Police Brutality

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These anti-riot squad officers calmly tell a pedestrian not to litter.

Billy Tripley: Look, this is police brutality!

Elliot Stabler: Trust me, when you're being brutalized by me, you'll know it.

When the police aren't incompetent, then they're sadistic bullies.

Even though nobody likes being bossed around by the police, it's their job, and they have to do it whether we like it or not. Some types of policemen, however, are thugs who take a cruel pleasure in beating and tormenting people they don't like, for no reason at all. And often this is a category that contains pretty much everyone.

Though Truth in Television to some extent, this is often exaggerated in fiction. Sometimes to make a statement about ethnic relations (Do the Right Thing); as part of a gloomy Film Noir-type Wretched Hive setting (Sin City); or as part of a futuristic Dystopian setting (Nineteen Eighty-Four).

Originally, a portrayal only American films got away with. For example, the critics responsible for French New Wave Cinema famously complained about censorship that forbade French police being portrayed as anything but professional and competent.

A quick breakdown of police brutality trends in fiction: the LAPD beats your ass and then decides what crime you committed; the NYPD shoots you a few dozen times then pronounces you innocent; 1930s cops are drunk Irishmen who beat you up for being Italian; 1960s cops are sober Irishmen who beat you up for having long hair; small town cops pull you over, tell you that your tail light is busted, and then bust your tail light with a nightstick when you ask which one (and give you a ticket for it); big city cops are uncompromising racists. Of course, all might not be as it seems.

Note: Now and again, American movies in the 1930s and 40s will show a cop shooting at an unarmed, running suspect. Though shocking to us now, this was not considered brutal or excessive at the time.

An action which is committed by a Rabid Cop on a regular basis. See also Killer Cop for when the police officer goes a bit beyond brutality. Not to be confused with the Police Brutality Gambit (although its users hope you will).

Examples of Police Brutality include:


Animated Films

  • In quite a daring move for a G-rated direct to video movie, An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island features a police force who savagely beat down protesting factory workers with their clubs, are being paid under the table by corrupt factory owners, and deliberately start a race riot. You know, for kids!

Anime & Manga

  • Hibari Ginza in Speed Grapher likes to "self-defense" suspects (it's her catchphrase and she actually uses it as a verb). This means that if she arrests you and you aren't cooperative, she's likely to shoot off at least one of your extremities.

Comic Books

  • Sam and Max, in all their incarnations, do this a lot. And if they weren't freelance police, they'd probably compensate with just plain ol' 'brutality' instead. Since they're both prime Heroic Sociopaths, all of it is, of course, Played for Laughs.
  • The Basin City Police Department in Sin City. When Cardinal Roark or some other Big Bad wants somebody gone and the evidence removed, they send in an out-and-out death squad. And these aren't even the worst in the world... the ones working for Stalin were worse.
  • Transmetropolitan.

Spider: I can see a blatantly unarmed Transient man with half his face hanging off, and three cops working him over anyway. One of them is groping his own erection. I’m sorry. Is that too harsh an observation for you? Does that sound too much like the Truth?

    • The cops get back at Spider by beating the shit out of him outside his apartment. Of course, Spider being who he is, he just laughs off the brutal beating and threatens to bite their testicles off if they come near him again.

Film

Lt. Neil Briggs: I've got nothing personal against you, Callahan, but we can't have the public crying "police brutality!" every time you go out on the street.

