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Strange Cop in a Strange Land

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Sergeant Taggart: We're more likely to believe an important local businessman than a foulmouthed jerk from out of town.
Axel Foley: Foulmouthed? [Taggart nods] Fuck you, man.

A very specific sub-trope of Fish out of Water, this is what happens when a cop must journey outside their assigned jurisdiction to solve a case or catch a criminal.

A very effective story-telling tool, this trope can set the stage for many interesting deconstructions, reconstructions, or parodies of cop/detective tropes. One of the most popular byproducts of this trope is the Culture Clash between a Cowboy Cop and his By-the-Book Cop partner. Indeed, the Cowboy Cop may come from a place where his rule-breaking antics are not only not punished, but are necessary to his job, but he relocates to a place where such initiative is frowned upon. Naturally Jurisdiction Friction may occur.

Also this can result in a Buddy Cop scenario, as two cops from two different law enforcement worlds may realize that aren't so different after all and come to a comfortable working relationship.

For obvious reasons, this applies to local, city, or state law enforcement officials or detectives. May include domestic national investigators. Government espionage agents like James Bond, Jim Phelps, or Ethan Hunt travel the world as part of their duties, so they wouldn't count.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Happens whenever Judge Dredd leaves Mega-City One to pursue criminals in foreign jurisdictions. He'll note that local judges are too lax or corrupt, but is forced to abide by their laws.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • One of the best examples is The '80s hit Beverly Hills Cop. The eponymous character is not a policeman in Beverly Hills, but rather a Detroit cop whose Cowboy Cop ways clash with the more straight-laced Beverly Hills PD. To be fair, his Cowboy Cop ways clash with his own superiors in Detroit as well.
  • In Black Rain, a simple task to return a Yakuza back to the Japanese authorities leads to two NYPD cops getting embroiled in a gang war in Osaka.
  • In Cruising, a Big Applesauce straight cop goes undercover in the 1970s local gay scene to catch a Serial Killer preying on homosexual men.
  • Demolition Man: a loose cannon LAPD cop from the late '90s wakes up in the pacifist dystopia of the 2030s.
  • Final Justice emphasizes this to the point it becomes a mind numbing wash, rinse and repeat routine. The film's main character, Thomas Jefferson Geronimo III, a deputy sheriff from Texas, constantly is at odds with the police force of Malta. It's not hard to understand since Geronimo puts virtually no genuine effort at all throughout the movie in subduing criminals preferring instead to shoot them dead.
  • The first two Die Hard movie see New York cop John McClane taking on terrorists in unfamiliar locations (an office tower in Los Angeles, and a Washington, D.C. airport) and with law enforcement that don't necessarily appreciate his methods.
  • The French Connection II finds Detective Popeye Doyle, the New York narc from the first film, traveling to Marseilles to catch the French drug kingpin. He isn't fond of the French law officials, and they aren't very fond of the alleged "true American hero".
  • A dramatic example with In the Heat of the Night, released in 1967, in which a black Philadelphia detective finds himself first accused of killing a white man in very racist town, Sparta, Mississippi, and then actually gets pressed into helping the bigoted white police chief catch the real killer.
  • Hellbound: Shatter and Jackson are two Chicago cops who are summoned to Jerusalem by Israeli police for questioning regarding a Rabbi who was murdered by a demon posing as a businessman. Shatter ignores the demands of the local chief not to get involved and starts his own investigation.
  • In Red Heat, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a humorless Soviet cop on a special mission to arrest a Georgian drug kingpin that has fled to Chicago. James Belushi is the laid-back American cop paired with him.
  • Rising Sun: An American detective investigates a murder in a Japanese company's headquarters. In Los Angeles, but the Japanese corporate culture (and culture in general) is centerfold.
  • The Rush Hour movies. In the first, Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) is the (very) Strange Cop in the (very) Strange Land, in this case Los Angeles. In the second movie, Detective Carter (Chris Tucker) has to figure out how to fit in in Hong Kong. In the third movie, both are Strange Cops in Paris, France.
  • Shaft in Africa. Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • A Stranger Among Us is about a New York City police officer sent undercover to solve a crime in the city's Hasidic (Orthodox Jewish) community. That said officer is a woman creates further complications as she must adopt a more conservative appearance and struggles with attraction to a man who is betrothed to another.
  • Wind River: Jane is a young white FBI agent stationed out in Las Vegas. Being sent out to a Native American reservation in freezing Wyoming is a brutally eye opening experience on how neglected they are.

  • In the Anna Pigeon novels, Anna is a law enforcement park ranger whose usually works in the wilds of various large national parks. In Liberty Falling, she visits New York City and ends up solving a crime while staying on the ranger accommodation on Liberty Island.
  • This is a perfect description of Florida detective Vernon Moody in Cyber Way by Alan Dean Foster. To solve the murder of an immensely rich art collector in central Florida, Moody is sent to the Navaho Nation, five thousand feet up on the Colorado Plateau, where the weather and the culture are about as far from Central Florida as you can get.
  • Sam Vimes in the Discworld novels Jingo (Klatch), The Fifth Elephant (Überwald)), Thud! (Uberwald again) and Snuff (the Shires and Quirm). And also Night Watch, where the strange and foreign country is his own native Ankh-Morpork — but thirty years previously in his past...
  • A fairly typical setup in the Gorky Park novels, which follow the investigations of Arkady Renko, a Moscow police detective, who often finds himself traveling to other countries and dealing with the local law enforcement. Notably, the first book plays this trope both ways, with Renko initially dealing with a New York cop visiting Moscow on his own freelance investigation. Renko is often limited by the fact that he has neither jurisdiction nor official approval for his investigations by the time he ends up in places like the US, Germany, or Cuba.
  • Happens twice to Jim Chee in the Leaphorn & Chee series by Tony Hillerman. Chee is a Navajo Tribal Police officer whose jurisdiction is the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona. In The Ghostway, however, his case takes him to Los Angeles. In Talking God he goes to Washington, D.C. He experiences mild culture shock in both instances, mostly due to being very much a Country Mouse.
    • In the TV adaptation, Joe Leaphorn is the fish out of water, a detective with little to no knowledge of Navajo culture (quite unlike the books, where he has advanced degrees in it), assisted by young cop/novice medicine man Jim Chee.
  • The Rivers of London book Foxglove Summer drags PC Peter Grant into the countryside. According to Ben Aaronovitch, it was originally going to be the second book, but the publishers felt there should be more books set in London to establish Peter as a City Mouse before taking him out of his comfort zone.
  • Sonchai Jitpleecheep: In Bangkok 8, FBI Agent Jones is the Strange Cop in Thailand, cheerfully attaching herself to local cop Sonchai Jitpleecheep.
  • Star Wars Legends: Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Droids recounts an anecdote where a 501-Z police droid pursued a crime lord to Nar Shaddaa, one of many Wretched Hives in the Galaxy Far, Far Away. Not really getting that its authority wasn't any good there, it attempted to proceed according to normal procedure and got blasted.
  • Tortall Universe: Beka Cooper experiences this in Bloodhound when her investigation takes her out of Corus to Port Caynn. Fortunately, part of her cover is being flighty and incompetent, so she can get away with not knowing where everything is. Unfortunately, the head of the Provost's Guard is totally cowed by the local crime lord.
  • This is one of the focal points of character development for Shira Calpurnia in her first book, Crossfire. None of her previous posts have prepared her for the environment of Hydraphurian politics and the myriad social mores and cues that she needs to learn to fully function in her role. Her superior, Leandro, is an adroit teacher, but Calpurnia often finds herself driven to frustration over this.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Continuum has a law enforcement officer from a futuristic corporate dystopia sent back in time along with a group of terrorists about to be executed, and works her way into allying herself with the circa-2012 Vancouver police department to try and stop them, posing as a secret service agent.
  • Due South, wherein a Canadian Mountie comes to Chicago to fight crime, while still being a stereotypically unfailingly polite Canadian.
  • Downplayed in Homicide: Life on the Street. When the fun-loving but responsible Detective Kellerman transfers from Arson to Homicide, he finds that Lieutenant Giardello runs a far tighter ship than he's used too. He's yelled at multiple times for wearing jeans to work, and is constantly sniped at by Pembleton for wisecracking at a crime scene.
  • Miami Vice:
    • One of the two protagonists was originally a New York detective. When his quest to avenge the death of his brother brough him into conflict, and grudging partnership, with a Miami vice cop, he was persuaded to stay permanently.
    • A later episode reverses this when they have to travel to New York to stop some Colombian drug dealers. Now Tubbs is back on his home turf and Crockett is the fish out of water.
    • Several episodes feature Crockett and/or Tubbs having to leave Miami and go to some exotic, dangerous location to pursue criminals. The above-mentioned New York episode begins with a Cold Open in Bogota.
  • In Time Trax late 22nd-century Fugitive Retrieval Section Captain Darien Lambert pursues some convicts who've escaped to the late 1990s.
  • Life on Mars has a Present Day DCI wake up in The '70s, where, needless to say, police work has a much different meaning. There has been an American, Spanish and Russian remake of the same concept, though the Russian version Dark Side of the Moon inverts the idea — the Cowboy Cop is from the present day, and is forced to work under the bureaucratic Communist system.
  • Marshal Sam McCloud, of Taos, New Mexico, escorts a prisoner to New York City and winds up on semi-permanent, "special assignment" with the NYPD. While he is a literal Cowboy Cop who regularly drives his bosses bonkers with his methods, it's very much downplayed otherwise.
  • CSIVerse:
    • The two spinoffs originated via this trope. CSI: Miami began with the original Vegas crew going to Miami (in "Cross Jurisdictions") to solve a case and, likewise, when the Miami crew went to New York, it spun off CSI: NY (in "MIA/NYC Nonstop").
