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Police Are Useless / Western Animation

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  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, the police of Bikini Bottom never respond to any real crimes, but make simple things like littering Serious Business.
    • In "SpongeBob, Sandy, and the Worm", when the Alaskan bull worm eats a boat that a police officer was giving a ticket, he picks up a fire hydrant, moves it in front of another boat, and gives it a ticket pretending that it was the first boat.
    • In "Doing Time," two officers are seen beating presumably a criminal with their clubs, only to be revealed they're straightening out a dented parking meter. SpongeBob carelessly drives by in the background, knocking over an entire building and they only decide to pursue him when they see his has no front license plate.
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    • Subverted in "SpongeBob's House Party", when SpongeBob is caught trying to break into his own house after getting locked out, the police are perfectly okay after he explains the situation. Double subverted when they proceed to arrest him for not inviting them to the party. Using stocks instead of handcuffs.
    • In "SpongeBob Meets the Strangler", the Strangler draws a picture of SpongeBob on the back of a police cruiser's seat and viciously tears it up, obviously implying he's going to kill him. After the police see this, and SpongeBob asks for their help, what do they do? They tease him about it.
    • In "Someone's in the Kitchen with Sandy", the cops laugh at Sandy for being partially nude, then arrest her for "public nudity" instead of Plankton, even though she was nude because Plankton stole her clothes for his latest scheme.
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    • In "Growth Spout", the police completely ignore the crazed Mr. Krabs running by them loudly searching for food just after responding to a call about someone going around stealing food.
    • In "Sentimental Sponge", Squidward called the "Sanitation Police" to report SpongeBob, who was piling garbage in his house that was getting everywhere, including Squidward's house. One of the cops does nothing but scoff at Squidward and call him a snitch. Keep in mind that littering is treated seriously in Bikini Bottom.
    • In "SpongeBob's Last Stand", when SpongeBob and Patrick are protesting Plankton building a superhighway over the Krusty Krab and Jellyfish Fields, the police arrest them for playing a sitar without a license, then instead of taking them to jail simply dump them on the outskirts of town.
    • In "Keep Bikini Bottom Beautiful", a police officer keeps giving Squidward tickets for littering in situations where he's simply near litter.
  • Subverted in SWAT Kats at least once. While the titular heroes and the city Enforcers butted heads more often than not, the Enforcers were quick to step in in a fight against a giant alien insect. While they ultimately couldn't do much against said insect directly, they still managed to torch its lair and all of its eggs, and were ultimately responsible for its destruction. As a general rule, however, while they're fairly badass for cops in a superhero show, the Enforcers just Can't Catch Up to the titular SWAT Kats and the enemies they face.
    • Played straight in the flashback origin episode when T-Bone and Razor were once in the Enforcers, and Cmdr. Feral caused them to crash into Enforcer HQ, blaming them for it.
  • Subverted by an episode of The Super Mario Bros Super Show! where Bowser and the Koopas follow Mario and Luigi back to Earth. Bowser decides to conquer Earth along with the Mushroom Kingdom, and the New York police department helps the Mario Bros. get rid of them. Unfortunately, Bowser turns them to stone (and we never see them get changed back).
    • Later on, Koopa tries to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. Becides sending in typical officers for what is clearly terrorism, the officers are completely unarmed, don't even have batons or other nonlethal weaponry, and just simply charge at Koopa when he has easily throwable bombs.
  • The Detroit Police Force in Transformers Animated is usually ill-equipped to deal with whatever supervillain/alien robot/giant monster related weirdness is attacking the city this time. They even become part of the problem after an Allspark fragment in an assembly line robot causes the police bots it constructs to go violent and berserk.
  • Kim Possible. The very few times the police are actually shown, they show up after the villain is captured, no exceptions. Lampshaded in the episode with the Fashion Police. When Kim calls them out on being completely useless, they point out that they were trained in fashion, not combat. Makes you wonder how they're supposed to enforce anything.
  • Inverted twice in Batman Beyond when Batman charges in to stop a crime, only to learn the hard way that he just screwed up a police sting that would have stopped the criminals on its own if he hadn't butted in. Naturally, that annoys his ally, Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon, to no end. But for a former Batgirl she's pretty quick to believe in an illusion of him killing a criminal. Then again, even Bruce seemed to believe Terry killed the criminal until Terry stated otherwise and was shocked upon the accusation.
  • Played mostly straight in The Batman. Ellen Yin and Ethan Bennet were somewhat competent in season one, but Batman couldn't count on them for help due to their Jerkass superior Chief Rojas who was out to get Batman, and was indirectly responsible for Bennet falling into the Joker's hands and turning into Clayface. By season two, Batman could at least count on Yin as an ally, and after that, Gordon stepped in, and there were fewer problems.