  • The Fighter has some cops breaking Micky Ward's hands simply due to him being a fighter. It's also worth noting that he didn't do as much damage as his half-brother, Dickey Eklund.
  • This is Older Than Television. An extreme early example can be found in the 1941 Film Noir I Wake Up Screaming and its 1953 Remake Vicki. Ed Cornell is a corrupt detective obsessed with pinning the murder of Vicky Lynn on Frankie Christopher. He does everything in his power to pin the killing on her publicist: beating him, breaking into his apartment, and planting evidence. In truth, he's known from the beginning that another man killed her. He doesn't care, though.
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has the song "We Love Violence (Join the Fuzz)" where a troupe of singing, dancing policemen extols the virtues of being able to perform violence within the law.
  • In Ip Man 2, one British policeman has his buddies hold down editor-in-chief Kan while he deals out a beating.
  • La Haine shows a particularly brutal vicious circle relationship between the Paris police and a group of teenage thugs from the local banlieues. The police raid the deprived banlieues, the people who live there fight back, which means the police crack down harder on the area, which means the people start rioting... It eventually culminates in the police shooting an unarmed teenage boy, and one officer and the boy's best friend holding guns to each other's heads. End of film.
    • With a single gunshot, just after the screen goes black, as well.
  • Lakeview Terrace shows Chris and Lisa Mattson, the newly wed couple being terrorized by Abel Turner, their corrupt cop neighbor.
  • The Maniac Cop trilogy of films is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Likewise with two Psycho Cop films.
  • McQ (1974). John Wayne's character is implied to have beaten up suspects in the past. One occasion has a radical giving him lip in a corridor, whereupon Wayne stamps on his foot. When another cop asks what happened, John Wayne replies, "He stubbed his foot on a chair." (The corridor is empty of chairs).
  • In Red State, the local Sheriff accidentally shoots one of the hostages, who had escaped with a rifle in hand. The ATF then panics, declares the entire Cooper family to be domestic terrorists, and orders everyone killed. The federal agents wind up murdering the remaining hostage and several unarmed people over the rest of the movie.
  • In 2010 film The Traveler, the Drifter was assaulted extremely badly to the point of coma by Detective Black and the rest of the police officers who were at the interrogation scene. This sets off the entire vengeance plot of the film.
  • The first movie in the Michael Bay Transformers series had a cop threaten to "bust [Sam] up" for looking at his gun. Yes, because reaching for a gun won't cause people to automatically look at you.
  • The V for Vendetta film has the Fingermen, who are the Norsefire party's Secret Police. They are allowed to do every bad action they can, though as order in England breaks down, people put up with them less and less. This culminates in a Fingerman shooting an unarmed little girl who was committing peaceful protest. A lot of people, with a vengeful look on their faces, then come out of their houses and kill the guy despite his gun and badge.
    • Of specific note is that V only meets Evey because he has to intervene to save her from a police gang rape.

Literature

  • In 1984, Winston and Julia get beaten quite badly by the police during their arrest.
  • Standard operating procedure in Judge Dee's 7th c. China.
  • In A Clockwork Orange, Dim and Billy Boy abandon their juvenile acts of mayhem and destruction to beat on criminals for a paycheck.
  • Lampshaded, parodied, and all the rest in Discworld. Any series so very self-aware with an entire subseries revolving around a police force is pretty much required to.
    • Played almost horrifically straight in Night Watch with the Unmentionables, however, and Sam Vimes' personal narration takes great care to note that beating people up in small rooms for good reasons always leads to beating up people in small rooms for bad reasons. This is central to Vimes' psychology—he's pretty strict on himself and his subordinates because he's a big believer in the slippery slope and he wants to make damn sure no one slides down it. Though he's not above making the indirect threat of 'Falling Down The Stairs' if a suspect isn't being cooperative. They tend to be much more agreeable afterward (but again, would you antagonize a Troll or the Six-Foot-Tall "Dwarf"?).
    • The Ankh-Morpork version of "Miranda" includes such clauses as "You have the right not to throw yourself out the window"..... most likely added to give a figleaf to practices under Vetinari's predecessors, Homicidal Lord Winder and Mad Lord Snapcase.
    • A mild version appears when Reg Shoe, after complaining about the lack of zombie representation in the watch, is recruited by Carrot... and runs up a raft of complaints, all from zombies. He dismisses it by saying they "don't understand the problems of policing in a multi-vital society."
  • In The Death of the Vazir Mukhtar, the main character steps in to stop one such incident in 1829 St. Petersburg.
  • In Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets, author David Simon follows a shift of the Baltimore Police Department homicide unit, and among other things, presents a fairly even-handed view of police brutality. To wit, at least in that department, it's considered unethical to hit a suspect in handcuffs or to obtain a statement (not to mention the officer's career isn't worth it), but it's perfectly okay to goad a suspect into striking a cop (and beating him down "in self defense"; one officer even keeps a photo of the suspect's face afterwards), or for a suspect in a crime involving a cop or their family to "fall down the stairs" several times between being photographed at the precinct and being dropped off at central booking.
    • Interestingly, the book goes into long detail, in an almost lamenting tone, that suspects actually fear the police less and less. In the old days, a suspect thought to have shot a cop was essentially in a race for their life to turn themselves in a precinct completely across town, where they would *only* be beaten. If the guy was caught in the cop's own district, he'd have been shot dead and his death justified as self-defense.
  • Discussed at length in the Andrew Vachss Burke book Terminal. See the quotes page.
  • The Wardens in Theatrica verge on being brutal. Sometimes a harsh accusation from a would-be victim is enough for them to bring the full, violent force of the law down on any given individual. One warden in particular qualifies for this trope...
  • Stephen King's Under the Dome. The Chester's Mill 'police' hired by the town's tyrannical second selectman beat, shoot, rape, and kill whoever they want to without any real fear of retribution.
  • Occurs in Wise Blood, in two plot-crucial moments. First, an officer pulls Hazel Motes over for driving without a license, then destroys Hazel's car by pushing it over an embankment. Second, two police officers find Hazel lying in a ditch, barely conscious. When they tell him that his landlady wants him to return, he says he doesn't want to, so they club him the rest of the way into unconsciousness and load him into their car. Hazel dies on the way back to his apartment.

