Follow TV Tropes


Minority Police Officer

Go To
This cop's out of this world... literally.

"Oh, you know me, do you? You know how it feels when the monkey sounds start? When the bananas are piled up outside your locker? If I make it through a month without murdering a colleague, they ought to erect a statue of me. I didn't sign up to be a bloody standard-bearer. I mean, why should I have to fight all the battles?"
Glen Fletcher, Life on Mars (2006)

While being a minority in any field of work can be a difficult experience, it can be even more difficult when the job in question is the police; after all, compared to other career fields, a minority in the police may be called upon to arrest or even kill members of their own group.

When a member of a minority group joins the police, it can be a double-edged sword; on the one hand, there may be suspicions from other police officers that they'll go easy on a suspect if the suspect is "one of their own", while the community they come from might view them as a sell-out or even a full-on Boomerang Bigot. Sometimes, their biggest critic could be themselves, worrying about whether or not they are doing the right thing by joining the police, or pressuring themselves to be a Flawless Token.

On the other hand, minority victims and witnesses might be less hesitant about speaking to a police officer who has the same background as them; furthermore, there's a good chance that the police officer possesses knowledge about their group that other officers don't, including language skills if they are from a group that speaks a different language.

Can result in a Wunza Plot, as that trope usually fits in with this trope perfectly. If they're the first police officer of that group on the force, then it's Breaking the Glass Ceiling. This may cause them to be the Token Minority. They're also likely to have to face down an Intimidating White Presence.

Who counts as a minority can depend on the location and era: an Irish or Italian police officer in 19th-century America is this trope, but one in contemporary America is not this trope. Can also be non-human, such as a sentient animal, robot, or alien, if Fantastic Racism results in that group being discriminated against in-universe.

Note: In order to be this trope, an officer's minority status has to have had an effect on their career, for better or worse.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Metropolis (2001) features "Pero", a robot detective/police liaison; in this society, robots are so heavily discriminated against that they aren't even allowed human names.

    Comic Books 
  • Top 10:
    • Joe Pi is not the Tenth Precinct's first robot officer, but he is the first officer to come from the Ninth Parallel, an alternate universe ruled by post-organic lifeforms.
    • Jeff Smax is the only officer from his high-fantasy-based home dimension until his sister joins him.
  • DC Comics has Renee Montoya, a Dominican-American lesbian who worked as a Gotham City Police detective before becoming The Question.
  • In House of M, Sam Wilson is one of the very few human cops on the mostly-mutant NYPD. Luke Cage ribs him over this, calling him a "Token Sapien."

    Film — Animation 
  • Judy Hopps is the first rabbit in Zootopia's police force. Later on, Nick Wilde became the first fox to join. Note that "minority" here is based on Animal Stereotypes and for both examples, their species were thought to be unsuitable for police work until they proved otherwise.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Alien Nation has George "Sam" Francisco, the first Newcomer alien police officer to be promoted to detective in the LAPD. He's subject to a certain amount of harassment; at one point, two human detectives spray paint a star and "E.T.P.D." on the side of the car he and his partner are using. They also resent that Sam has only been on the force for one year before being transferred to detective (human officers usually had to wait 6 or 7 years before transferring). However, Sam speaks the Newcomer language and Newcomers are often more willing to open up to him than to human officers. He also provides advice to his human partner, such where on a Newcomer's body a strike would have the same effect as a Groin Attack on a human (a spot under the arm), and the fact that when Newcomers take massive amounts of Jabroka, they don't overdose and die.
  • In Blackk Klansman, Ron Stallman is the first black member of the Colorado Springs police department. He experiences some racism from other officers, as well as criticism from more radical black activists who believe he's selling out or supporting oppression though his job. However, Ron sees his position as a way to fight racism, and takes this to heart by going undercover to expose the local KKK chapter.
  • Boyz n the Hood features a Boomerang Bigot black police officer.
  • In Bright, Nick Jakoby is the first and only Orcish officer to serve in the LAPD. A lot of people from other races believe that Orcs are Always Chaotic Evil because most of them helped the Dark Lord in trying to conquer the world two thousand years ago. However, most races seem to forget that it was an orc who led the nine races to defeat the Dark Lord.
  • Clockers features a black police officer who gives drug dealer Strike a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown and an epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Fair for Its Day Charlie Chan was based off of real-life Chinese-American detective Chang Apana, as well as the author's desire to have a work of fiction depicting a heroic Chinese character in contrast to the Yellow Peril stereotype of the time.
  • The only black character in Edward Scissorhands is a police officer; some have theorized that he is nice to Edward and lets Edward go because he also knows what it's like to be an outsider.
  • Super Troopers has Ambiguously Brown Vermont State Trooper Arcot Ramathorn on the force; sometimes, other police officers think he's Mexican, while at other times they think he's from Afghanistan (the actor playing him, Jay Chandrasekhar, is of Tamil Indian descent).

