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Playing With / Police Are Useless

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Basic Trope: The police or other authority figures are incompetent, skeptical of the main character's claims, and generally ill-equipped to handle the problems the characters are facing despite it nominally being their job.

  • Straight: Rachel has witnessed a murder and goes to the police to report it. The police are skeptical of her claim and, after a perfunctory investigation, refuse to do anything further, meaning that Rachel must uncover the murderer by herself.
  • Exaggerated:
    • Rachel is being hunted by a vicious murderer and frantically goes to the police for help. Despite copious amounts of evidence in her favour, the police officer assigned to her matter loudly ridicules the impossibility of her claims, calls over all his friends so that they can laugh at her, and then attempts to arrest her for wasting police time.
    • Same as above, but the police don't even bother to look at her, let alone talk to her, since they're all "too busy" eating donuts.
    • It's not just law enforcement, but the armed forces are also incapable of dealing with security threats.
    • The police are NEVER around to respond to any crimes or emergencies.
  • Downplayed:
  • Justified:
    • The police department in Rachel's city is notoriously corrupt, incompetent, prejudiced, or violent.
    • Some of the officers have a vested interest in ensuring that Rachel's report is dismissed, because they're behind the crime (or otherwise involved).
    • Rachel is extremely poor and/or a member of some marginalized social minority group, and the police (like many other citizens) express prejudiced attitudes against people like her.
    • The city that Rachel lives in has its budget so much in the red that they decide to cut off funding for many services, including the police department. Thus, the police go on strike and are completely unable to do the usual job of protecting and serving the citizenry.
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    • Rachel has a history of Crying Wolf by making false reports, or is screaming You Have to Believe Me! while acting like a complete lunatic. The police don't believe her because she's not a credible source to start with; unfortunately, this time she's telling the truth.
    • Rachel's claims involve supernatural creatures or phenomena (i.e. supervillains, vampires, werewolves, aliens, eldritch monsters, leprechauns, etc.) which the police are unlikely to believe because very few other rational people would.
  • Inverted:
  • Subverted: Rachel goes to a police officer for help, not expecting him to believe her. The police officer takes her seriously and helps her.
  • Double Subverted: Turns out the police officer was just putting on an act for Rachel's benefit. As soon as she's gone, he throws her statement in the trash and ignores it.
  • Parodied: The police refuse to acknowledge and act upon a crime that's being committed right in front of them.
  • Zig Zagged: Rachel goes to report a crime to the police, only to be dismissed. After she's gone, however, the police officer finds that Rachel's report keeps nagging at him, and he goes through the records and discovers reports of a similar crime. Deciding that Rachel was telling the truth, the police officer acts upon Rachel's report in a competent and effective fashion. However, the threat that Rachel reported turns out to be more than the police officer can handle...
  • Averted:
  • Enforced:
    • The writer has a low opinion of the police force, and this is reflected in the story.
    • The writer wants to write Rachel as an Amateur Sleuth, but needs to deal with the issue that the matter Rachel is investigating would normally be handled by the police.
  • Lampshaded:
    • "The police in this city couldn't catch a cold."
    • "You cops have a right to remain useless. Any attempts to make yourself worth a damn in this force can and will be used against you in a court of law."
  • Invoked: The murderer is a police officer who takes on Rachel's case so that he can bury it...and Rachel.
  • Exploited: The city's criminals dress up as paranormal creatures to commit their crimes, because any victims who attempt to get help will be dismissed as crazy by the police.
  • Implied: Rachel's friend Bob tells her to call the police when she's arming herself to fight a vampire. Rachel just gives him a glare that has "are you crazy?" written all over it and carries on like he never said anything.
  • Defied:
    • Rachel goes to report a vampire attack to the police, suspecting that they won't believe her. As soon as he hears her report, however, the police officer transfers her to the police department's Anti-Paranormal Threat Taskforce, which they have set up for just this eventuality.
    • The city has passed an ordinance meaning that the police must investigate every matter that is put before them, no matter what.
    • Maybe the desk cop doesn't believe the "vampire" part of Rachel's claim, but she's obviously distressed, something bad happened, and the "attack" and "tried to kill" part of her story are worth investigating.
    • Rachel instead reports "There's some nutjob dressed up like Dracula going around attacking people." The police would consider "a dangerous and delusional person" more plausible than "a real-life vampire".
  • Discussed: "You don't report vampires to the police; everyone knows they won't believe you."
  • Conversed: "It's a wonder that the city in this story hasn't completely burnt down already, given how incompetent the cops are."
  • Deconstructed:
    • The failure of the police to act on Rachel's report means that a criminal gets away with a crime. Rachel is murdered by the criminal to keep her silent.
    • The failure of the police to act on Rachel's report leads to Rachel considering to become a Vigilante Man and murder criminals on her own, and other people can no longer trust the police.
  • Reconstructed:
    • It later turns out that Rachel faked her death in order to call attention to the incompetence of the law enforcement system. This allows a new commissioner to be elected to clean things up and get personnel to take crime reports more seriously.
    • But then Rachel decides to join the police and build a competent role model for the others.
  • Played For Laughs: The police aren't inclined to act on Rachel's report...until she mentions that it took place at a donut shop, at which point they spring into action.
  • Played For Drama: The police fail to act on Rachel's report, and she is later found murdered. Rachel's family sues the police department for their failure to act. This then prompts a thorough investigation of the department, and the incompetent officers are sacked.

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