Live-Action TV

  • Adam-12: Several episodes have addressed the subject, with one-shot officers in the role of the rouge officers and series' heroes officers Pete Malloy and Jim Reed eventually washing them out.
    • While Malloy was almost always able to keep his cool even with the most smug of villians, he blows it in the 1974 episode "X-Force" and is suspended without pay for four days after a suspect he had arrested complains that he was injured. Malloy had arrested a suspected child molester (the crook had raped a 6-year-old girl who lived in the neighborhood), and when the pedophile made a snide remark about how the little girl "got what she wanted," Malloy shoves him against a wall, twists his arm and puts the handcuffs on too tight. (Reed—who ironically was taught by Malloy about keeping his cool in the early seasons—shows up to calm his veteran partner down, and eventually has to make a statement backing the complainant.)
    • Malloy and Reed have also been victimized by claims of police brutality, particularly in the episode "Good Cop: Handle With Care." There, two rouge freelance journalists harass our protagonist officers as they go about their daily work, eventually catching their prey as Reed and Malloy were in the midst of handling a hallucinogenic subject who had gone into a violent seizure. As the officers take the drugged-out man to the emergency room for detoxification, the photographer snaps a picture; the man had a bloody nose, the result of his head hitting the seat frame as he was shaking violently and uncontrollably. However, the journalists' story makes it out to be classic police brutality. Sgt. Mac McDonald (the officers' superior) questions Reed and Malloy, who are of course cleared (although this is not ever explicitly stated in the episode). In the end, the journalists' harassment of Reed and Malloy and insistence that they were rouge cops out to brutalize innocent subjects leads to a tragedy.
  • One Anvilicious episode of Angel featured zombie cops whose brutality was so extreme that it would have been unbelievable for regular human cops to behave in such a way. They shot Wesley just for approaching them while they were harassing Gunn and a few of his friends. Of course, it was the LAPD.
  • There's a Running Gag in Arrested Development wherein George Sr. or his twin brother (or one of them disguised as/mistaken for the other) gets tackled by the police and then one officer clubs them on the head. There was also an instance in which George Sr. was captured by Mexican police who were in a vengeful mood on account of a defective product George had knowingly marketed in the country. He fakes his death and has it reported that the police beat him to death- this actually is what probably would have happened had he not satisfied the officers with a legal argument (read: paid them a large bribe).
  • Babylon 5: Micheal Garibaldi tries to put a random Jerkass's head through a tabletop when he refuses to stop talking trash about Marsies during a period of violence on Mars. It no doubt didn't help that Garibaldi's ex-lover lived on Mars, and he had been unable to find out if she had been harmed in the fighting.
  • Happens now and then on |COPS, but of course, it's never acknowledged. And of course, Your Mileage May Vary on this one.
  • In regular CSI, there was a variation on the trope. One of the CSIs slugged a perp, but everyone was ticked off at the guy in general, and Brass calmly said something about not seeing it that way, that the perp attacked the CSI first.
  • Stella Bonasera has gotten called out for using excessive force a couple of times on CSI: NY
  • Dragnet got in on it at least once as well, in an episode showing the police application process of the time. Friday and Gannon were suspicious of one applicant with a 6 month gap in his background history, and it was discovered he'd been kicked off another town's sheriff force for police brutality.
  • A first season episode of Due South had Ray beating a Mafia don senseless (after the Mafia don agreed to talk to him in private, in a locked room) and threatening to tell the entire neighborhood about it unless he agreed to stop harassing a local shoemaker that the Mafia don had ordered a hit on for stealing a hundred bucks from a church's poor box.[1]
    • Amusingly enough, on the "Idiot Ball" note, is that the reason Ray got the first hit in was because he tossed the don a basketball, ensuring that his opponent's hands would be full when he took the first swing. It could almost be a Visual Pun on the concept of the Idiot Ball.