    • In November of 2006, there was a three-way crossover affectionately referred to as the "CSI Trilogy" which involved a nation-wide human trafficking ring. The episodes, which all aired within four days, were Miami's "Bone Voyage," New York's "Hammer Down," and Vegas' "The Lost Girls." CSI Level 3, Dr. Ray Langston, visits Miami to help with their case in the first instalment, then asks Mac to help as well and goes to NYC for his team's assistance in the 2nd. The case wraps up back in Langston's home town in the 3rd, and the three men text each other with updates of more traffickers they've apprehended.
    • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation:
      • "Jackpot," where Grissom travels to a small mountain town after a severed head is mailed to Las Vegas from there.
      • "Hollywood Brass", wherein Captain Brass goes to L.A. to look for a friend of his estranged daughter Ellie's who has gone missing. He tells his bosses he's gone there for "family reasons."
      • "Two and a Half Deaths," where Grissom and Brass travel to Los Angeles as part of their investigation into the suspicious death of a sitcom star (though ironically, this is where CSI was actually filmed).
      • During "In Vino Veritas," Mac Taylor from CSI: NY arrives to surprise his girlfriend, who was supposed to be at a restauranteer convention, only to discover she's been kidnapped. D.B. allows Mac to assist with the interrogation of a suspect, who knows he's NYPD and calls him out for having no authority there. D.B. then takes over the questioning.
    • CSI: Miami:
      • In "Felony Flight," Horatio invites Mac to Miami to join forces with him searching for a serial killer who's targeting victims in both their cities.
      • Horatio and Eric pursue Marisol's killer all the way to Rio, in an episode named after the city.
    • CSI: NY:
      • In "Manhattan Manhunt," Horatio returns to NYC with Mac on the trail of a serial killer they'd been hunting in Miami.
      • Mac in Chicago. The CPD does not like him waving his badge to get onto a vacant floor in the Tribune building during "The Thing About Heroes."
      • In "Grounds for Deception," Stella travels to Greece in pursuit of a ring of antiquities smugglers. Mac follows and not only brings his firearm to Europe (for which he does not have a license in Greece), but discharges it multiple times while in pursuit of a fleeing suspect, eventually shooting him. No legal consequences or complications with local authorities arise from this exchange. note 
      • In "2,918 Miles," Mac and Jo follow a lead to San Francisco with a friend of hers, FBI Agent Cade Conover. At one point Mac tells the suspect he's just apprehended, "I'm not from around here." Conover, who was also chasing the guy, immediately arrives to take charge.
  • Sherlock Holmes adaptation Elementary features a flavor of this when Holmes, former Scotland Yard consultant, checks into rehab in New York City and becomes a consultant for the NYPD.
  • Twin Peaks: Special Agent Dale Cooper in the eponymous Town with a Dark Secret.
  • FBI agent Audrey Parker on Haven goes to the titular Haven, Maine to investigate a case. She ends up staying and working with local cop Nathan after seeing the effects of the Troubles.
  • Many episodes of Criminal Minds have some shade of this on account of every new episode taking place in a new location. Some notable examples are "Machismo" (set in Mexico), "Lessons Learned" (set in Guantanamo Bay), "Honor Among Thieves" (set in a secluded Russian immigrant community in Maryland), "House on Fire" (set in a small Indiana town), "Exit Wounds" (set in Alaska) and "Corazón" (set in an Afro-Caribbean community in Miami).
  • In Narcos, DEA Agent Murphy didn't even speak Spanish when he arrived in Colombia.
  • Martial Law repeats the formula of Rush Hour with the very Fish out of Water Shanghai cop Shammo Law travelling to Los Angeles on a special mission and then staying as part of a new exchange program. The trope is averted with his pupil Pei-Pei, who was raised in America and is familiar with the local culture.
  • Murdoch Mysteries:
    • The episode "Republic of Murdoch" had Murdoch solving a murder in Newfoundland.
    • The Christmas Episode "Home for the Holidays" had Murdoch take a Busman's Holiday to visit his brother in Vancouver.
  • Death in Paradise: In the two part "Man Overboard", Humphrey, Florence and Dwayne travel from Saint Marie to London in pursuit of a murderer. While this is Humphrey's old stomping ground, Florence—and especially Dwayne—are well outside their comfort zone. Humphrey takes a certain pleasure in being the one playing guide for once.
  • Delhi Crime: Two suspects flee to their homes in rural Rajasthan and Bihar, forcing the Delhi cops to deal with undeveloped infrastructure, communist insurgents, and cultural differences while tracking them down.
  • Variation in Tracker (2001). Cole is a Tracker and prison guard on his planet of Cirron but travels to Earth to capture 218 alien fugitives hiding here in human bodies.

    Web Comics 
  • The setting of Captain SNES: The Game Masta features many video game characters of different origins and genre trying to co-exist in the same city. Newcomer game heroes often bring with them their old habits of attempting to right perceived wrongs and end up performing unwanted and illegal acts of vigilantism due to the culture shock. Rocket-Knight, one particular law-enforcement with a sense of chivalry that doesn't match with the setting, noted that he had struggled at first to adapt to the city and its varying rules and citizens. The situation we see in a quick flashback is when he intervened in what he thought was rescuing an accosted damsel in distress in an alley, only to be admonished by said "damsel" for scaring away her best customer. Mega Man, an actual law-enforcement agent of the city, remarks snarkily that the prostitute was no damsel while also chiding Rocket-Knight for his disruptive "heroic scene".