  • The Isaacson Brothers in The Alienist are two Jewish detectives in the NYPD during The Gay '90s; it's mentioned that they faced discrimination by many of the old guard of the police force before Theodore Roosevelt's reforms got them promoted.
  • A recurring trope in the Discworld novels. Minority races trying to integrate into Ankh-Morpork society often start out by joining the Watch, which is the only place where they're accepted. By the end of Guards! Guards!, Sam Vimes is in charge of the City Watch for Ankh-Morpork, and he's a suspicious xenophobic bastard who doesn't trust any of the non-humans (or the humans) that move into the city. However, he often finds himself hiring minority members to join his police force so that they have enough members to patrol the entire city.
    • Men at Arms: Lord Vetinari has forced Captain Vimes to hire a trio of new recruits: Lance-constable Cuddy (a dwarf), Lance-constable Detritus (a troll), and Lance-constable Angua (a werewolf). Angua, especially, gets marginalized for being a werewolf, and it's not until The Reveal that you find out it isn't because she's a woman.
    • Feet of Clay: The minority police officers chat about hazing rituals, such as the doggie treats in Angua's locker and the stepstool in Cheery's. By the end of the story, a Golem is added to the force as well.
    • Thud!: Salacia is the first vampire to join the force, over Vimes' vehement objections (he's all for including other species in the Watch, but does not like vampires on a personal level, and it takes the ruler of the city pulling a "because I said so" for him to very reluctantly let her in). Vimes is later vindicated when it turns out Salacia was spying on them for the Low King, but by that point she's proved herself as an officer and Vimes has no intention of letting her go, to her surprise.
    • In Raising Steam it's noted by citizens that the Goblins rising as a respectable ethnicity in the city without any of them joining the main Watch was a break with tradition, although in Snuff one had joined up in the Shires branch office.
  • Artemis Fowl: Holly calls out Commander Root for being overly harsh on her compared to other officers because she's female (the only female in the LEP force except for a rather bimbo-ish fairy in PR). Root confirms that this is the case... because Holly is the first female officer, and thus has to be held to a higher standard lest the public continue to think females aren't capable of such a tough job. Not that Holly's behavior wouldn't earn her more than a few reprimands regardless of gender.
  • In the Nursery Crime books, Ashley is the first and only Rambosian (alien) police officer on the Reading police force. He was hired through some sort of affirmative action program, but shunted aside to the NCD, the reject pile of the force, due to prejudice and cultural misunderstandings. Nevertheless, he's a very good officer due to his aptitude for filing and information.
  • In Gorky Park, Arkady's partner is half-Tatar and the pathologist is Jewish. Later in the book, he goes to New York City, and notices that in New York, black police officers wore brown uniforms and directed traffic, while white police officers wore black uniforms and carried guns. Later on, he encounters Billy and Rodney, two black plainclothes detectives that work in the NYPD with Kirwill. In the sequel Red Square, his partner is Estonian.
  • Berko Shemets in The Yiddish Policemen's Union is half-Jewish and half-Tlingit, and is in touch with both sides of his heritage.
  • DC Peter Grant in Rivers of London is mixed race - white and Sierra Leonean. PC Sahra Guleed is a Somalian Muslim. They occasionally face racism from both suspects and other coppers, but, in general, Peter's so extremely a Londoner that few people would try to claim he wasn't.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon Berlin has Charlotte Ritter becoming the first female homicide detective in 1920s Berlin. Also, the head of the Political Department is Jewish.
  • The Border:
    • Immigration and Customs Service has Sergeant Layla Hourani, formerly of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. She's a Muslim Canadian woman who gets called in whenever an ICS case involves the community at large. The show implies that her Farsi language skills, aside from her surname, pegs her as of Iranian heritage. After her death at the hands of mobsters, Special Agent Khalida Massi from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is assigned on a full-time basis as an ICS officer. She, like Layla, is from an (unnamed) ethnic minority.
    • Acting Inspector Darnell Williams is assigned to ICS from CSIS and is an African-Canadian.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine:
    • Captain Holt has been a black, gay cop with the NYPD since the '70s. He frequently emphasizes the discrimination he experienced on his path to captain and founded an organization specifically for black LGBT officers. In one story arc, it's implied that part of the reason for his promotions is that he's a good public example of the NYPD's strides towards diversity.
      Holt: [trying to think of an opening joke for a crowd] "Do you know what the toughest part of being a black, gay police officer is? ... The discrimination." ... I believe that's what you call observational humor.
      Gina: Probably.
    • Among the other main characters, Sergeant Jeffords is a black man, Detectives Diaz and Santiago are Latina women, Jake is Jewish, and Rosa is also bisexual. Although they do not face as much overt prejudice as Holt did, it still occasionally comes up.
      • The episode "Moo Moo" explores how Jeffords should respond to harassment as a black cop.
      • Santiago is aware that she needs to work twice as hard as the guys if she wants to be promoted up the ranks. "He Said, She Said" also spotlights the harassment she felt throughout her police career.
  • Law & Order has dealt with this issue in multiple different ways:
