Bart: That's right, man. I got my first taste of authority... and I like it.
A simple form of The Reveal used to explain why Police Are Useless, and why our otherwise normal characters don't simply ask the police to deal with the dangerous criminals. It turns out the police are the criminals.
Generally speaking this trope is intended to rationalize why the main characters don't go to the police with their problems, which tends to be the logical response by normal people to outrageous things like murder plots. This can also be established in the back story and does not need to be displayed on-screen directly.
Often involves at least one Dirty Cop by necessity, may include a Rabid Cop, and will certainly occur if there's a case of Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop. Can result in a Have You Told Anyone Else? from the bad cops if someone comes to them in search of a Hope Spot. Police Brutality may also transpire. If the corruption extends to the legal system as a whole, that's Legalized Evil.
If the bad guys are only pretending to be cops, that's Impersonating an Officer. Compare Secret Police, who are similarly bad guys but usually a step above the cops. Unfortunately, too often Truth in Television in a lot of countries, so No Real Life Examples, Please!
- Fairly early on in Naoki Urasawa's Monster, Tenma runs into a couple of cops who work with/for Johan 'The Monster' Liebert. He doesn't know who else might be, and thus gets really paranoid about talking to the police... rightly so, since shortly afterwards, he gets framed for murder.
- Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys features this as a Hope Spot: the young detective hero has successfully contacted an influential ally in the upper echelon of the police force with his information on The Conspiracy. Surely things will turn better from there on right? Wrong - the police is already in the bad guys' pocket and you have just doomed everyone by revealing your hiding place.
- Third time's the charm for Urasawa, he pulls this yet again in Billy Bat. A man on a car trip through the racist-laden Deep South witnesses a group of Ku Klux Klan members burn a black man at the stake. He goes to the local sheriff, only to recognize him as one of the Klansmen. It's ultimately a subversion: the sheriff is indeed a racist, but the Klansman was his cousin, not him. The sheriff doesn't let personal feelings get in the way of his job as a lawman: he immediately arrests his cousin on suspicion of murder.
- Yatterman Night casts the Yattermen in this role: inside the Yatter Kingdom, they have put their people under hard labor, forcing them into camps. Similarly, they have shot at unarmed people looking for help. Later on the Yattermen are revealed to be a robot army. It's unclear if there are real Yattermen still existing.
- Most police in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's up until the second season are antagonists, seeing as the Big Bad is in charge of the police force.
- Happens frequently in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. In one filler episode, a money laundering scheme in London is mediated by a police chief. In the first season arc, one of the major bad guy groups is the narcotics squad operating under orders from a senator.
- Kurokochi shows the Japanese Police Force as being incredibly corrupt to the point that the main character Kurokochi, a Dirty Cop who blackmails the politicians of the whole prefecture to get bribes, seem benign in comparison. The first couple of chapters show that policemen sometimes work as unofficial hitman for a corrupt politician, and that there is a great conspiracy in the police to murder all threats to its reputation.
- In Sarazanmai the antagonists Reo and Mabu are police officers responsible for the zombie attacks on the city, and brainwash other officers into believing what they say about who caused the deaths (likely a commentary on police corruption).
- In Naruto (1997), the culprit responsible for murdering Takashi and stealing the painting "Proof" is police Inspector Matsushima, and his accomplice is the police officer tasked with watching the painting.
- Parodied in a Burnistoun sketch about a police chief who's dealing with a serial killer. It turns out that the serial killer was one of his officers, just like the last one, and the previous one. It ends with the police chief becoming such a killer himself, by shooting his officers.
- Parodied in a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch. A pimp is telling an interviewer about his dealings with the Piranha Brothers.
Luigi: One night Dinsdale walked in with a couple of big lads, one of whom was carrying a tactical nuclear missile. They said I'd bought one of their fruit machines and would I pay for it.
Interviewer: How much did they want?
Luigi: Three quarters of a million pounds. Then they went out.
Interviewer: Why didn't you call the police?
Luigi: Well, I had noticed that the lad with the thermonuclear device was the Chief Constable for the area.
- A major theme in Batman: Year One is that most of the police department is corrupt — this is given as an explicit reason why it's necessary for Bruce Wayne to don a bat costume and terrorize criminals, as often some of the people he beats up happen to be cops who are in on the crime. The first real progress he makes is when he finds out that Gordon can be trusted, creating a legitimate outlet to fight crime.