  • Recess: School's Out. Granted, the story was pretty crazy, but when you get THREE separate reports of the same story (not only that, but the third person who reported it was not only a teacher at the same school as the one with the strange reports, but the same person was also likely old enough to have most likely would have taught them as kids), don't you think it might at least be worth a look?
  • DuckTales (1987) and Darkwing Duck both had their respective protagonists, Scrooge McDuck and, well, Darkwing Duck, wind up in jail at least three times because the villains are messing with the police's heads. Of particular interest is that, in the "Super DuckTales" TV movie (and later serial) that introduced Gizmoduck; the police also actually give judge and jury duty to the Beagle Boys despite them being known criminals!
    Nice guys, those Beagles. The only people in town who volunteered for jury duty.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie shows what Townsville was like before the girls came along. The reason crime was so rampant? The police were always at the donut shop.
    • In a few episodes such as "Mime for a Change", the police are really unable to confront bad guys who have superpowers. Although because there needs to be a plot, the police are never even bothering to stop bad guys who have no superpowers at all. In "Too Pooped to Puff", bad guys were seen robbing a bank but then the Powerpuff Girls came and saved the day. Then the camera pulls to the police relaxing, eating donuts and asking the girls to also book the bad guys.
    • The villain of one episode was an incompetent cop who blamed the girls for his firing. Said cop was a lazy Small Name, Big Ego that sat in his car sleeping and ate donuts, somehow thinking that he was up for a promotion any day now. The rest of the police are actually competent, as they rescue the girls in the end. However the trope applies to any other appearance, as seen in "Girls Gone Mild."
  • In Adventure Time, the Candy Kingdom's Banana Guards are completely useless.
    • In "You Made Me", when the Banana Guards found out that the Earl of Lemongrab was breaking into people's houses and staring at them because he was jealous of Princess Bubblegum's huge kingdom, they didn't do anything about it because they were bored and watched it on monitors. They did this for two weeks before anybody else realised what was going on.
    • In "Root Beer Guy", when Princess Bubblegum was kidnapped by Finn and Jake as part of a plot to test her security, i.e. the Banana Guards, the Guards didn't even notice and just got in the way of Root Beer Guy, the only one doing any police work and ignored him when he tried to report the kidnapping — He eventually had to resort to claiming he took a boat out after 8 o'clock in violation of Lake Butterscotch rules to even get them to show up. At the end of the episode, Princess Bubblegum saw how useless the Guards were and made Root Beer Guy the Captain in an effort to change this.
    • In "James II", Princess Bubblegum assigns them to arrest the various clones of the equally stupid James. After spending almost a full minute trying to grasp the difference between a picture of James and James himself, the Banana Guards decide to ask the first person to walk past them if they've seen James, which happens to be one of the James'. Soon, the Guards and the James' are facing each other in two groups, passing the picture back and forth between each other.
    • In "Apple Wedding", after having everyone present at Tree Trunks' wedding thrown in the dungeon due to their support of the King of Ooo, Princess Bubblegum later orders the Banana Guards to "let everyone go". They release EVERYONE in the dungeon, including the actual felons.
    • In "Rattleballs", during a flashback, the (still literally green) banana guards see a robbery going on and, instead of chasing the thief, cheer him on.
  • While the police of Woodcrest do appear to be useless on a daily basis, this is mostly because they are either on the take, innocents roped up in some so-called heroes' criminal activities or simply not called upon in the first place. They prove how useful they can be in the episode of The Boondocks "Stinkmeaner 3: The Hateocracy". Only after the Freeman family's other plans fall through including purchasing the incredibly pricey protection services of the now deceased Bushido Brown, someone resorts to 'snitching' on the three antagonists making attempts on their lives and the police resolve the issue quickly with minimal fuss.
  • Used in a brief throwaway gag in the Looney Tunes cartoon "The Stupor Salesman"; a bank robber blows by a parked police car with two officers in it, both of whom are fast asleep.
  • Done in Rocky and Bullwinkle when the World Economic Council calls the police when Boris and Natasha escape with a truck load of counterfeit box tops.
    Officer: Would you spell it please?
    Council: B-O-X-T-O-P-S!
    Officer: B-O-S...
    Council: X! X! B-O-X!
    Officer: One question? How do you make a "B"?
  • Justified in the Venture Brothers episode "The Trial of The Monarch", in that the police, in exchange for substantial funding, refuse to acknowledge any criminal activity of the Guild of Calamitous Intent, and do not respond to any emergency calls regarding them.