    • Anita Van Buren is a black woman who was promoted to Lieutenant and put in charge of the 27th Precinct's detective squad. She knows she has to work twice as hard to even be measured fairly against her counterparts, and at one point she faced additional hurdles after she sued the NYPD for discrimination after she was passed over for promotion in favor of a less-qualified white woman. And then she has a crisis of faith when it's discovered that the case that got her noticed and promoted to detective years ago was manipulated by a fingerprint expert who fudged results to close cases, making her question if everything she's done in her career has been a lie.
    • Ed Green faces some issues after he joins the 2-7, especially when white officers claim he's bending over backwards to "protect the brothers". It doesn't help that Ed is a Cowboy Cop with a hair-trigger temper.
    • "Manhood" dealt with the murder of a police officer who tried to break up a drug deal, and whether or not the officer's backup was slow to respond to his call for help because he was gay.
  • Class of '09:
    • Tayo is a black FBI agent who becomes Director by 2034. He relates once to Poet having been wrongly arrested and slapped as a boy by a police officer without having in fact done anything wrong, so he's well aware of how law enforcement's power can be abused. His own father was also a police officer who'd been murdered due to his white colleagues' corrupt indulgence toward the killer, a racist who they gave a pass. Tayo wants to reform the system from within and thus end institutionalized racism.
    • Hour is Iranian-American, and her parents had fled Iran due to political persecution. She wants to be a part of a system which won't persecute people simply for dissent, as her father had suffered. However, her parents are displeased at her joining the FBI, as Middle Eastern Americans have born a lot of suspicion in the US. They're afraid Hour will simply help uphold this status quo.
  • Deputy: Several of the LA deputy sheriffs are black, with some Latinos as well. Joseph, who's a black rookie deputy, faces being profiled and threatened by LAPD officers, while also viewed as a traitor by some other black people for being a cop at all. His training officer, herself black, tells Joseph while on the job fellow black people are only going to see him as a cop.
  • An episode of Life on Mars (2006) has Sam encounter a past version of Glen Fletcher, his previous mentor and one of the first black police officers on the force in Manchester. Glen in 1973 has something of an Uncle Tom persona in order to deal with the harassment he suffers from at work, but later on becomes much more confident. His counterpart from the American series is much more self-assured, but almost gets shot by other police officers when he reaches for his badge (he was in plainclothes, not a uniform).
  • The Murders:
    • Kate is a biracial detective in a nearly all white police department. Her father (who's dead by the time of the show) was black and a fellow police officer. Kate's mother is white and currently running for mayor, with a part of her platform being to foster greater diversity in the force, with Kate being in a photo op by her side. This annoys Kate, seeing it as her mom just using her to score some points as her biracial cop daughter. She later apologizes however. When talking with her mom too the latter notes that black people often dislike them being in the police force, as Kate's father had also experienced when serving.
    • Kate works under Bill Chen, a Chinese-Canadian detective.
  • October Faction: Gina Fernandez, a Latina, is the sheriff of Barrington-on-Hudson, a small mostly white town in upstate New York. Years before her, Deloris' father, a black man, had held the post.
  • S.W.A.T. (2017): Dealing with the complexities and struggles minorities face in the police force and especially S.W.A.T. are recurring themes throughout the series.
    • The main protagonist Sergeant Hondo Harrelson is a Black man, who gets promoted in charge of his own S.W.A.T. team at the start of the series effectively as a PR stunt (his predecessor and friend accidentally shot a Black teenager). Whilst often struggling with balancing his loyalty to both the uniform and his background, Hondo strives to make the best of his position, trying to build trust and improve minority relationships with the police force. Believing its the only way to tackle the underlying issues that ruin so many lives. Hondo likewise admits that he feels the need to always excel so that he wouldn't get passed over because of his race.
    • Chris Alonso is the only female member of the team, as well as being a bisexual Latina. When her team members are angered at her being held to a different standard in a physical evaluation, Chris is so used to it that she outright expected the examiner to be prejudiced. She tries to use her position to open doors for other women in the police force, but admits to worrying that the higher ups see her as their necessary good deed and won't carry on the progress.
    • Their superior Captain Jessica Cortez is a Latina woman, who is also a naturalized American. This all conspires to make her career more difficult. When Commander Hick's discovers she's in a relationship with Hondo, he outright spells out to him how as a woman this will destroy her career if it comes out and Hondo falling on his sword for her won't make a bit of difference.
    • Victor Tan is of Chinese descent, and the only East Asian on the team.
    • Later when Chris leaves Zoe Powell takes her slot. She's a Latina too. Her friction with other people stems from her being a hot-headed loose cannon at first though.
  • The Thin Blue Line features black Cloudcuckoolander Constable Gladstone, and Twofer Token Minority Asian female Constable Maggie Habib. In one episode, Habib is harassed by a skinhead, leading to Constable Goody standing up for her.
  • Time Trax: The White Male Lead is actually this; by the 22nd Century he's from, whites have become a minority in the USA. "Blanco" is an offensive racial slur used against them.
  • The third season of True Detective has Wayne Hays as one of the few African-American officers in the Arkansas State Police. This was used to his advantage when he goes to interview African-American POIs. This was inspired by Mahersala Ali providing photographic evidence that his grandfather was a state police officer in the 1960s.