    • Ray made a point of leaving his gun and badge in the car before he went inside to confront the Don, so he wasn't beating the crap out of him as a cop, but as a member of the community (That said, still a cop, still an unlawful beatdown, still counts.)
  • On an episode of Frasier, Marty won't stop haranguing Niles's lawyer girlfriend with Evil Lawyer Jokes. Finally, after he asks her "how many lawyers does it take to screw in a light bulb?" she retorts "How many cops planted it there?"
  • In the series The Last Detective, while the protagonist is a By-The-Book Cop, his DCI is an Old-Fashioned Copper- think a washed-up Gene Hunt. In one episode, the latter talks nostalgically about no longer being able to have suspects "fall down the stairs".
  • Law and Order Special Victims Unit: Detective Eliot Stabler gets away with a disgusting amount of brute force, probably because people consider the guys he badgers and brutalizes deserving of their fates. Even though at worst, he occasionally find out that the suspect is an innocent man.
    • All the other main detectives (and the persecution lawyers, occasionally, and the various ADAs) aren't above threatening their suspects or not minding Elliot attacking suspects.
  • Life On Mars: DCI Gene Hunt has a tendency to let his anger be his guide in investigation/interrogation rather than a sense of due process. Yeah, forget things like "facts" or "due process" or "the truth": Let's just go out and reenact scenes from Death Wish.
    • Note that the traditional explanation for suffering injuries while in British police custody is "falling down the stairs"; bonus points if this is in a police station where the cells are on the ground floor.
    • It should also be noted that the conflict between the old-style policing of Gene Hunt and the modern/futuristic policing of Sam Tyler is the central dramatic conflict in the show, but even then, there are external forces in the 1970s for the police to rein in such brutality, as evidenced in the series finale.
  • Vic Mackey and his Strike Team from The Shield.
    • The show was inspired by the horrific scandal at the LAPD's Rampart Division, which included some rather eye-popping allegations: A bank robbery planned by a police officer, multiple suspects killed with weapons planted on them for justification, actually joining the "Bloods" street gang, stealing drugs from the evidence locker for hip-hop producer Suge Knight, and murdering Notorious B.I.G.
  • In the first episode of Sledge Hammer!, the titular officer holds a purse-snatcher at gunpoint and orders him to beat himself up. This is typical of how he treats suspects.
    • In another episode, Sledge pitches the benefits of being a cop on the basis that he gets paid to legally beat up and kill people.
  • Parodied on Whose Line Is It Anyway? a couple of times:
    • In game of "Hollywood Director," Brad, playing a cop responding to a car accident between Ryan and Wayne, immediately after arriving on the scene, beat up Wayne for no other reason than because he's black.
    • Another game had Ryan and Colin playing a Good Cop, Bad Cop pair of dishwasher repairmen; the game ended with Wayne stuffed into his dishwasher.
    • Wayne played one himself during a game of Let's Make A Date, when he's given the character of a power-mad highway patrolman. "I don't think anybody gave you license to talk, here in Callihappimussisoopi County!"
  • It's one of the major plotpoints in The Wire, wherein officers regularly assault hoodlums, including minors, in their custody, though the police are technically incompetent at best. It's simply considered part of "the game." Assaulting regular citizens, however, isn't allowed. For example, after Herc mistakes a church minister for a drug-runner, he gets fired for wrongly arresting him.
    • Probably the most serious examples are Kima, Herc, and Carver roughing up the sixteen-year-old Bodie, or Kima, Daniels, and Landsman all taking on Bird, who at the time was handcuffed to a table. In both cases, their actions are considered more-or-less justified because the thug in question "started it", either by throwing the first punch, or by making one too many lewd comments while in custody.
    • Another is when Prez pistol-whips Kevin Johnston, a fourteen-year-old drug dealer in the face with his gun, blinding him in one eye, after which he's suspended from street duty.
  • Parodied a number of times on The Young Ones. In one episode, after Rick has been eulogising Felicity Kendal, a policeman breaks into the house, hits him with a chair, and says "Let me assure you that I would not have done that if you had been Felicity Kendal".
    • In another episode, a man rings the doorbell to the student's flat. He is accosted by a policeman:

Cop: Ho ho ho. Hahahahaha. Well, Mr. Sambo Darkie Coon, I've got your number. You're nicked.
[We see the man's face. He's clearly white.]
Man: Is there anything the matter, officer?
Cop: Ho ho ho, oh dear me. Don't we talk lovely, Mr. Rastus Chocolate Drop. Now listen here, son. I've done a weekend's training with the S.A.S. I could pull both your arms off and leave no trace of violence. Lord Scarman need never know.
Man: What seems to be the trouble, officer?
Cop: That's white man's electricity you're burnin', ringin' that bell. That's theft. I've got your number, so hold out your hands.
Man: Officer, I represent Kellogg's Corn Flakes car competition. I--
[The cop removes his sunglasses and sees the man for the first time.]
Cop: Oh. Sorry, John. I thought you was a nigger. Now, Sir, carry on.

Music

  • The song "Bad Boys" by reggae group Inner Circle if often thought to talk about cops, and when you look at the big picture about this song, its message is "When you're caught by the cops, you're pretty much dead".
  • Subject of many a Gangsta Rap Protest Song, most notably N.W.A.'s "Fuck Tha Police" and Ice-T/Body Count's "Cop Killer".
  • The Frank Zappa songs "Concentration Moon" and "Mom & Dad" are about police shooting hippies and smashing them in the face with rocks.
  • The parody song GO COPS plays with this for all its worth.
  • The German punk band called Wizo has a song which called Kopfschuss (Headshot). The song is esp about Wolfgang Grams (was a member of the Red Army Faction, a German far-left terrorist organisation), who got killed by German elite cops at the train station in Bad Kleinen.
  • David Bowie 's Life on Mars? has the lyrics "Take a look at the law-man/Beating up the wrong Guy/Oh Man! Wonder if he'll ever know.../He's in a best selling show?".
  • "Out to Get Me" from Guns N' Roses depict actions from the cruel LAPD.
  • The song "Police Truck" by the Dead Kennedys is about a group of cops taking out a van for a night of drinking, beating drunks, and gang-raping a prostitute.

Tabletop Roleplaying Games

  • In Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl, The Authority (the group-created villain) is often The State, and is filled with images of riot cops and police brutality.
  • Fittingly for a cyberpunk game, the setting of Shadowrun pretty much assumes police brutality as the norm. The least brutal police organization (Lone Star Security Services, basically a law enforcement PMC that held the municipal police service contract for several major cities) is still infamous for rules of engagement that basically top out at '*BANG BANG BANG* "Halt or we fire!"' and a well-practiced ability to 'tune up' recalcitrant suspects in interrogation rooms without leaving any incriminating marks. But at least 'municipal contract' cops like Lone Star and Knight Errant have to pretend to obey things like civil rights legislation and Miranda warnings. If you get caught by megacorporate security forces... well, since megacorps get to write as well as enforce the laws on megacorporate territory, they can do anything they feel like to you. Some standouts include Shiawase (where they'll use you in the brainwashing labs if you have useful skills, or as testing fodder in the medical labs if you don't), Aztechnology (where the savage beating is just to tenderize you for the upcoming ritual blood sacrifice), and Mitsuhama Computer Technologies (which essentially has no SOP for dealing with prisoners because they almost never take any).
    • A Shadowrun 4e supplement mentions offhandedly that a gang of heavily-armed shadowrunners once tried to hijack some cargo at an MCT loading dock at a relatively expensive but not in any way unique wholesale merchandise warehouse. The after-action report read 'we're not sure if the auto-targeting miniguns or the bound elemental spirits got to them first, but one of the remains could only be identified by the serial number on her muscle augmentation implant'.

Theatre

  • In The Time of Your Life, Blick, a bully with a badge, tends to beat up anybody who gets angry with him for intimidating other people.

Video Games

  • Agent Robert Nightingale in Alan Wake, who at first tries to arrest Alan for the disappearance of Carl Stucky (whom Alan is forced to kill in self-defense). Nightingale is trigger-happy (twice shooting at Alan while a civilian is standing right next to him), a drunkard, and repeatedly blames Alan for various things that he has no control over, such as during the chase where he's ranting about how it's Alan's fault that the Dark Presence is attacking the police searching the woods for him. This behavior made him a stark contrast with Sarah Breaker, the Bright Falls' sheriff who repeatedly calls Nightingale out on his actions and even helps Alan throughout the story.
  • One of the patients in Amateur Surgeon is a police officer named Officer Brutality... though, apart from his name, not a whole lot implies that he's particularly tough on criminals. After all, he did go to back alley surgeon Alan Probe for treatment.
  • Devil Survivor takes this to Nightmare Fuel levels. At the end of Day 4, when some of the more-maligned cops get their own demon-summoning COMPs, they decide that since Tokyo is locked down and isolated, that they're gonna disregard law and order (or rather, what little of it remains due to, again, Tokyo being cut off from the rest of Japan) and murder some civilians. After seeing one civilian die at their hands, the cops then turn their attention to you and you're forced to fight them.
  • The Onett Police force in EarthBound decides that the best response to a young boy's request to open a closed road is to have five officers try to beat him up. Since said boy has Psychic Powers, it doesn't end well for the police.
  • In Fable, the guards around town beat you if you don't have enough money for a fine... and attacking in self-defense raises more charges against you. Kind of justified in a medieval setting, but still excessive.
  • All of the Grand Theft Auto games contain this; police will often shoot you for hitting their car. You're often guilty of much more, so perhaps they're justified. However, you can usually run over three or four pedestrians before they'll take any notice. Corrupt police officers are obviously abundant in the Crapsack World and will often hire the player for hits. Particularly notable is San Andreas, where Frank Tenpenny is a corrupt CRASH officer and the final mission takes place during what are basically the GTA world's version of the Rodney King riots.
  • In Half-Life 2, the Civil Protection officers (who're somewhere between cops and low-ranking Combine soldiers) are absolute scum. Anyone who so much as looks at them funny gets a beating (the player character merely coming near them makes them threateningly activate their stun batons), they mess around with people just because they can, and the La Résistance character operating undercover as one mentions being 'way behind on my beating quota'; it's not certain whether he was joking or not. They also do their best to slaughter fleeing citizens at the end of Episode One, who're fleeing because the city's about to get annihilated. The only nice cop you come across, besides Barney? A cop who just flicks cans out of rubbish bins and tells you to pick them up for a chuckle, and doesn't even threaten you besides "pick up that can". Throw it at him and you get a brief beating. They're implied to be 100% human on many occasions, so they don't even have the excuse of being brainwashed minions.
  • Lieutenant Carter Blake from Heavy Rain. He harrasses Nathaniel Williams, a religious fanatic who turns out to have nothing to do with the case, assaults Clarence Dupré, Ethan Mars' therapist for attempting to make a complaint to the police about his behavior, and if Ethan gets arrested, Blake will proceed to beat the hell out of him, only stopping when Ethan falls unconscious.
  • In Liberal Crime Squad, if you try and fail to run away from the police, they can beat you senseless, even if you were just spraying a graffito. With Death Penalty and Police Regulation laws at arch-conservative levels, it overlaps with Disproportionate Retribution: Death Squads execute on the spot any criminal they catch, no matter their crimes.
  • Occurs in Mark Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, wherein the city has enacted draconian measures to prevent graffiti, including assaulting graffiti artists with deadly force. One early level forces you to sneak away from a scene while two officers beat a graffiti artist to death while discussing how they'll decide he "resisted arrest."
  • Stryker of Mortal Kombat shows police brutality in his x-ray move, fatalities, and some parts of his fighting style. Though to be fair, Mortal Kombat is brutal. He's even fond of shouting it!
  • The FUZZ side-missions in Saints Row 2 have the main character disguising themselves as a police officer and committing wanton acts of police brutality (like breaking up a strike with a flamethrower) for a |COPS-style reality TV show.
  • In one level of Super Scribblenauts, Maxwell takes on the role of a police officer, and is eventually tasked with dispersing a peaceful hippie crowd without killing anyone.And "killing" is the center word.Sure, he can just type "megaphone" and make them disperse...or throw tear gas and flashbangs at them.Or sic a guard dog.Being a game where you can use any word, the Video Game Cruelty Potential is pretty much unlimited.

Web Comics

Web Originals

  • Pepper Spray Cop: an incident of Police Brutality during an Occupy protest at UC Davis underwent Memetic Mutation.
  • The Nostalgia Critic has learned that the police are evil, though it isn't clearly explained why.

Western Animation

  • Family Guy mocks this to hell and back. In one episode, Peter finds out that he has black ancestors, and everybody starts treating him differently. When a cop pulls him over for speeding, Peter is perfectly polite, and the cop doesn't act unusually until he remembers that particular little tidbit.

Officer: Are you that white guy who's actually a black guy?
Peter: Yes.
Officer: We need backup, stolen vehicle here.
Peter: But this is my car.
Officer: Suspect getting belligerent.
Peter: But I'm not -
Officer: Officer down! [falls to the ground]

    • In another episode, Joe gets a new police cruiser which has a robotic system for painlessly subduing perps and placing them in hand cuffs. When Cleveland tries it out—Joe's sudden realization and shouted warning a second too late—a computerized voice yells out that he's resisting and arms come down and starts beating him with batons. It goes further, crying out "Look out! He has a gun" and planting evidence.
    • This is also played with on one occasion, where some LAPD officers are violently beating Peter. Then it turns out they're just doing it so Lois can get a good picture. The police officer then later takes one last kick into Peter's side when no one is looking.
    • Lampshaded in the episode where all the police have been sent out-of-town, and every white person on the street suddenly unzips themselves, revealing them to be black people in disguise, who promptly sing "Everybody Rejoice (Brand New Day)" from The Wiz.
    • "Ready, Willing, and Disabled" centered around Joe having a Heroic BSOD from failing to capture a robber that climbed over a fence. When that robber pulls the same trick at the end of the episode, Joe ramps over the fence to tackle him down. As Joe glibly revealed to Peter in the next scene, he actually landed on the guys spine killing him.
  • Futurama has Smitty and his robot companion URL, who are just poster children for police brutality.
  • The Simpsons parodies this repeatedly.

Chief Wiggum: Set your nightsticks on "whomp."
Eddie: Uh, mine's stuck on "twirl."

  • South Park: In "Chickenlover", Eric Cartman is made a police officer. He immediately starts to abuse it, doing things like stopping Stan Marsh's dad for speeding when he was driving the speed limit.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Party Pooper Pants", the titular character get wrongfully arrested by officers John and Nancy O'Malley, just because he didn't invite them to a party he was throwing.
    • Humorously parodied in "Doing Time", where officers Nancy and Malley appear to be beating a suspect, when in reality they were fixing a parking meter.

Real Life

  • As mentioned before, police in the Soviet Union, especially the Stalin administration.

"In America, you break the law. In Soviet Russia, the law breaks you!"

    • Not to mention that you could get arrested simply because the unit was behind on its "arrest quota". Such quotas weren't driven solely by performance measures and could increase dramatically if the forced labour camps were running short of workers.
  • Arrest and prison capacity quotas exist all around the world. Yes, even in the USA where people would rather believe they don't.
  • American police are rather protective of their own brothers and sisters, as well as the people who patch them up after they get hurt. Kill a Cop, Firefighter or Paramedic, and chances are you won't be leaving in any other way than a body bag.
  • The LAPD has a history of this.
    • The NYPD, the Pinkertons.
      • The NYPD continues their tradition with the recent Occupy Wall Street protests.[2]
    • Similarly, the Houston Police have a reputation for being overzealous and racist, particularly in the Pre-Civil Rights Era.
    • Also Chicago. For some reason, the "thin blue line" of police loyalty is exceptionally thick in Chicago, and their willingness to stand up for each other has given them a similar reputation.
      • Time magazine wrote an article about incidents in 1968 ("Chicago Examined: Anatomy of a Police Riot").
      • The Chicago PD had a scandal in 2015 where it was revealed that they had a dedicated torture facility, an off-the-books safe house where detained suspects would be taken to have the crap scientifically beaten out of them rather than be taken to the station house. Particularly noteworthy in that the entire point of this place was so that people could be dragged there without having to go through booking -- in other words, the CPD was deliberately using a 'black' site to avoid having to admit that you were arrested at all, much less actually account for your presence, indict you, or allow you to call a lawyer. You just vanished, then (hopefully) showed up later with lots of new bruises you didn't want to explain. This is taking police brutality to a level that even the CIA would find mildly appalling.
  • This is a recurring theme throughout history. Those with power abuse it, and it's true of a lot of police today.
    • There is also the issue of the origins of police. Whenever a country or community starts to set up any sort of official police force to maintain law and social order against the likes of criminals, often the people hired on for the job are... former criminals.
    • Police Chief Thomas Byrnes perfected police brutality in what he calls 'The Third Degree'.
  • Saipan in the CNMI is rather well known for this alongside a heavy dose of corruption, and an arguably believable Conspiracy Theory states that Taiji Sawada was one of its more famous victims. The official story that he hanged himself in his cell doesn't make very much sense, unless you really do believe people tape their mouths before hanging themselves...
  • South Africa has a brutal and corrupt police force. The black policemen are frequently abusive and racist towards whites in their hands—Afrikaner women in particular are terrified of being arrested, because it sometimes ends with rape in the police-cells. On the other hand, today's white policemen, while not quite as bad as those from The Apartheid Era, can often be abusive and racist towards blacks; Afrikaner policemen have a particularly bad reputation in this respect. Finally, corruption/bribery is rampant in the police forces, among officers white, black, Asian, and Coloured, high-ranking, low-ranking, and everything in between.
  • Brazil is also infamous for its police cruelty, especially after the release of police actions in the states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Few people actually like the police, even when they are actually needed. Most are incompetent and trigger happy, with no problems with pointing their guns at the faces of women and the elderly for no proper reason. The rest just try to do a good job while keeping a low profile, because the corrupt ones do NOT like cops that don't "participate."
    • The only thing that separates those countries from America is that it's hard to get filmed proof of police brutality, because they made it illegal. That's right, if a corrupt cop sees you filming him beating up someone, he can just take your camera away, delete the evidence, and arrest you. (And then he'll likely beat you to a pulp.)
    • It's not that American cops aren't trying. Hence the other solution - putting the cameras on the cops themselves.
  • Jamaican police officers are frequently accused of this by relatives of people who get killed in alleged gun-battles; as a result, the force's relationship with local human-rights advocacy groups is poor.
  • Not too long ago, an optometrist was accused of illegal gambling... It did not end well.
  • A joke:

Q: How many cops does it take to break an egg?
A: None. The egg tripped.

  • The Philippine National Police (and its predecessors the Integrated National Police and the Philippine Constabulary) had problems with this in the past and present. Even a few of them are known to be colluding with criminals that most of the populace do not trust them. The National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency shares this too, although not much. President Aquino III's campaign includes ridding corruption from within law enforcement, but time will tell if he has effectively done it. A recent incident with a dismissed police officer and a hijacked bus did lead to some setbacks initially...
  • The Egyptian police forces are notorious for their brutality, with beatings of suspect and torture and rape of prisoners common. This is widely acknowledged to be a systemic problem: the career officers—particularly senior officers—were trained to serve the interests of the Police State, and their underlings are generally illiterate peasant conscripts who are unaware of the fact that police officers can be civil in their relations with the public...and of course, the senior officers do nothing to educate these grunts, since a brutal police force keeps the population frightened. Elements known to make police even worse—such as the aforementioned Soviet "arrest quotas" and keeping cops poorly paid—are intentionally used as part of this overall strategy. Reform of the police system is fairly high on the agenda in revolutionary Egypt, although with the police being a deeply-entrenched part of the country's power elite, this is easier said than done.
  • A simple search on Youtube brings up dozens of videotaped incidents of police brutality in America, as well as many other nations. Watching some of these videos however is not recommended for the faint of heart, unless you happen to have a bucket handy.
  1. The shoemaker had resorted to stealing from the poor box because the Mafia don had bled him dry in a protection racket, causing the Shoemaker to lose his business and be abandoned by his family)
  2. Beating up protestors, pepper spraying them, arresting the non-violent protestors, running over a protestor with a motorcycle, and forced evictions