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Smart Cop, Dumb Cop

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Bob and Alice are in need of help from the law, so a couple of cops are dispatched out to their location, to get information from them on what exactly happened. More often than not, one of the officers will go through all the procedures in a textbook manner, to make sure Bob and Alice get all the help they desperately need; his partner, on the other hand, is a little slower, a little scatter-brained, and often makes you wonder how he got a job with the police department in the first place.


Sometimes in fiction, whenever a situation calls for police action, you expect it to be Serious Business, however, this doesn't have to be the case, especially in comedy, so in a lot of cases, whenever cops arrive on the scene, one will be the straightman, while the other is obviously the comic relief, to make the situation all the more lighthearted and fun.

Subtrope of Police Are Useless. Related to Old Cop, Young Cop as well as Boke and Tsukkomi Routine. If both are Dirty Cops, expect one of them to be a Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Tenchi Muyo!: Mihoshi and Kiyone. Depending on the continuity, Mihoshi can be anything from a Bunny-Ears Lawyer to a complete idiot. Kiyone isn't quite a genius, but she is very intelligent and has more common sense than anyone else in the cast.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Special Agent Paul Smecker is the smart cop to all three of the dumb Boston PD detectives of the homicide squad in The Boondock Saints. They're so bad at their jobs that the few times they do hit upon the right answer, Smecker ignores them.
  • Sgt Angel and Officer Butterworth in Hot Fuzz - Angel is too good for the London Met and is promoted to Sergeant of Police in charge of his own country town. The police there aren't very competent, and the Village society seems to run the place.
  • Played With for the entire plot of The Man. Derrick Vann is special agent in the middle of a very important sting operation to try and nab the person who had killed his partner (it doesn't help that the rest of the task force think he did it, since he hates everybody and everything), though unfortunately, a case of mistaken identity and being in the wrong place at the wrong time drags out-of-town dental supplies salesman Andy Fiddler into the operation. Vann reluctantly and begrudgingly accepts Andy as a temporary new partner. However, because Andy has little clue as to what's going on, or what Vann's plans are, almost every move Vann tries to make is bungled by Andy in some way or form, bringing them two steps back in cracking the case.
  • The made-for-TV movie Marked for Murder from 1993 by NBC has Minelli as the veteran cop so jaded that he's a terrible example of law enforcement; and young Coyle, fresh from the academy and thoroughly familiar with police protocols. They get some grudging assistance from a convict, Mace Moutron, who provides insight into how criminals think.
  • The Mask. Lieutenant Kellaway is quite intelligent and quick to figure things out. His partner Doyle is mentally slow and unperceptive.
  • Chief Inspector Lee and Detective James Carter have this dynamic in the Rush Hour movies. Lee is a competent, sensible and disciplined Honk Kong cop with an admirable record. Carter, while having the occasional moment of brilliance, is mostly loud, arrogant, impetuous and ignorant which often results in him and Lee getting into easily avoidable trouble.

  • Three-person variant in an old USSR joke:
    Why do Soviet cops always come in threes? One knows how to read, one knows how to write, and the third is to keep an eye on these two dangerous intellectuals.