    Web Animation 
  • In RWBY, the Faunus are a humanoid species with animal traits that have suffered centuries of oppression at the hands of humanity. Throughout the series, the discrimination and mistreatment that the Faunus suffer throughout the various kingdoms is a reoccurring plot point. The militant kingdom of Atlas is known for having some of the worst conditions for the Faunus, with slave labor in unsafe Dust Mines and rampant poverty common for them. Volume 7 introduces Marrow Amin, a dog Faunus and rookie member of the military's elite Ace-Operatives unit. Though a skilled Huntsman with a powerful ability, his human comrades treat him like a joke and his loyalty to his superiors is viewed as his only worthwhile trait. During the volume, political tensions are running high because of the military's neglect of Mantle, where the majority of Faunus live in poverty. Marrow preaches the importance of following the rule of law, but also admits when confronted that he is well aware that the law is not equal for everyone. This conflict between obeying his superiors and helping the people of Mantle comes to a head when General Ironwood orders the abandonment of the city, and arrest of anyone opposed to his brutal plan. Marrow is the only member of the Ace-Ops to express misgivings about fighting their allies. He finally has had enough when Ironwood makes it clear that he will follow through on his threat to blow up Mantel if Penny doesn't surrender herself. Marrow changes sides with Winter to help the latter's sister and her friends..