- Speaking of which, the cops in Bludhaven were worse than the mob, and gained a share of profits made by the actual mob. (Criminals who didn't were killed. Chief Redhorn was a dangerous villain who had ordered Nightwing's death; the only true honest cop in Bludhaven, technically, was Nightwing himself, who joined the force in his civilian identity in an attempt to take it down. )
- In Sin City, the police force is so corrupt, it's actually shocking when people find a cop who is clean. In the first story, police death squads are sent after Marv in order to silence him after he's framed for murder. In That Yellow Bastard almost the entire police force are willing to protect a pedophile Serial Killer son of a senator, going so far as to frame one of their own (probably the only good cop of the entire bunch). In The Big Fat Kill, a recently killed Domestic Abuser is exposed as being a hero cop, which is bad news for Old Town (because the truce between the girls and the cops forbids the girls to kill cops that wander into their territory, in exchange for the girls being allowed to protect their own and keep the cops and the mob out). In Hell And Back, the cops are in league with an assassin guild. At least in Hell and Back the police chief briefly rediscovers his morals long enough to help the protagonist finish off the assassins/human traffickers.
- In Runaways, the cops in Los Angeles are all on the Pride's payroll, and thus antagonize the Runaways. Even after the Pride is defeated, the cops still come after the Runaways, because in the second series, the Runaways are considered fugitives. And then, towards the end of the second series, the team travels back in time to get away from the fallout of Civil War, and still have to fight cops, because they end up in Manhattan in 1907 and are seen by the local police as dangerous hooligans.
- Button Man: One of the Voices confirms that several of the people involved with covering up the Killing Game are high-placed police constables.
- Frequently comes up in X-Men stories. Technically, the Sentinels are often this taken to a sci-fi level extreme, as they're often commissioned by the US Government as a means of providing a means to police mutants. More mundane versions still show up though, such as during Brian Bendis' All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men (2016) runs, where half the new mutant cast is composed of young adults who just narrowly avoid being brutally arrested for the crime of being mutants, if not straight up murdered.
- In Origin Story, the US government sends the Thunderbolts to arrest Alex Harris. Alex points out the idiocy of making the Radioactive Man, Venom, and Bullseye a part of law enforcement.
- Episode 3 of Sherlock Season 4 ends with several police officers capturing the Joker. You find out soon afterward that the police are "acutllay corupt [sic] cops who were working with Joker and are going 2 come back in next episode".
- The old Chuck Norris movie Breaker! Breaker! features a lot of corrupt cops in a town run by an equally corrupt mayor who assumes his town's new official charter lets him convict and execute people for whatever reason he pleases.
- Deadly Hero (1975) Don Murray's NYCPD character terrorizes a former crime victim who witnessed his deadly force against the victim's surrendering attacker.
- Fletch. Police Chief Karlin and some of his officers are running the local drug ring, so Fletch can't go to them for help.
- In Date Night, this is the reason why Phil and Claire end up ditching the police station mid-interview to conduct their own investigation — they see their kidnappers walking in and getting some coffee, and are not at all sure they're safe being around any longer. It later becomes relevant information that the whole police force isn't in on it as the plot is resolved when Holbrook contacts someone he knows he can trust to organize the final operation.
- Pineapple Express has this when Dale sees that a police officer in uniform is present when Ted murders a rival criminal — and puts some bullets in him herself just to be sure. Since Dale's a process server, he really should have someone he can talk to about this, but on the other hand, his chronically being high doesn't do wonders for his judgment. Hilariously, he's arrested later on — and the beat officer actually believes his story because it explains iffy problems in the department. Saul completely screws this up by helping Dale escape.
- Race with the Devil (1975) Sheriff Taylor and his deputies are members of the deadly Satanic cult whose human sacrifice was what the film's unfortunate protagonists were caught watching and unknowingly fled to the town where the cult member sheriff was head of its law enforcement personnel.
- Shoot It Black: Shoot It Blue (1974, early Michael Moriarty) has Moriarty's character shooting a surrendering criminal.
- The bad guys in the remake of Assault on Precinct 13 (2005).
- Hot Fuzz - the Chief of Police turns out to be in on the bizarre "accidents" surrounding the town.
- In fact he's the ringleader; the whole shenanigan is built around winning a contest that's more or less meaningless beyond his wife's annual involvement in the town's participation therein.
- The 2008 French movie Skate or Die shows it in the very trailer: the heroes walk into a police station with their phone film evidence, only to see the killers among the cops. The bulk of the movie is the heroes trying to escape said cops long enough to copy their film to a computer and send it (it was in the years after camera phones but before smartphones and 3G were commonplace).
- In Fight Club the Narrator tries going to the cops when he finds out that Fight Club (now called Project Mayhem) is involved in serious terrorist activities. Except it turns out several police officers are members of Project Mayhem, and have orders to castrate anyone who betrays the group (even if that someone is the leader of Project Mayhem). Cue the Narrator trying to take matters into his own hands.
- L.A. Confidential: Captain Dudley and a large group of his men are setting themselves up as the new LA drug kingpins after Mickey Cohen goes to prison.
- Hobo with a Shotgun: Yeah okay, they're not really the bad guys, but very, very few of them aren't corrupt.
Chief of Police: "We're ALL bad cops!" to another cop.
- In West Side Story, Lt. Schrank and Officer Krupke are not only meddling in the affairs of the Jets and the Sharks, but they're also very racist against the Sharks, and don't much like the Jets either because of their status as a gang.
- Flightplan (2005) has this at the twist at the end.
"People believe what I tell them to believe. That's how authority works."
- The 2007 Transformers film does it with a twist - the Decepticon Barricade has a police car as his alternate mode.
- In Lakeview Terrace, Abel Turner is able to bully and harass his interracial couple neighbors because he's a well-respected, 28-year-veteran of the LAPD so no one would believe them. At one point, they threaten to call the police-he responds that he IS the police.
- The Professional: Stansfield and his crew work for the DEA, but also murder the entire family (save one) of a man holding drugs for them and don't seem unfamiliar with hiring out professional killers from the Mob.
- The two killer cops who got caught on "film" in Strange Days. Max hints that there are a lot more of them. He's lying.
- A large part of the plot of the movie Witness. Amish boy Samuel witnesses them commit a murder. Later, the dirty cops descend upon the Amish community with murderous intent.
- In Super Troopers, the Spurbury police officers (except Ursula) turn out to be in cahoots with the Canadian marijuana smugglers.
- In Cop Land corrupt cops from New York City have gone so far as to set up their own town in New Jersey.
- In Changeling, the Los Angeles PD engages in gaslighting a victim's mother, eventually verging on a vast conspiracy, to cover up their incompetence in mistaking the wrong boy for the kidnapping victim. Unluckily for them, the mother turns out to be The Determinator and they eventually get exposed. Frighteningly enough, this is strictly Based on a True Story.
- In Suffragette, while technically the bad guy is the government, the policemen are the ones who beat the protagonists up, implying that they are not Just Following Orders but enjoy beating defenseless women, too. That they are no help when one of the protagonists is beaten blue and green by her abusive husband goes without saying; she doesn't even try to go to the police for help.
- Faust: Love of the Damned: Most of the cops turn out to be working for "M" and his satanic organization.
- The 2017 film The House has a cop as one of the 2 Big Bad characters.
- Nothing but Trouble: The state police are actually aware of J.P. Valkenheiser's activities, but conspire with him to kill criminals who wriggled their way through the ordinary American justice system.
- Dredd: Judge Dredd and Anderson calls for back-up when their coms start working again, but the Judges who eventually show up (and relieve the real back-up) are actually hired by Ma-Ma to protect her drug operation.
- In Searching, Detective Rosemary Vick is working to obstruct David's search for his daughter Margot, because her son Robert was responsible for Margot's disappearance and would face prison time for involuntary manslaughter if he's caught.
- Serpico is about one of the few clean cops in New York City going undercover in the NYPD to gather evidence on the extent of police corruption in the force. He gets set up by his fellow officers to die in a shootout during a drug bust. Serpico barely survives and after delivering his testimony relocates to Switzerland. This one is, rather scarily, also Based on a True Story and Truth in Television.
- In Atlantics, the police seem to mostly serve the rich rather than seeking justice or protecting people's rights. Also, in a twist, it turns out the person responsible for all the fires the police are investigating was actually Issa, the officer assigned to the case, while possessed by the ghost of the suspect.
- The Commuter: It turns out that dirty cops are involved with the conspiracy, and this is why the witness had gone to the FBI instead, knowing that the killers of her cousin were in the NYPD.
- Rimfire: Sheriff Jim Jordan was part of the gang responsible for the federal gold heist and is now killing off everyone else who knows about the gold so he can keep it for himself.
- In Satan's Cheerleaders, the cheer squad go to Sheriff Bubb after they are attacked by Billy, only to discover—too late- that the Sheriff is the High Priest of the Satanic cult Billy belonged to.
- In Batman Begins the entire Gotham police barring Jim Gordon is all but stated to be corrupt, and even Gordon states he won't rat out his dirty colleagues (though, granted, he doesn't have a lot of or any other options). This is also what prompts Bruce to become Batman. After he captures Falcone the police sans Gordon also seems to be more preoccupied with arresting Batman than the criminals he's after.
- In line with his Anvilicious Libertarian philosophical leanings, Dean Koontz has played this card a few times. Intensity has a last minute revelation that the Serial Killer is a young rising star in a local police force, Dark Rivers of the Heart has a murderous FBI agent who kills people he feels are too good for the world, etc.
- Played With in Animorphs—it's not that the cops themselves are bad, but the main villains are a species of Puppeteer Parasites, and all or most of the town's police seem to have been infested before the series began.
- In Rose Madder, Rosie is afraid to involve police because her insanely abusive ex is a cop. She does find good cops who really hate guys like Norman, specifically because he gives them all a bad reputation.
- A bizarre example in The Infected where the police aren't the main villains, but do several times try to murder the heroes or storm their base (a federal facility) without real consequences.
- In The Expanse Miller notices the private security contractors on Eros Station have all been replaced by career criminals. This is the first clue that something big and horribly wrong is about to occur.
- In Bangkok 8, it's an open secret that Sonchai's boss, Capt. Vikorn, is on the take. He's also one of the people responsible for the death of Sonchai's partner.
- In Hercule Poirot's Christmas, the killer is revealed to be Superintendent Sugden, the officer in charge of the case, who became a cop so that he could get away with killing his father, who he is an illegitimate son of.
- J.P. Beaumont: In Taking the Fifth, Wainwright, the agent-in-charge of the DEA Seattle office, is the head of a cocaine smuggling ring.
- The Dukes of Hazzard: Humorously played as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane is the main law enforcement officer, and the main stooge of the series' principal villain, Boss Hogg. They worked together to frame their adversaries, the title protagonists — often, Bo and Luke Duke.
- B.J. and the Bear: In most episodes that featured Sheriff Elroy P. Lobo, the people in distress usually turned instead to the series' main protagonist, truck driver William Joseph (or Billie Joe) "B.J." McKay. In Season 3 episodes, Captain Rutherford T. Grant was not only B.J.'s adversary, he frequently and openly assisted criminals in their endeavors and tried to frame B.J.
- Walker, Texas Ranger: The episode "The Brotherhood," where a trio of rouge cops from a small town believe that killing suspects, no questions asked, without allowing due process is the perfect way to be tough on crime and deal with a legal system that had gone against them once too often. Things come to a tipping point when the son of one of one of Walker's friends, who had been falsely accused of rape, is killed by the police chief. Walker eventually defeats the bad guy cops.
- Adam-12 and Dragnet: Averted, but there were several episodes in each series that had police officers as the bad guys. When this happened — the result of police brutality, blackmail, fraud and so forth — the main protagonist cops quickly exposed these rogue individuals. A Season 2 episode of Adam 12, "Good Cop, Handle With Care", has two freelance journalists in search of a juicy police brutality story trying to make Malloy and Reed out to be the bad guys. It almost works, as an incriminating photo of a suspect with a broken nose is paired with a highly inaccurate story on Reed trying to control his inmate (he was drugged-out and, while going into a seizure, hits his head on the police car's seat frame) ... but in the end, the journalists pursuit ends up causing a tragedy.
- The Vampires from Being Human have a lot of policemen among their ranks, because, well, someone needs to cover up all those bloodless corpses at crime scenes, right? Herrick and Fergus are examples.
- In the first series of Damages, the malevolent Bearded Man is revealed towards the end to be a cop.
- Family Matters:
- An early episode, "False Arrest," which saw Carl arrest popular TV star Buddy Goodrich for attempted assault. (This, after he was asked nicely, mind you to move his car from a no-parking zone.) Goodrich, who turns out to be a conceited, narcissistic asshole to the nth degree, portrays himself as the victim of an overzealous police officer out to cause trouble. Carl is quickly able to expose Goodrich to his family for who he is and quickly averts this trope.
- The landmark episode "Good Cop, Bad Cop," where Eddie is the victim of racial profiling by a veteran police sergeant (who reveals his racism) and a rookie officer. Carl, who is definitely a good cop and a good father, confronts the veteran officer and, after exposing him to his rookie partner, asks a frank question to the rookie: "Why did you become a police officer?" After the rookie answers that he wanted to make a difference and protect the public from the bad guys, Carl points out that his partner is one of those bad guys.
- On Person of Interest HR, an organization of dirty cops, is a recurring villain and a major source of Numbers for the heroes to protect. They control crooked judges and prosecutors and have major ties to the Italian and Russian mobs. Even a major crackdown by the FBI does not stop them, and they even go as far as recruiting actual mob members into the NYPD to bolster their ranks.
- In the first season of House of Anubis, Patricia finds out that the cop she went to in hopes of getting help finding Joy is in on the mystery with the teachers. This only makes her more desperate and suspicious about what's going on.
- The Big Bad of one season of Desperate Housewives was a cop who was harassing his ex-wife and daughter, and even boasted that since most of the force were his friends there was nothing that his ex could do to stop him from killing her. The housewives put a quick end to his schemes with some creative lying.
- Daredevil (2015): The ineffectiveness of the NYPD and FBI in seasons 1 and 3 is because of Wilson Fisk having officers from both agencies on his payroll. Within season 3, one such FBI agent, Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter, serves as the season's secondary villain after Fisk manipulates him into becoming his new top assassin.
- Manner Of Death: One of the main villains is the Commander of the local police force, multiple of his underlings are also revealed to be bad/corrupt. One of them, Captain Gun, is responsible for the death of the reporter and murder attempts on several of the main characters.
- In Mayor of Kingstown, the local police are more interested in dealing out their own violent and warped form of justice rather than acting as a law-enforcement agency. If the citizenry have any problems, they're better off going to the McLuskies.
- Right from the start of Les Misérables the police are vilified, especially Javert, who hunts Valjean endlessly because he broke parole.
- In Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, it turns out that much of the Kounan Police Department is working for the evil government conspiracy, including its entire leadership.
- Persona 4: While most of Inaba's police are at worst merely incompetent, the killer turns out to be detective Tohru Adachi, who abuses his position accordingly; when Taro Namatame calls him to tip the police off about the role of the Midnight Channel in the murders, Adachi uses the opportunity to manipulate Namatame into unknowingly attempting to commit more murders.
- Persona 5, not to be outdone, has nearly the entire Tokyo PD in Corrupt Politician Masayoshi Shido's back pocket, and being used in conjunction with the Yakuza as the muscle behind his scheme to rig the election for Prime Minister. Exactly one attorney is shown to not be obviously corrupt, and she quits in disgust after the others try to sweep Shido's corruption under the rug even after he confesses to his crimes on national television.
- Ace Attorney:
- In case 1-2, Redd White apparently has most of the police department (and the prosecutor's office) in his pocket, meaning that Phoenix has nobody to turn for support except himself.
- And in case 1-5, the villain is Police Chief Gant, who orchestrated both Neil Marshall and Bruce Goodman's murders.
- In 5-4 and 5-5, the villain is a spy, though he's been impersonating detective Bobby Fulbright throughout the entire game.
- This Is the Police has this in SPADES. Moonlighting as Mafia thugs? check. Thugs working as the Mayor's personal enforcers? Check. Murder? Depends on the player.
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, The CRASH unit, especially Officer Tenpenny, are corrupt to the core and essentially extort the player character while turning a blind eye to the gang violence they're supposed to be fighting against, preferring to just let the gangbangers take each other out rather than do any work themselves.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, Arl Howe put his own handpicked men into the Denerim Guards, leading honest-cop Sergeant Kylon to lament;
Kylon: I swear the Arl's men are more criminal than the miscreants we occasionally arrest; some of them are the criminals we have to arrest!
- In Max Payne 3, the UFE are the private army of a Sleazy Politician and in league with outlawed paramilitaries to do Organ Theft on the poor.
- While not actually a peace officer, the Purple Guy in the Five Nights at Freddy's series gets a similar reveal. How did a child murderer break into the local Suck E. Cheese's and grab a mascot costume without the security guards seeing an intruder through the omnipresent closed-circuit cameras? Because he's a security guard himself. This also explains why the animatronics don't trust security guards anymore.
- In the DLC of Darkest Dungeon, the trinkets for the Houndmaster (who is an ex-lawman, but not an example of this trope) show that the police force he was under were "in on it", including the sheriff, and had evidence to prove it. What they were in on was answered in his backstory comic◊; they are members of the Flesh Cult worshiping the horrors below the manor.
- Batman: Arkham Origins has tons of Dirty Cops on Black Mask's payroll and cops in general who are just corrupt bastards, to the point that it seems Jim Gordon is the only decent man in that entire precinct. Since cops pop up as enemies and an entire mission takes place inside the Gotham City Police Precinct, this also conveniently makes it okay to swoop in and beat the living holy-o man-shit out of them.
- In the Alice Isn't Dead episode "Nothing to See," the Narrator learns the hard way that she'll get no help with her search for her missing wife Alice or against her Humanoid Abomination pursuer, The Thistle Man. Not only does a Dirty Cop ignore her complaints and treat her as a nuisance, he does so due to open familiarity with the Thistle Man, and chides her to do as he says. Later, she realizes the scope of the corruption and The Conspiracy as she endures an Incredibly Obvious Tail by police car.