  • Discworld
    • Men at Arms: Constables Cuddy (smart dwarf) and Detritus (dumb troll) have this dynamic initially. It's subverted once Cuddy discovers troll brains work better at lower temperatures, and invents a fan-equipped "thinking cap" for his partner.
    • Also the pairing of Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs. Colon (old-time copper) frequently voices prejudices and half-baked observations; Nobbs, whilst by no means the brightest candle in the church, tends to demolish them effortlessly and in ways that suggest he is a Genius Ditz.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A variation in The Andy Griffith Show. Andy is something of a Wonka, he has his own way of figuring things out, and even uses the strengths (and lack thereof) of those around him to help wrap things up, and they usually pay off in the end, even if they seem odd and cockeyed to others. His deputy, Barney, on the other hand, usually tries to go by the rules and by the book as much as possible, but in his own zeal, almost always ends up making things worse, and in a number of cases, relies on Andy to help him out.
  • Breaking Bad: Exploited by Hank and his partner Steve Gomez. When interrogating suspects, Hank often takes point as the personable, smart DEA agent while Gomez plays the dim hardass. Behind the scenes Gomez is as competent at his job as Hank is (although ironically he rarely believes Hank's often correct insights in the Heisenberg investigation).
  • Car 54, Where Are You? was built on this trope. Muldoon is a relatively intelligent officer, while his partner Toody is a Cloud Cuckoolander.
  • Kenan & Kel. In the episode "Attack of the Bug Man", Kenan finds his house completely empty from where the exterminators were spraying, and calls on the police to report a robbery. Two officers arrive, and although they bare striking resemblances to Kenan and Kel, their personalities are clearly reversed, and Officer McWiggins (Kenan's lookalike) is the dimwit, while Officer Minisoti (Kel's lookalike) is the intelligent one (though oddly enough, shares Kel's love for orange soda).
  • Sanford and Son: Smitty and Hoppy, in spades. Smitty is very much the Straight Man of the two, while Hoppy is more of a Genius Ditz who's unfamiliarity with slang makes him a Malaproper. In earlier seasons, their schtick would include Hoppy trying to explain a situation to Fred and Lamont using a lot of police jargon and terminology, prompting Smitty to "translate" for them in simpler, easier-to-understand words. Later, however, the routine was mostly Smitty constantly correcting Hoppy's misuse or mispronunciation of slang talk to relate to Fred and Lamont.

    Video Games 
  • Downplayed in Criminal Case: Pacific Bay with the player's on-field partners, Amy Young and Frank Knight. The former is a Naïve Newcomer Junior Officer, who is quite attentive to the player and can make keen observations as she gains more experience. The latter is an alcoholic who would prefer to be drinking in a bar than accompany the player, and frequently dismisses the players' findings before being proven wrong later.
  • The Darkside Detective: The protagonists, Detective McQueen and Officer Dooley. McQueen is intelligent and focussed, while Dooley is a ditz who often seems only vaguely aware that he's a police officer, let alone what they're investigating.
  • Evil version in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Frank Tenpenny is the Evil Genius, while Eddie Pulaski is the dumb racist (though not towards his boss).

    Web Animation 
  • Spooky Month: John and Jack are a pair of police officers, John being gruffer and more experienced while Jack is his younger deputy. In the Newgrounds ending of "The Stars", when one of the crooks they've apprehended happily says it's Spooky Month, Jack lets go of the wheel to do the Spooky Dance, causing the car to go out of control as John frantically reminds him he's the one driving. In "Unwanted Guest", John reassures Jack over accidentally shooting a perp they were trying to catch, and in the Newgrounds ending, Jack becomes so terrified of Mr. Clown he shoots him multiple times, forcing John to pull him away despite the fact they just walked into a cultist hideout.

    Western Animation 
  • Downplayed in Gravity Falls. Sheriff Blubbs is incompetent and lazy, but he's usually the one that enforces the law, even if he ignores the bigger problems with the town in the process. His partner, Deputy Durland, makes him look even smarter by comparison, as he spends most of his time shouting nonsense and playing around, is easily distracted by shiny objects, and apparently Never Learned to Read.
  • The two cops in the Looney Tunes short "A Mouse in 57th Street", who go after a mouse who stole a diamond. Only the dumb one is given a name, Muldoon.
  • Just as in The Movie, the roles of Kellaway (Smart) and Doyle (Dumb) in The Mask are the same but Up to Eleven, being Doyle even classified as Too Dumb to Live.
  • The fat egotistical incompetent cop (Dumb Cop) and his rookie partner (Smart Cop) in an episode of The Powerpuff Girls. The smart cop is named Perez, and the incompetent cop is named Mike Brikowski. The Police Chief finds out just how lazy and unhelpful Mike is (despite him thinking he's due for a promotion and that the girls keep taking it away from him) and fires him, which leads to Mike turning against the police force.
  • The Simpsons: Chief Wiggum and Lou. The twist is that the chief is the dumb one.


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