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • As part of the policing reforms undertaken after the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement was implemented, the Police Service of Northern Ireland tried to recruit an equal number of Catholic and Protestant officers, and promote more Catholic officers to senior positions. There are also recruiting non-Caucasians from the African and Asian communities in and around Northern Ireland and in the rest of the UK.
  • Meanwhile, in the Republic of Ireland, the An Garda Síochána is trying to recruit non-white recruits to serve in the GS as part of the Diversity Strategy & Implementation Plan paper implemented due to the growing ethnic diversity in Ireland; as a 2018 article from the Irish Times points out, only 0.4 percent of Gardaí are non-white.
    • Garda Reservists who are from religious minorities like Muslims and Sikhs were not allowed to wear any religious clothing on their uniforms, which was challenged in the Equality Tribunal and the High Court by Ravinder Singh Oberoi. The ruling was made in favor of the Garda. It was until 2019 when Garda Commissioner Drew Harris made exemptions for volunteers who are from said religious communities in an efforts to bolster recruitment diversity.
  • The aforementioned Chang Apana was a Chinese-Hawaiian police officer and later detective. Fluent in Hawaiian, Hawaiian Pidgin, and Cantonese, he became a legend in the Honolulu Police Department.
  • Twofer Token Minority Reuben Greenberg (black mother, Russian Jewish father) was a college student at Berkley in the 1960s. During a civil rights protest, a police officer suggested he join the police and change things from within. He did just that, becoming a police officer and later the police chief of Charleston, South Carolina, where he oversaw numerous reforms to the police department, including the requirement that all officers had to have at least a bachelor's degree, and a more "community-based" policing strategy that was intended to make police officers more approachable by having them patrol on foot or bicycle rather than in cars. His techniques were so effective, that the the total crime rate fell by 11% even though the population of Charleston had increased by 64%.
  • Baltej Singh Dhillon is a practicing Sikh, and had to fight a lengthy court battle in order to be allowed to have a beard and wear a turban as part of his uniform when he wanted to join the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Ironically, one of the first assignments he had after graduating from the academy was a plainclothes assignment.
  • The Hong Kong Police Force (formerly the Royal Hong Kong Police Force) has made efforts to recruit from the non-Chinese populace in order to combat discrimination made by Chinese officers and/or assist in cases where the HKPF would encounter a case involving a resident due to religious cases since HK has a diverse population. Project Gemstone is the program used to recruit non-Chinese in the force, which was launched in 2013 through the Yau Tsim Police District. As of 2019, four Pakistanis, three Indians, one Nepalese and one Filipino are recruited to the HKPF. In addition, any non-Chinese officer who served in the former RHKPF has the right to privileges bestowed to them after the creation of the Hong Kong SAR government was allowed to work in the HKPF.
    • The same is extended for non-Chinese officers who served in the Macau Public Security Police Force.
  • Senator Panfilo Lacson is a Chinese-Filipino who was the ex-Director General of the Philippine National Police and formerly with the Philippine Constabulary's Metropolitan Command under the Intelligence and Security Group. During his time with law enforcement, he was credited for eliminating the kotong culturenote  as the norm with the rank and file and imposed strict physical fitness requirements while going after organized crime. Due to this, he had an approval rating of 78% from the Philippine populace. Lacson headed the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force when he was in the PNP prior to being the DG. The PAOCTF went after organized crime, especially those that went after wealthy ethnic minorities in the Philippines.
  • Invoked in Singapore, where there is a sizable Gurkha contingent in the police force, serving as a kind of "neutral" third party because they belong to none of the major ethnic groups making up Singapore's population. From The Other Wiki:
    "At that time, their presence as a neutral force was important because local police officers were often perceived to be (or were even expected to be) biased towards their own ethnic groups when handling race-related issues, further fueling discontent and violence. Officers who attempt to carry out their duties impartially and in full accordance with the law also faced social backlash from their own ethnic communities, a difficult situation which can even lead to physical harm to individual officers."
    • At the same time, any Singaporeans who are of other racial origins (most specifically Eurasian) aside from Chinese/Indian/Malay are also subjected to this since they're a small minority.
  • In the Deep South, the police forces were mostly white until the early 1970s:
    • Alabama had to hire its first black Alabama Troopers in 1972 after a Federal court ruling ordered them to do so until they got to 25% blacks in the Alabama Highway Patrol (the proportion of them in the state's population).
    • Likewise, Mississippi hired its first black troopers in the Mississippi Highway Patrol in the same year.
    • On January 19, 1970, is the day Abraham Bowie was hired as the first black member of the Louisiana State Police.
    • In 1947, the New York Times reported Research Department of the Southern Regional Council estimated from its surveys that 41 cities in ten Southern states used "Negro policemen", mainly to patrol black neighborhoods.
  • In Massachusetts, there is a higher percentage of black officers in the Massachusetts State Police (11%) than in the state's population (6.97%).
  • While Malays are a majority in the Royal Malaysian Police, there are efforts made to recruit Chinese, Indians, Eurasians and other Malays of non-Malay heritage in order to better represent their communities despite some growing rhetoric from pro-Islamist Malay political groups and wrong perceptions that Malays of non-bumiputera origin are not awarded rightfully.note 
  • According to sources, the city guards in ancient Athens were entirely made up of Scythian slaves. They would patrol the market and other public places, along with pulling citizens into the assembly when the body didn't have a quorum. Why this was isn't clear, but probably due to the fact the Scythians were well-known as a warrior people, with Greeks admiring them for that and so the Athenians believed they would be good at guarding the city.


Video Example(s):


Ray's heritage

When asked about Ray's heritage, she says her family's from Punjab. Although she did mention her father's from Bengal.

Ties it (partly) to Parminder Nagra's actual history as her parents immigrated to the UK from Punjab.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / MinorityPoliceOfficer

Media sources: