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Police Brutality

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Enforcing your right to remain silent.

"I'm on my feet for about ten minutes before the cops kick them out from under me. They don't ask me any questions. They just keep knocking the crap out of me and waving a confession in my face. And I keep spitting blood all over it and laughing at how many fresh copies they come up with. Then along comes this worm assistant district attorney who turns the recorder off and says if I don't sign their confession, they'll kill my mom. I break his arm in three places and I sign it."
Marv, Sin City

When police aren't useless, then they're vicious bullies, or at very least, just big jerks.

Even though nobody likes being bossed around by the police, it's their job and they have to do it whether we (or they*) like it or not. Some types of policemen, however, are thugs who take cruel pleasure in beating and tormenting people they don't like, for petty reasons or, in particularly bad cases, no reason at all.

Though this is Truth in Television, it is often exaggerated in fiction, whether for dramatic effect or perhaps to push political agendas. Sometimes this may be to make a statement about ethnic/racial relations (e.g., Do the Right Thing) or more generally about political repression (e.g., Dekada '70), as part of a gloomy Film Noir-type Wretched Hive setting (e.g., Sin City), or as part of a futuristic Dystopian State Sec setting (e.g., Nineteen Eighty-Four).

In movies, this was originally a portrayal only American films got away with. For example, the critics responsible for French New Wave Cinema famously complained about censorship that forbade French police being portrayed as anything but professional and competent.

A quick breakdown of police brutality trends in fiction: the LAPD beats your ass and then decides what crime you committed; the NYPD shoots you a few dozen times then pronounces you innocent; 1930s cops are drunk Irishmen who beat you up for being Italian; 1960s cops are sober Irishmen who beat you up for having long hair, or are old White evangelicals with a thick drawl who beat you up for being not-White; 2010s cops may not themselves be entirely white, but are so Trigger-Happy and paranoid they will shoot you if you're black; old-fashioned Bobbies beat you up for being a foreigner or minority suspected of loitering; big town cops beat you up for being a foreigner or minority suspected of terrorism; small town cops pull you over, tell you that your tail light is busted, and then bust your tail light with a nightstick when you ask which one (and give you a ticket for it). Not to mention cops from developing countries that are often also incredibly corrupt to boot, and heaven help you if they mistake you for a drug user, or if you're a political activist protesting your country's problems — including them! Of course, all might not be as it seems.

Note: Now and again, American movies filmed in or set in the 1930s and '40s will show a cop shooting at an unarmed, running suspect. Though this would not be acceptable in an American context today, it was not considered brutal or excessive at the time.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a relatively free country and unfortunate enough to witness police brutality, surreptitiously filming it is a good way to back yourself up.note  In many jurisdictions nowadays, the police themselves often wear cameras to film arrests and make it easier to avoid misunderstandings and/or abuse.

A common way to make a Rabid Cop character. Not to be confused with the Police Brutality Gambit, although its users hope you will. See Killer Cop for when the police officer goes a bit beyond brutality. A combined subtrope of this and Hellhole Prison is when correctional officers/law enforcement in a detention setting such as a jail or prison are just as bad, if not worse, than the other inmates for brutality. This is also pretty much certain to occur if The Bad Guys Are Cops.

The Inverted Trope is a Cop Killer, though the tables will be probably turned back around when the cops catch him, and not least because police camaraderie really is that strong. Compare Rage Against the Legal System.

If a type of animal is used for this trope, they will almost always be police dogs. Sometimes, a pig may also be used, as both a Visual Pun to "pig" being derogatory slang for a cop and a reference to real pigs being fairly aggressive at times.

No Real Life Examples, Please! While sadly this happens everywhere, mentioning any real case in particular would be a sure way to bring on a serious Flame War, and we're not here for that.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • Ginza in Speed Grapher likes to "self-defense" suspects (it's her catchphrase and she actually uses it as a verb). This means that if she arrests you and you aren't cooperative, she's likely to shoot off at least one of your extremities.
  • Revy mentions this while monologuing about her past in Black Lagoon.
    When I was a brat, crawling around in that shithole city, it seemed God and Love were always sold out when I went looking. Before I knew better, I clung to God and prayed to Him every single night — yeah, I believed in God right up until that night the cops beat the hell out of me for no reason at all. All they saw when they looked at me was another little ghetto rat. With no power and no God, what's left for a poor little Chinese bitch to rely on? It's money, of course, and guns. Fuckin' A. With these two things, the world's a great place.
    • In the OVA of the El Baile de la Muerte arc, it's revealed in a flashback that Revy was raped by a police officer, and that her alcoholic father's lack of care about the whole thing led her to murder him.
  • In One Piece, there's one division of the Navy that, in an organization of Knight Templars and Well Intentioned Extremists, absolutely relish in this; The G5 branch. The sailors in the unit are basically thugs who love to torture pirates. Yet they're not the worst of World Government's enforcers, as they reserve their brutality for actual pirates, which is all you need to know about how corrupt the World Government is.
  • In Sakura Gari, Masataka's brother Takafumi dies after being tortured by the police.
  • Though the general police in Death Note are perfectly reasonable (and one is even the protagonist's father), they're being shuffled around like chess pieces by the less-than-softhearted L. And, of course, the chief of police managed to spawn the protagonist.
  • Practically enforced in AKIRA. All the police go over the top on people, arrest protestors in droves, and work for the fascist government hand in hand (which is why they aren't stopped).
  • A main theme of Akudama Drive where both the Executioner Division and the Police are willing to massacre civilian protestors.
  • Hilda from Cross Ange gets ganged up on by numerous police officers after a really awful meeting with her mother. Given her mother outright told her that she wished she'd never given birth to a Norma, who almost the whole world sees as inhuman monsters, Hilda is too deep in a Heroic BSoD to fight back and lets them knock her to the ground. She hardly even reacts as they kick her while she's down. And there's no real reason for the police to be doing this other than she's a Norma.

    Comic Books 
  • Sin City: The Basin City Police Department are basically uniformed thugs-for-hire. When Cardinal Roark or some other Big Bad wants somebody gone and the evidence removed, they send in an out-and-out death squad. And these aren't even the worst in the world... the ones working for Stalin were worse.
  • Transmetropolitan:
    • The first major arc has Spider covering the Transient movement and their hare-brained scheme to secede from the City, bringing down an outright savage police response. Spider halts them in their tracks by streaming a column about it onto the Times Square jumbotron.
    Spider: I can see a blatantly unarmed Transient man with half his face hanging off, and three cops working him over anyway. One of them is groping his own erection. I'm sorry. Is that too harsh an observation for you? Does that sound too much like the Truth?
    • The cops get back at Spider by beating the shit out of him outside his apartment. Of course, Spider being who he is, he just laughs off the brutal beating and threatens to bite their testicles off if they come near him again.
    • The police carry riot shields with the word "SUBMIT" painted on them. When we see their shift change at one point, it involves cleaning the blood off.
  • Sam & Max, in all their incarnations, do this a lot. And if they weren't freelance police, they'd probably compensate with just plain ol' 'brutality' instead. Since they're both prime Heroic Comedic Sociopaths, all of it is, of course, Played for Laughs.
  • In The Transformers: Robots in Disguise and The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, this is one of the worst flaws of Autobot authority. One of the reasons Megatron became a Big Bad was because he was brutalized when he was an innocent prisoner- up until that point he was an Actual Pacifist. The entire Autobot-Decepticon War started because of Police Brutality. Some flashbacks even show Orion Pax, who in this series was a cop before becoming Optimus Prime, beating information out of suspected Decepticons.
    • In Robots in Disguise Sideswipe and Whirl, the guy who caused the spoilered incident, police the now neutral Cybertron and casually mention hating and beating on the neutrals. Prowl is the security director and has a fanatical hatred of them, and later deploys the Decepticons for crowd control (at this point the neutrals had erupted into a violent riot, and had even shot their leader), and two of them, Needlenose and Horri-bull, stay on as police, they tried to beat up a guy who was making graffiti (Prowl does have standards, though, and he stops them).
  • Nextwave features a cop who goes around beating up criminals; and demanding they give him his cut. Then he turns into a giant robot and starts destroying the city. Laser-Guided Karma ensues when the team stops him, Tabitha and Machine Man beat him up for being a cop, and then his previous victims drag him into an alley to kill him.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • Obviously a feature in a setting whose hero is a Judge, Jury, and Executioner, but played with somewhat. While the Judges of the Mega-Cities are violent and aggressive, there are lines and crossing them can get you forced out of the Justice Department or even sentenced to 20 years on Titan. Or even worse, the Special Judicial Squad will be sent out to execute a Judge who gets too trigger-happy on the populace.
    • Played dead straight by Mega Cities where the Judges are even more corrupt than in Mega City One, however, such as Ciudad Baranquilla, which is a Police State meets Banana Republic.
    • Taken to absolutely ridiculous extremes by the former Judges of Deadworld, who already considered life quite cheap before the Dark Judges decided that All Crimes Are Equal and took over. They eventually massacred their whole population to stop crime.
  • Batman: Depending on the Writer, the Gotham City Police Department is plagued with these. In some stories, such as Gotham Central, it's a case of some very (extremely) bad eggs. In others, such as The Dark Knight Returns and All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder (both written by Frank Miller, the same man as Sin City) the GCPD is either full of overly-violent idiots or men that are equal levels of horribly corrupt and violent, respectively (willing to beat the absolute shit (or worse) out of a little kid to make sure he won't testify in the murder of his own parents, for example).
  • Tim becomes aware of a pair of crooked cops who occasionally kill perps in Robin and when they walk away scot-free from the arrest he helped arrange for them there he sets them up to fall hard in Red Robin.
  • Uncanny X-Men: At one point, Masque of the Morlocks knocks out a bunch of people on a subway, then uses his powers to mess up their faces. A news report afterwards shows one man being bludgeoned by the police while screaming for someone to help him.
  • Immortal Hulk: While Joe Fixit is trying to lay low, he suddenly finds a cop car pulling over to arrest a kid for wearing a Hulk-themed hoodie, slamming him against a wall and beating him up, even as he points out he hasn't done anything wrong. Joe tries to ignore it, not least because he knows if he starts smashing, he'll be in trouble, but he can't help.
  • Gamma Flight: While Gamma Flight are trying to talk down the panicking gamma mutate Stockpile, some police officers appear, and one of them takes a shot at Absorbing Man. The shot goes straight at his head, and if Carl hadn't been metal at the time... his wife, Titania, takes this about as well as would be expected of a bad-tempered woman with super-strength.
    Titania: The hell was that? What, was that the warning shot?!
  • Static: Season One changes the cause of the Big Bang to this. In the original Static series, it was caused by a drug deal involving experimental chemicals gone bad. In the reboot, it's instead due to police using experimental new tear gas just to break up a Black Lives Matter protest, then sitting by and watching as the protesters, who were for the most part kids and teenagers, were mutated by it. The lucky ones got superpowers. The unlucky ones died in agony as their faces melted off.

    Fan Works 
  • Bumblebee: Fallen Queen: Karen Beecher is a victim of this, which is what motivates her to become a superhero.
  • In the reboot of Supper Smash Bros: Mishonh From God, Sara reports Rathalos to the police for vagrancy, and it's explicitly mentioned that the police officers beat him. She also has this as her Final Smash, summoning a bunch of officers to beat up and arrest her opponents.
  • The Redemption of Harley Quinn: In addition to Lyle Bolton being a sadistic prick, Aaron Cash gives Harley a physical thrashing as payback for his daughter's murder.
  • Chasing Dragons: When Gerold Arryn is put in charge of law enforcement in Gulltown, his reaction to the growth of the Old Faith movement is to have his guards assault not just any of its preachers, but also anyone who listens to them, even if it's just to heckle them.
  • Ruby Pair: The corrupt law enforcement agents on Cyberflox who arrest Zim and Tenn in "Meeting of Ruby Eyes" beat Zim up while transferring him to Gabo Amebo's custody, because they were paid extra to inflict pain on him in the process.

    Films — Animation 
  • In quite a daring move for a G-rated direct to video movie, An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island features a police force who savagely beat down protesting factory workers with their clubs, are being paid under the table by corrupt factory owners, and deliberately start a race riot.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, taffy-coated Ralph accidentally trashes the grandstands in Sugar Rush and subsequently, King Candy's two cops, Wynchell and Duncan, beat him up with nightsticks before tasering him and taking him captive.
  • Our Friend Martin: Miles and Randy wind up in Birmingham, AL in 1963, where they witness a legion of police officers attacking Martin's protesters with attack dogs, fire hoses, and unrated violence.
  • ParaNorman gives us this gem of a line: "What are you doing firing at civilians? That's for the police to do!"
  • Shrek 2: Donkey says the trope name out loud when he, Shrek and Puss get arrested by the Far Far Way guards in the COPS parody, "KNIGHTS"

  • This Soviet-era political joke (note that you can be flexible about the law enforcement/intelligence agencies as long as they fit):
    The FBI, GIGN, and KGB are arguing over who is best at catching criminals. Eventually, the Secretary-General of the UN gives them a challenge: to find a white rabbit in a ten-square-mile enchanted forest. Each team is given their own forest. The FBI go first: they set up a network of animal and plant informants, put the forest under 24-hour satellite surveillance, and string microphones all over the area. After a month with no leads, the Americans conclude the rabbit does not exist. The GIGN take a different approach: they set up a perimeter, then burn down the forest, killing everything inside, including the rabbit, and offering no apologies: the rabbit had it coming. Then the KGB go in. Five minutes later, they return with a bruised and bloody bear which is yelling "OK, OK, I'm a rabbit, I swear!"
  • A rich old white lady in the Deep South can no longer find her jewelry case. She calls the police, telling them she suspects the new gardener, who is black. Two hours after the police arrest him, she finds the case and calls the police back, only to learn that it's no problem, they've already got a confession.
    • Reportedly, Josef Stalin would tell a variant on this joke, featuring himself losing his pipe after a speech. The Soviet State Sec, of course, gets to play the police, while the speech's audience collectively play the gardener.
  • How many NYPD cops does it take to crack an egg? None. The egg tripped.
    • How many cops does it take to change a light bulb? None. They just beat the room for being black and arrest the bulb for being broke.
  • Many vendors sell t-shirts bearing the slogan "Help the Police, Beat Yourself Up"