  • South Park
    • When Kyle tries to report the obvious serial killer (who wants to get caught) with DNA evidence, he is berated by Sergeant Yates for being a waste of his time, since he is not a psychic.
    • Officer Barbrady is extremely incompetent in the early seasons for being incapable of solving crimes and other stuff. Despite that, he actually kept South Park in peace since he's the only cop in town and had moments like when he learned to read and solved the "Chickenlover" case. He becomes much more competent in his job during his appearances as he was Demoted to Extra when Yates and the Park County police took over.
    • In "Cartman Sucks" the police seem very apathetic to an eight-year-old discussing a photo of himself with someone's penis in his mouth. One would think that would merit following up.
    • As if being this trope wasn't bad enough, the Park County cops have a nasty tendency to go rabid or worse when things don't go their way.
  • A Robot Chicken sketch.
  • Zigzagged in The Amazing World of Gumball, where the most frequently seen police officer is an anthropomorphic doughnut who is actually portrayed as somewhat competent on occasion, but is just as often shown doing reckless things that would have gotten him kicked off the police force in real life. This trope is lampshaded in "The Friend", in which Doughnut Sheriff's police manual actually says "If the task requires tact and intellect, call someone else".
  • In the movie Aladdin, the guards were actually fairly useful, even managing to catch Aladdin once. In Aladdin: The Series, they're another story. Aladdin solves all of Agrabah's problems, while the guards seldom do anything and sometimes even get in the way. The opening of the episode "Black Sand" is probably the best example of this. All four guards fail at catching a tiny flying eel. Subverted with Razoul when he's given A Day in the Limelight.
  • Inspector Gadget lives this trope. He only managed to arrest the right person once in his entire series. And that was because the thief fell down the fire escape and landed in front of him with the stolen goods. Most of the episodes include at least one scene of Gadget trying to arrest his dog.
  • Family Guy
    • Stewie reports the theft of his tricycle to the police. Since no adults understand the talking Stewie, the cop says, "Oh, look at the little baby. Aren't you cute? Where's your mommy?" The cop says the exact same thing to when a man shows up to turn himself in when he has a dismembered Baltic hooker bleeding through the tarp in his trunk.
    • In the episode "Screams of Silence", Joe invokes a Take That! at the real life legal limitations of police when it comes to domestic abuse:
    Peter: Hey Joe, can't you just arrest the guy?
    Joe: I can't arrest Jeff unless Brenda files a formal complaint with the police.
    Quagmire: She won't go to the police, she's afraid of what Jeff'll do! [...] What if one of these nights he hits her so hard he kills her?!
    Joe: Sorry, Quagmire, police policy; we can't step in until it's too late.
    • Even though Joe then says he could have Quagmire arrested for suggesting that somebody should kill Jeff instead.
    • The page image is from a joke the show did about the cop show CHiPs, where Erik Estrada's character Ponch is hitting on a woman and ignoring a violent gunfight and a truck carrying cocaine passing behind him.
    • Also, when James Woods stole documents of Peter's identity, Joe said he had no choice but treat Woods as the real Peter Griffin.
    • Joe in general. If he's not on the job and sometimes even then he'll permit blatant crimes to occur right in front of him without doing anything about it, especially those of his friends, and sometimes even take part in it.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: Jenny is Tremorton and the world's only defense as Skyway Patrol not only fit this trope, they're also obstructive bureaucrats which is even worse than useless.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The series premiere has a scene where some Royal Guards try to take down Nightmare Moon. They get blasted with lightning.
    • "A Canterlot Wedding": Canterlot is protected by a magic shield and a small army of Royal Guards who, despite being on high alert, are overrun by Changelings as soon as the shield collapses. Their leadership had been incapacitated, but still...
    • The Wonderbolts aren't much better. In theory, they're supposed to be a military branch that performs exhibition for civilians, yet we mostly see them at exhibition shows and derbys. Whenever they go up against a real threat, like Tirek or an unnaturally grown Spike, they lose in seconds.
    • Sheriff Silverstar gets this from "Appleoosa's Most Wanted" when three fillies trick him into abandoning his post so they can set an outlaw free.
    • Averted in "The Times They Are A Changeling", where the Crystal Empire Guards take their duty to find the eponymous Changeling seriously and even suspect Twilight, Starlight and Spike when they arrive in the Empire. The fact that they're commanded by Shining Armor, the previously-mentioned incapacitated commander during the initial Changeling attack, probably has a lot to do with it. That said they also not only fail to find the aforementioned changeling but can't even keep him out of the city, which only works out since said changeling just happens to be the only nice one in the entire hive, since Shining Armor apparently forgot all about that shield he used last time that conveniently let anything except changelings enter the city and they can't seem to figure out ID cards or a password system...
  • Gravity Falls: Sheriff Blubs and Deputy Durland combine this trope with Adults Are Useless. The closest to an aversion is "Irrational Treasure," which casts them as relatively-competent villains covering up the secret history of the town's founding.
    Sheriff Blubs: Hold one a minute, do you have a permit for those [fireworks]?
    Grunkle Stan: Uh, do you have a permit for being totally lame?
    Sheriff Blubs: Well I can't argue with that. Carry on.
  • Sheriff Stone from Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. Most of the time, he won't even get involved in whatever mystery Crystal Cove is facing, until the gang proves it a hoax, and if he does get involved, he'll sometimes make things worse. He even arrested Scooby when a dog was terrorizing the town despite clear evidence that Scooby wasn't responsible. In season 2, it's revealed he has a string of lawsuits related to arresting the wrong people. This is something of an Enforced Trope as well: Crystal Cove is a tourist trap that relies on its legends of monsters to attract people, so when something mysterious starts happening, it's the policy of the local government to simply declare it the work of monsters and not investigate, lest it be proven a hoax and shut down another merchandising opportunity. Therefore, the only time Stone bothers to arrest monsters early on is if they've been unmasked and the cat's already out of the bag. He does improve with time, though.
    Scooby: You are a terrible sheriff!
    Sheriff Stone: Ehhh, sounds like someone's been talking to my lawyer.
  • The Legend of Korra plays with this. Republic City's Metalbending Police and the Anti-Equalist Task force do have moments of competence, like attacking and defeating an Equalist secret base. Ultimately though, the police are outfoxed and outwitted at most turns, with the Equalists unveiling new weapons and tactics, and the cops beaten thoroughly. When the Stadium is attacked, all the cops are taken out with electric gloves (they all wear metal), and all the outside airships and boats were all defeated offscreen. In the first season finale, the officers get taken down left and right, losing the city.
    • Metalbending Police's main problem is that they never seem to learn. When they fight tanks that are largely immune to their metal cable attacks they tend to forget that they can just earthbend the ground to make either huge walls or pits to trap them in. When faced with electric attacks that hit them through their armor they never try to adapt and insulate that armor for future attacks. They acknowledged the need of body armor to stop chi blocking attacks but some how never thought to use a material other than highly conductive metal.
    • In the second season, Lu and Gang play this role as jerks who prank Mako by lying to him, intentionally place evidence in the shelf so that they don't have to investigate, and (don't) do other things that make things worse to the protagonists. Lampshaded by Asami in "The Sting" while in the interrogation room.
      • Thankfully this doesn't stop Chief Bei Fong from being competent. Lu and Gang both get fired from their detective positions after them being more concerned with eating than protecting the President of the United Republic of Nations causes him to nearly get kidnapped while they're easily knocked unconscious.
  • The police in Hey Arnold! usually vary, but any time a character reports a crime to the police station, the cops laugh them out. The worst would be the time Grandpa reported that his Packard was missing. The police said they'd get right on it, as soon as they were finished with a stack of other missing car reports, with them laughing uproariously.
  • The cop that holds Harvey to "get down" from the Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law episode "Booty Noir".
  • The Grumpy Bear cop from The Goode Family episode "Gerold's Way or The Highway".
  • Rancid Rabbit from CatDog. Mainly because he has hatedom towards Cat.
  • The mall cop from the Christmas Episode of Stroker and Hoop.
  • The Toy Story Toons short "Partysaurus Rex" plays this for laughs. When Rex is trying to subdue a party, a little toy police car drives up and dives into the bathtub party.
  • In one episode of American Dad!, Stan goes nuts and takes two hostages, demanding drugs. The police negotiator on the scene immediately gives Stan the drugs and a plane for Stan to fly to British Columbia; as soon as Stan drops the hostages, the negotiator kills the hostages himself without any provocation before trying to rape Hayley.
  • SheZow is an aversion on this; the police can hold their own, it's just that SheZow is faster.
  • They definitely seem to be pretty useless in Ernest et Célestine. They can't catch either Ernest or Celestine and when they do briefly capture Ernest, he and Celestine have a fairly easy time of it getting away. They then spend months spending hiding out in Ernest's home in the woods, even though it's really not that far from the city and shouldn't be all that hard to find with a joint manhunt issued for the two of them.
  • The one time the military or police do jack-shit in Archie's Weird Mysteries, the one time they actually decide to visit that God-forsaken town that's constantly coming under attack from every monster and weird event you can imagine, is when Veronica is accidentally grown to 50 feet tall and, after one brief little panic attack, isn't even aggressive or a threat. Then to add insult to injury, they fall for a simple "He Went That Way" from Veronica who was shrunk Just in Time.
