gangs are similarly prone to recklessly chasing you down in droves if you tick them off.
- Parodied in Family Guy when Stewie, Brian and Mort are in a submarine, being chased by another submarine. They manage to make their pursuer crash and the moment it does so, about two dozen police cars come in apparently from nowhere, crashing into the sub.
- In an episode of The Simpsons Marge and her friend Laura Powers are being chased by the police across the desert. Homer, riding in Chief Wiggum's car (long story) successfully warns them that they're about to drive into The Grand Chasm and they brake to a stop in time, while Wiggum and Homer go hurtling past them and over the edge, but are both fine because they land in a giant heap of garbage on the bottom of the Chasm.
- Parodied in The LEGO Movie. As Emmett and Wyldstyle escape Bricksburg through a secret passageway in the city's backdrop. The pursuing police straight into the wall, spontaneously catching fire after a Beat.
- South Park:
- In one episode, Cartman and Kyle are riding their Big Wheels to California. A CHP Cruiser spots them and gives chase, at what could be no faster than 5mph. Despite this, the police car somehow manages to lose control and flip over the median.
- In another, Kenny and Cartman get into an extremely slow version of the O.J. Simpson police chase in a battery-powered toy car. When it runs out of juice it slows to a halt, then a second later, a dozen police cars come roaring in from off-screen to have a fiery pile-up.
- The Bikini Bottom police are prone to this type of pursuit, notably when chasing Spongebob Squarepants and Mrs. Puff during the former's driving test. There is a tanker truck of fruit punch for seniors involved.
- Teen Titans Go!: In "Driver's Ed", a a trail of police cars chase Robin into a supermarket, where they pile-up.