  • 2666: In one instance they not only beat a perp, but they douse him with water and urine and well.
  • In Bad Dreams by Kim Newman, the protagonist is a journalist who has recently been working on an investigation into police brutality allegations surrounding a racist cop named Barry Erskine who is suspected of beating a South Asian suspect to death during an interrogation. Erskine returns in another of Newman's novels, Jago, where there's a detailed scene of him brutally interrogating one of the protagonists to make him confess to a crime he didn't commit.
  • The Bone Wars: A Mountie throws Thad in jail and gives him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown for no other reason than the fact that Thad embarrassed him by telling him that he was standing in puke after he arriving to break up a saloon fight.
  • In A Clockwork Orange, Dim and Billy Boy abandon their juvenile acts of mayhem and destruction to beat on criminals for a paycheck.
    • The police force displayed in Clockwork is generally less-than-kind; all of them beat criminals from their first appearance to their very last and do some serious damage to Alex in between.
  • The Discworld books feature an entire subseries revolving around a police force. While mostly a humorous and sympathetic depiction, particularly since they're usually the viewpoint characters, this does come up a bit:
    • Played straight in Night Watch with the Unmentionables, but Vimes' personal narration takes great care to note that beating people up in small rooms for good reasons always leads to beating up people in small rooms for bad reasons. This is pretty central to Vimes' psychology — he's pretty strict on himself and his subordinates because he's a big believer in the slippery slope and he wants to make damn sure no one slides down it. However, he's not above making the indirect threat of 'Falling Down The Stairs' if a suspect isn't being cooperative. They tend to be much more agreeable afterward (but again, would you antagonize a Troll or the Six-Foot-Tall "Dwarf"?).
    • The Ankh-Morpork version of "Miranda" includes such clauses as "You have the right not to throw yourself out the window"... most likely added to give a figleaf to practices under Vetinari's predecessors, Homicidal Lord Winder and Mad Lord Snapcase.
    • A mild version appears with Reg Shoe. After complaining about the lack of zombie representation in the watch, he is recruited by Carrot... and runs up a raft of complaints, all from zombies. He dismisses it by saying they "don't understand the problems of policing in a multi-vital society."
    • In Feet of Clay someone being questioned by Detritus the troll starts saying that it's police brutality and he yells "No! Dis is just police shoutin'!"
  • Standard operating procedure in Judge Dee's 7th c. China.
  • In 1984, Winston and Julia get beaten quite badly by the police during their arrest. It only gets worse when they're taken to the Ministry of Love.
  • Stephen King's Under the Dome: The 'police' hired by the town's tyrannical second selectman beat, shoot, rape, and kill whoever they want to without any real fear of retribution.
  • In Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets, author David Simon follows a shift of the Baltimore Police Department homicide unit, and among other things, presents a fairly even-handed view of police brutality. To wit, at least in that department, it's considered unethical to hit a suspect in handcuffs or to obtain a statement (not to mention the officer's career isn't worth it), but it's perfectly okay to goad a suspect into striking a cop (and beating him down "in self-defense"; one officer even keeps a photo of the suspect's face afterwards), or for a suspect in a crime involving a cop or their family to "fall down the stairs" several times between being photographed at the precinct and being dropped off at central booking.
    • Interestingly, the book goes into long detail, in an almost lamenting tone, that suspects actually fear the police less and less. In the old days, a suspect thought to have shot a cop was essentially in a race for their life to turn themselves in at a precinct completely across town, where they would only be beaten. If the guy was caught in the cop's own district, he'd have been shot dead and his death justified as self-defense.
    • While acknowledging that genuine brutality does exist, the book also makes the point that in the homicide unit at least, nine out of ten cases that the detectives will encounter will be criminal-on-criminal violence. The author thus argues that in most cases the detective has little personal stake in the case and little reason to want to risk a conviction, their clear-up rate, and their career just to rough up a small-time criminal in order to prove that they murdered another small-time criminal.
  • In The Death of the Vazir Mukhtar, the main character steps in to stop one such incident in 1829 St. Petersburg.
  • Discussed at length in the Andrew Vachss Burke book Terminal. See the quotes page.
  • Occurs in Wise Blood, in two plot-crucial moments. First, an officer pulls Hazel Motes over for driving without a license, then destroys Hazel's car by pushing it over an embankment. Second, two police officers find Hazel lying in a ditch, barely conscious. When they tell him that his landlady wants him to return, he says he doesn't want to, so they club him the rest of the way into unconsciousness and load him into their car. Hazel dies on the way back to his apartment.
  • In Beatles, the Oslo police force cracks down on some bums pretty hard, and arrests the main character Kim Karlsen, accusing him of supplying marihuana. In a rather nasty sequence, four policemen hold him down, give him a Traumatic Haircut, and a Groin Attack, before beating the living daylights out of him. When the cops are finished, they just dump him on a country road north of town. The year for this is stated to be 1970.
  • The Dresden Files: In Fool Moon, Murphy handcuffs an unresisting Dresden and proceeds to slam his head into some furniture hard enough to chip a tooth.
    • While technically still falling under the trope, Harry was not a civilian at the time, he was an (irregularly) licensed private investigator on contract with the police. He was essentially getting beaten by a fellow cop for breaking procedure and the ethics of the profession.
  • In It Can't Happen Here, many of the Minute Men (M.M.s) are bullies at best and sadists at worse, perpetrating atrocities against dissenters and minorities.
  • The Wardens in Theatrica verge on the brutal. Sometimes a harsh accusation from a would-be victim is enough for them to bring the full, violent force of the law down on any given individual. One warden in particular qualifies for this trope...
  • In almost every Philo Vance novel, Sergeant Heath will suggest taking a suspect to the station for "some inside stuff that don't get into the newspapers". note  Justified since those novels predate police brutality laws.
  • An accepted practice, within limits, in the Beka Cooper trilogy by Tamora Pierce thanks to Deliberate Values Dissonance. Beka and her partners frequently hit, thump, kick, and smack their suspects — but they only do it when they're pretty sure it will legitimately help them in their inquiries. The Cage Dogs, though, count even by the setting's standards. They get paid extra because otherwise it's tricky to find enough people willing to do the things they do (Beka almost quit during training when she thought that she might be forced to become one, which is untrue). Most street dogs consider them little better than thugs and a nuisance that they have to resort to because of how truth spells are legally restricted.
  • Officer Roscoe Rules in Joseph Wambaugh's The Choirboys is the LAPD version. He has disdain for ethnic minorities and in one scene is seen to tear the moustache off a Latino's face.note 
  • Played for Black Comedy in Declare. A British spy has to be briefed by his handler, so he's arrested by the Lebanese police so they can talk in secret. Because the KGB might have an informant inside the police station, a doppelganger is being roughed up in another cell. The tense briefing keeps getting interrupted by a policeman so he can inflict the same injuries; first a black eye. Then a bloody eye. Then coffee spilled on his shirt. Eventually, The Handler says they'd better wrap up their meeting "before they break the poor man's legs."
  • The Handmaid's Tale: The Eyes of God simply take people who resist, and nobody can do anything.
  • A major part of The Infected, where in the beginning the protagonist, one Brian Yi, is brutalized and nearly killed by the police for being a filthy Infected (mutant, essentially). This so profoundly affects him, he becomes convinced all policemen are monsters, and in future misunderstandings, has to be restrained from killing cops by his peers. Which causes the police to try and murder him, which makes everything worse... The initial event is later retconned as mind-control, sympathetic police characters are introduced, and all of the other characters seem to regard Brian's hostility to the police as a nuisance and a serious liability. The message seems to be that police brutality exists and is terrible, and neither tacitly accepting this or making blanket attacks against the police are okay.
  • Journey to Chaos: In the first book, A Mage's Power, there's a complicated case — the Royal Guard that comes to arrest Eric on charges of sedition, treason, and brainwashing a princess. On one hand, they are brutal in subduing him, but that's because he's a professional mercenary and so is capable of hurting them if they are not quick. One of them spits on and curses him, but she is immediately punished by her immediate superior. He then apologises to Eric and tells him that she is new to the force and doesn't know the code of conduct yet. He also tells Eric that he believes Eric's crime to be worthy of brutality, but that would not be lawful and so he will restrain himself.
  • Thoroughly deconstructed in McAuslan: MacNeill reflects that the British Army's reputation for gunning down rioters for little reason is pretty well-justified, but what do you do when, as a military unit wholly untrained in crowd control, you get put in front of a rioting mob with no non-lethal options, and the situation deteriorates?
    • The Royal Military Police are depicted as having a fairly direct approach, often returning drunks and deserters to their regimental cells in a somewhat unconscious and battered state. How much is needless brutality and how much is just the effects of alcohol and necessary subduing methods is never elaborated on. Either way, the Gordon Highlanders' regimental provost — its internal police force — is a model of fair-minded "tough love". You still wouldn't want to cross Provost-Sergeant McGarry, though.
  • Sargent Haig of The Mental State starts out as a general Jerkass with a Hair-Trigger Temper who frequently resorts to manhandling inmates to get them to calm down. Then, once the prison starts adopting increasingly more liberal approaches to reforming offenders, his behaviour worsens and he ends up taking it out on one of the weaker inmates, nearly beating him to a pulp.
  • The Piemberg farces of Tom Sharpe are set in The Apartheid Era and revolve around the old-time South African Police Force. Sure enough, a police force composed of white South Africans is going to be robust in its dealings with people, generally people with black or brown skins. The local State Sec extends these discourtesies to white people too.
  • Prudence Penderhaus: When the police arrest Cassius for fighting with Morgan in 17 Marigold Lane, they beat him up and break his nose.
  • The Baron's Guard in Skate the Thief are noted as having no compunctions about beating or summarily executing thieves, and are happy to mete out punishments to children caught stealing.
  • Trigger Warning: Campus police officer Cal Granderson is a highly abusive cop who enjoys using his stun gun on anyone he doesn't like, especially Jake. He excuses his actions by claiming he is on "the right side of history".
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Shooty and Bang-Bang, the two cops who come to Magrathea to arrest Zaphod Beeblebrox. They insist they're not your clichéd mindless cops, but are rather a pair of sophisticated guys who "you might like if you met us socially". Then they tell Zaphod if he doesn't let them beat him up ("though not too much because we are opposed to needless violence") they'll blow up Magrathea and one or two other planets for good measure.
  • Illuminatus!, being written in the wake on the 1960's counterculture, deals at times with police brutality at the time, both by individual officers against members of the counterculture, and collective violence at protests, in scenes set during the Chicago Democratic National Congress riots.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In the Song of Songs from The Bible, the Shulamite endures a bit of this as she goes out into the night to find her Beloved when he paid her a visit, but then soon left.
    The watchmen found me
    as they went about the city;
    they struck me, they wounded me;
    they took away my mantle,
    those watchmen of the walls.