  • The cops of Moonbeam City are generally varying levels of useless or corrupt. Protagonist Dazzle Novac rarely ever does his job well and is often sidetracked by his own personal shenanigans while his rival Rad is outright psychotic. The only ones on the MBCPD that consistently try to get their job done are the police chief and the resident tech expert, and even they have their moments.
  • Ben 10: with the exception of the ones who were actually important characters (meaning essentially Max Tennyson and Rook Bonko), the Plumbers were essentially portrayed as more and more useless as the franchise went on, even though they were gaining more authority:
    • In the Original Series, they were a disbanded organization depicted as operating only on Earth and implied to have been efficient enough that they could go toe-to-toe with an entire race of alien shapeshifters and required a confrontation with Vilgax to end them.
    • Comes Alien Force and Ultimate Alien, they are now a galactic-wide police operating on multiple systems but still forced to follow The Masquerade on Earth, but the few times they show up involve them getting easily defeated or manipulated by villains and insisting they can't allow themselves to waste resources on a low-level planet like Earth.
    • Finally, in Omniverse, they now can operate freely thanks to Earth now being an open system... and yet their headquarters has such terrible security that their prisoners keep escaping on the drop of a hat, their tech support is handled by two bumbling idiots who can somehow repair a Doomsday Device by accident, their black op branch is making Child Soldiers and recruiting murderous kids so they can eliminate The Hero because he might one day become dangerous, and they are either inexplicably absent or easily defeated in any situation where their actions could actually be useful.
  • In Big Hero 6: The Series, the police tend to be unable to handle supervillains, though it's not that they're incompetent hacks, more in the case that they don't have the means to combat against said supervillains, whereas Big Hero 6 do.
    • In the first episode, Yama has engineered a small army of Baymax-type robots, sans Three Laws Compliance. Fred uses this to insist that his friends don their costumes/armor again and take on the threat as super-heroes. GoGo insists that the police can handle it. Cue the news showing the police among the citizens running for their lives.
    Police Officer: WE CAN'T HANDLE THIS!
    • In Season 2, the new police chief Diego Cruz hates superheroes, blaming them for the appearance of supervillains and vows to arrest the team. But his claims are untrue since the members of Big Hero 6's Rogues Gallery were already villains or became villains on their own without the heroes' involvement. And no matter how many times circumstances prove him wrong, Cruz won't let go of his accusations against them.
  • Played with in Jackie Chan Adventures in the episode "The Chan Who Knew Too Much". The episode focuses on a cult that steals Stonehenge in hope of using it as a potential doomsday weapon, and when they suspect Jackie Chan of knowing their plot, instead of working to try and take them down, he makes several attempts to report it to the "proper authorities". At first he tries to report it to Captain Black, who gets paranoid when he hears that magic is involved. Then when Jackie tries to inform the Metropolitan Police, he's immediately arrested by an officer who is part of the cult, leading him to the conclusion that the cult is much bigger than anticipated. The only person who actually manages to help in the situation is Uncle, and by the time he does help, all the information he relays is already known. And earlier on in the episode when they tried to get his help, he was also a bit useless as he was spooked by a fax machine, thinking it was a possessed phone.
  • Addressed in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, when Batman tries to talk sense into Loony Fan Bat-Mite by explaining that he didn't become a hero for praise or glory, but rather because there are criminals too dangerous for the police to handle.
  • Zig-zagged in Miraculous Ladybug. The police are rarely any help against the villains Ladybug and Chat Noir face, but it's mostly because they're normal human beings trying to go up against empowered supervillains rather than any incompetence on their part. This is best shown in the episode "Captain Hardrock"; while Lieutenant Raincomprix is woefully outmatched against Captain Hardrock, he still keeps trying to arrest her, in the process distracting her at a crucial moment and securing victory for the heroes.
  • Justified in The Backyardigans episode "Caveman's Best Friend". Pablo cannot get Austin's pet dinosaur back because he cannot whistle.
  • ZigZagged in King of the Hill, in one episode, Hank reports the defamation of beef caused by a smarmy artist to a Sheriff and the sheriff arrests him. In some other episodes, the police’s incompetence are usually because of their stupidity or because they are Obstructive Bureaucrat.
  • One episode of The Fairly OddParents that put Timmy in a Clear My Name situation featured a police squad that hounded Timmy based on his parents description. They fall for a Paper-Thin Disguise Chester and AJ put on and completely ignore Francis, the actual thief, who wasn't exactly being subtle.


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