  • Common enough to be a Trope Maker for a music trope: the Anti-Police Song, an entire subgenre of Protest Song, with this as one of its main driving factors.
  • The song "Police Truck" by the Dead Kennedys is about a group of cops taking out a van for a night of drinking, beating drunks, and gang-raping a prostitute.
    • Also their cover of "I Fought the Law", about police brutality in general and about Dan White, the assassin of Harvey Milk and George Moscone, in particular.
  • System of a Down's second album Toxicity focuses on this on a couple of songs, such as on "Deer Dance" and "Prison System".
  • Subject of many a Gangsta Rap Protest Song, most notably Music/NWA's "Fuck Tha Police" from Straight Outta Compton and Ice-T/Body Count's "Cop Killer".
    • Body Count also did "Black Hoodie", about someone killed just for wearing one and running from the cops; and the very political "No Lives Matter" and the slightly less political "Point The Finger".
  • "Out to Get Me" from Guns N' Roses depict actions from the cruel LAPD.
  • The song "Bad Boys" by reggae group Inner Circle is often thought to talk about cops, and when you look at the big picture about this song, its message is "When you're caught by the cops, you're pretty much dead".
  • The parody song GO COPS plays with this for all its worth.
  • The German punk band called Wizo has a song called Kopfschuss (Headshot). The song is esp about Wolfgang Grams (was a member of the Red Army Faction, a German far-left terrorist organisation), who got killed by German elite cops at the train station in Bad Kleinen.
  • The Frank Zappa songs "Concentration Moon" and "Mom & Dad" from We're Only in It for the Money are about police shooting hippies and smashing them in the face with rocks.
  • David Bowie's "Life on Mars?" from Hunky Dory has the lyrics "Take a look at the law-man/Beating up the wrong Guy/Oh Man! Wonder if he'll ever know.../He's in the best selling show?"
  • The music video for Billy Idol's "Shock to the System" starts out with an amateur cameraman videotaping police brutality in action during a riot, only for himself and his camera to be beaten to a pulp. They fuse together Terminator-style, and the rest is history.
  • Michael Jackson's "They Don't Care About Us" has the lyric "I'm a victim of police brutality"; of the two videos made for it, one is set in a prison with menacing guards and Michael as one of the prisoners — plus footage of the Rodney King beating. He also lists police brutality as one of the things people should worry about more than his personal life in his List Song "Why You Wanna Trip On Me" from Dangerous
  • Rage Against the Machine's "Live at the Democratic National Convention" video.
  • Birmingham Six by The Pogues is about the wrongful detention and conviction of six men of the right nationality who were within fifty miles of an IRA bombing outrage in Birmingham, England, who were beaten and tortured into confessing by the West Midlands Constabulary.
    There are six men in Birmingham,
    In Guildford there's four of 'em,
    Picked up and tortured and framed by the Law
    While the filth get promotion, they're still doing time,
    For being Irish in the wrong place and at the wrong time!
  • Bob Marley's "Rebel Music" from Natty Dread about being pulled over for marihuana possession.
  • DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" from Rock the House, details a scenario where Prince ends up getting chased by police for assault after a hooker cried rape in retaliation for refusing her sexual advances:note 
    I was ducking through alleys, right and left
    But when the cops caught up, they almost beat me to death!
  • Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota has "Sheriff", from Momo Sampler, sung from the POV of a woman who keeps requesting the police officer to treat delinquents of all walks of life with harshness. It's implied she doesn't know that her son may be involved in immoral acts that make him a target of the same "mano dura" she requests.
  • Indio Solari's "Pabellón Séptimo (Relato de Horacio)", from El Tesoro de los Inocentes (Bingo Fuel) is based on the history of Luis Canosa, a band's long time friend from before Patricio Rey existed, and one of the Unidad 2 de Devoto jail's prisoners, who died during what was known as the "Masacre en el Pabellón Séptimo" during the Argentinean 1976-1983 Military Dictatorship.
  • The music video for "I was a Teenage Anarchist" by Against Me! features a young punk running form the police and being arrested with excessive force, loosely based on singer Laura Jane Grace's own experience of a similar incident.
  • Tom Robinson Band dealt with the subject in some songs ("Blue Murder" being about the death of Liddle Towers in police custody), and open up their Signature Song "Glad To Be Gay" with:
    The British Police are the best in the world
    I don't believe one of these stories I've heard
    'Bout them raiding our pubs for no reason at all
    Lining the customers up by the wall
    Picking out people and knocking them down
    Resisting arrest as they're kicked on the ground
    Searching their houses and calling them queer
    I don't believe that sort of thing happens here

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl, The Authority (the group-created villain) is often The State, and is filled with images of riot cops and police brutality.
  • Assaults by corrupt Green-level police goons is one of the many many dangers faced by inhabitants of Alpha Complex in Paranoia.
  • Public Order, the Buro police force in Feng Shui's 2056 juncture, are nearly always some flavor of this, barring the one or two good ones who wind up becoming PCs. Some of the cops in other junctures aren't much better, especially if you have the Ascended as your enemy.
  • The Adeptus Arbites of Warhammer 40,000, being essentially Judge Dredd IN SPACE!, do their jobs very enthusiastically. They justify it by stating that if they didn't, the planet would soon be overrun with criminal gangs, Chaos cults, and genestealers... and keep very quiet about how many Imperial citizens join gangs and cults in search of some extra firepower to keep the Arbitrators off their backs.
  • In Shadowrun, the player characters can interact with police from a variety of jurisdictions. The UCAS (i.e. the streets) were patrolled by Lonestar (motto: Blam! Blam! "Freeze!" Blam!) until 4th edition, when Knight Errant won the Seattle law enforcement contract; they can be just as brutal, are a subsidiary of Ares Macrotechnology (i.e. the biggest developer of weaponry in the world), and are eager to prove they're more capable and less corrupt than Lonestar (who still run the prisons, and a lot of laid-off Lonestar cops are now working on the other side of the law as Shadowrunners). Each Megacorporation has its own private security force as well — and since corporations make their own law, to them Miranda is just the name of a Hispanic guy. A run against Aztechnology may put you up against Leopard guards (whose brutality is just to tenderize you before the ritual blood sacrifice), while Mitsuhama Computer Technologies pioneered the concept of "Zero Zero" security. "Zero penetration, zero survival."
  • The Bluecoats in Blades in the Dark. If you get caught with zero Heat, then they'll just beat you to the most damage you can survive, and you don't even get a Resistance roll because they don't stop until you're injured.
  • Cyberpunk 2020 of course follows the Shadowrun model quite well given the nature of the setting. On one hand, corporate cops know the MegaCorps will cover any incident, and especially when a 'punk seeps into a private property tend not to be known for their sense of humour. In the other both public and privatized police forces are against people as cybered, often psychotic, gangs who would gladly tear a cop limb from limb or worse so the "shoot first, ask questions later" tends to be quite extended.
  • Monopoly has a couple of downplayed examples in the Go to Jail cards. Chance has Uncle Pennybags being dragged on his feet by a police officer. Community Chest has the same policeman grabbing Uncle Pennybags by his collar. Some video game depictions for the latter have an animation of the policeman hitting Uncle Pennybags with his truncheon.

  • In The Time of Your Life, Blick, a bully with a badge, tends to beat up anybody who gets angry with him for intimidating other people.
  • This causes the death of the anarchist in Accidental Death of an Anarchist.
  • Mamma Togni, written by Dario Fo, describes the carabineri as charging the kids, beating them down with fury, then bringing the whole of them to the station. When she arrived at the station, one of the policemen feigned being struck, causing the carabinery to dive in and perform more brutality on the town councillor.

    Web Animation 
  • Isabelle Ruins Everything: When Punchy yells "You son of a bitch!" and charges at the Mayor, he gets beaten senseless by two police officers after jumping the barrier separating the Mayor from the crowd. When we see him later, he has a bloody nose, black eye and missing teeth.
  • Gotham Girls: Caroline Greenway really likes to abuse whatever position of power she's put in. After her little stint as Commisioner after all the men were chucked out of reality she goes back to being a warden, where she eagerly has her underlings beat prisoners to death.

  • In City Under the Hill, more often than not, Refugees caught attempting to gain access to the City are killed. In fact, it's preferred that they're dead.
  • The Podunkton police force in Sluggy Freelance like to indulge in this. Their chief officer is actually a former mafia enforcer.
  • In Quantum Vibe, the police on Luna planted drugs on Nicole after discovering she was from L-5 and beat her so badly she spent the next three days in a healing vat. She also didn't get her phone call until she brought it up to the judge, and in prison they arranged for her cellmates to beat her up so they could hold her for assault.
  • Thus far in Visseria, the members of the Highguard law enforcement whose actions have been important to the story have not had any qualms with dealing with suspects in ways that range from questionable to extreme.
  • Elliot, from El Goonish Shive, had to google it to learn that this trope is Truth in Television.
  • Ennui GO!: Izzy's rule of Key Manati involves giving the police pink-tinted visors so they can't tell what race the person they're beating is.

    Web Originals 
  • Pepper Spray Cop: an incident of Police Brutality during an Occupy protest at UC Davis underwent Memetic Mutation.
  • We don't know how, but apparently The Nostalgia Critic has learned that the police are evil.
  • The role of server cop on SMPLive is swapped between members regularly, but almost always results in this. When Schlatt & Co. become server cops, they take it to an extreme, harassing and attacking other players.

    Western Animation 

  • In the American Dad! episode "Man in the Moonbounce", Stan eggs an house with Steve and his friends until the cops arrive. In order, he gets handcuffed and shoved to the ground, kicked in the stomach, held at gunpoint, and pepper-sprayed with his eyes wide open.
  • Arcane: The Enforcers are not gentle to the people of the Undercity, to say the least. Spit on their boot and you'll get thrown through a window.
  • In the Beavis And Butthead episode "Citizens Arrest", the titular duo get beaten up by a police officer after refusing to serve him at Burger World.
  • In Bojack Horseman's "Chickens", this is referenced in a throwaway line:
    Officer Meow-Meow Fuzzyface: Don't worry ma'am. We'll bring your daughter home, dead or alive.
    Kelsey Jannings: Alive. Alive!
    Fuzzyface: We're the LAPD, ma'am. We'll probably make the right call.
  • In The Brothers Grunt, police officers fire tear gas into a karaoke bar and proceed to beat Frank senseless.
    Cop: Tell him what he's won, Sarge!
    Sarge: You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, we have the right to kick you in the face, hit you with bags full of oranges, and pummel you with telephone books. You have the right to an attorney, one who couldn't get a real job, so they're forced to handle state charity cases.
  • Duckman: One episode comes back from a commercial break where three LAPD officers kick, baton, and tase Duckman. It's then revealed that they were beating him on their break.
  • In the Valentine's Day special of Ed, Edd n Eddy, Kevin, acting as hall monitor, gives Edd detention just for standing up for Eddy, and all this over his hatred for the Eds.
  • Futurama has Smitty and his robot companion URL, who are just poster children for police brutality. Awwww yeah.
  • Family Guy mocks this to hell and back. In one episode, Peter finds out that he has black ancestors, and everybody starts treating him differently. When a cop pulls him over for speeding, Peter is perfectly polite, and the cop doesn't act unusually until he remembers that particular little tidbit.
    Officer: Are you that white guy who's actually a black guy?
    Peter: Yes.
    Officer: We need backup, stolen vehicle here.
    Peter: But this is my car.
    Officer: Suspect getting belligerent.
    Peter: But I'm not -
    Officer: Officer down! [falls to the ground]
    • In "Breaking Out Is Hard to Do", Joe explains even if she's Peter's wife, he couldn't give Lois special treatment while beating and arresting her for shoplifting. Lois doesn't get upset at him for it, telling him she had it coming.
    • In another episode, Joe gets a new police cruiser which has a robotic system for painlessly subduing perps and placing them in handcuffs. When Cleveland tries it out — Joe's sudden realization and shouted warning a second too late — a computerized voice yells out that he's resisting and arms come down and start beating him with batons. It goes further, crying out "Look out! He has a gun" and planting evidence.
    • This is also subverted on one occasion, where some LAPD officers are violently beating Peter. Then it turns out they're just doing it so Lois can get a good picture. Double Subverted when the cop takes one last kick into Peter's side when no one is looking.
    • Lampshaded in the episode where all the police have been sent out-of-town, and every white person on the street suddenly unzips themselves, revealing themselves to be black people in disguise, who promptly sing "Everybody Rejoice (Brand New Day)" from The Wiz.
    • In "Cool Hand Peter", the gang is arrested on a trip to the South by a corrupt super-racist sheriff who frames them for a broken tail light and drug possession because Cleveland and Joe showed more integrity than Peter (who was being an asshole but was ignored by the sheriff for being white and healthy). The prison camp they're in is mainly run by the police, and only gives 19th-century technology to the prison workers. Soon after, they brutalize Cleveland two times after Peter continues to insult them (and whack Peter in the gut for a third). And after they've served their time, the warden extends their sentence indefinitely and responds to their escape with shoot-to-kill orders extending to the police. By the end of the episode, Joe has had enough and brutalizes the Sheriff with the same methods to make it clear that his usual tactics make him a thug hiding behind a badge.
  • Played for Laughs in Harley Quinn (2019). When the crew devises a plan to use King Shark as a Trojan Prisoner to retrieve Clayface's severed arm, the police over-reacted with tranquilizing, beating up, sending and locking Shark in Blackgate. In a span of a few seconds. The crew's expression practically say "what just happened?"
  • In the Kaeloo episode "Let's Play Cops and Robbers", Mr. Cat becomes a police officer and decides to question Quack Quack (who he knows isn't guilty) about a crime. He takes him away for "questioning" and then tortures him while yelling at him to confess to the crime.
  • Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies:
    • "Big House Bunny," where Bugs Bunny accidentally tunnels himself into a maximum security prison and gets hassled by his old nemesis Yosemite Sam, an ill-tempered prison guard. At one point, Bugs exposes Sam's all-bluster character when he tricks him into changing into a prisoner's smock. Before Sam can do a full "Oh, Crap!," four fellow guards pounce on him and club him nearly 100 times before whisking him to a holding cell.
  • The Simpsons: Police Brutality appears often, mostly parodied and played for laughs; the lyrics to the COPS parody (in “Homer’s Triple Bypass”) gleefully point out the officers “don’t mind using excessive force. Occasionally the trope is subverted:
  • South Park:
    • In one episode, where Cartman is made a police officer, he immediately starts to abuse it, doing things like stopping Stan's dad for speeding. He was driving the speed limit.
    • In "Chef Aid", the officers who arrest Chef hit him with their batons.
    • He also does things like that when he's made hall monitor at school. He immediately becomes a parody of Dog the Bounty Hunter and starts assaulting and "bear-macing" kids for the slightest transgressions. Then he becomes the Batman (Chris Nolan version) Expy the Coon, and decides to take the law into his own hands, such as scratching a guy for making out with his girlfriend. Cartman thought he was stopping an attempted rape, despite the girl very loudly screaming "Yes!"
    • The actual South Park PD is known for being pointlessly violent, particularly when it comes to black people.
  • Spongebob Squarepants:

Nothing to see here, move along.


Uncle Ruckus Calls The Cops

Cops open fire on Uncle Ruckus just because he's black, and miss every shot.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / PoliceBrutality

Media sources: