Da Chief

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
T.Rex! You can't stomp that house! You don't have a warrant!

"I'm sick and tired of making excuses for you two! You’re an embarrassment to the department! You're off the case and off the force. Your badges, your windbreakers, now."

Abed Nadir, Community

The Cowboy Cop's eternally put-upon superior. Always strict and by-the-book. Can be comfortably relied upon to give a good McCloud Speech, say that You Have 48 Hours or demand that you Turn in Your Badge, usually at the top of his formidable voice. Frequently worried that the mayor or district attorney will have his ass (and pension) for whatever destruction was caused. Will occasionally prove to have a heart by giving his men an inspirational speech. Can frequently be relied on to be the police department equivalent of A Father to His Men. Of course in the By-The-Book Cop's case, Da Chief would the exact opposite, he is rather flexible in terms of laying down the law and views the By-The-Book Cop's attempts to find a solution with minimal violence as counterproductive and expects zero negotiations with criminals or terrorists. But will be quite proud of the cop if he meets up to the expectation stating how he found someone's idealism of justice pulling through.

Depending on his milieu and personal tastes, he may be sporting a mustache, wearing suspenders (belt braces), a pistol in a shoulder holster, or a cigar firmly planted in a corner of his mouth. Frequently (though by no means always) a Reasonable Authority Figure. Sometimes a Private Detective will have him as a Friend on the Force. If they are not friends of the main characters/group, then they are usually The Neidermeyer and exist only to have their authority stepped over while they bluster.

Examples of Da Chief include:

Anime and Manga

  • The anime Dominion Tank Police plays with this; The Chief is eternally furious with his subordinates for not being ruthless enough in the pursuit of evildoers.
  • A very unusual Chief is Aramaki from Ghost in the Shell. He's a short elderly man known for his kindness and wisdom who never raises his voice or carries a gun. But he's also a Magnificent Bastard whose work consists mostly of dealing with all the red tape and the general political mess of the Japanese national security forces so his agents can do their work. He's also totally unflappable under pressure. When a group of half-witted robbers take him hostage, he openly berates them for the "mistakes" they make while committing the crime.
  • Sector Chief Andrew F. Gooley held the unenviable position of direct superior to the Dirty Pair.
  • Lt. Dastun from The Big O has a relationship like this with protagonist Roger Smith, mostly because Roger used to serve under him in the Military Police, and old habits are presumably hard to shake.
  • The Chief from FAKE has to deal with both Dee AND JJ whining at him on a regular basis. His bark seems to be worse than his bite though - Dee refers to him as a "baby seal" at one point (and is promptly yelled at for it, naturally).
  • Eclipse from Kiddy Grade. She's also got G-class superpowers on par with Eclair and Lumiere.
  • Chief Todo from Bubblegum Crisis.
  • Kachou (literally "Section Chief" in Japanese; translated as "Chief") in You're Under Arrest. Word of God has that Kachou is his real name (written differently, of course), it's just a coincidence.
  • Captain Goto in Patlabor. Really, though, anyone above the rank of Officer follows this trope - all the Labor crews are mavericks. He subverts this at the same time, as he was originally assigned to Special Vehicles Section 2 for... being too damn smart for his own good in the past.
  • Silent Moebius has two: Rally Cheyenne started as chief of the AMP, but eventually got promoted upstairs, at which point Mana Isozaki took over direct control.
  • Kosaka from Witch Hunter Robin, to some extent, but more of an Obstructive Bureaucrat.
  • Naruto: Tsunade, with Naruto in the role of the Cowboy Cop who plays by his own rules. Like wearing orange.
  • Digimon Savers ' Captain Satsuma is intimidating just by his appearance alone: factor in his deep voice (in both versions!) and the fact he raises his voice when he gets pissed means he didn't get his nickname of "Oni no Ikkatsu" (lit. 'The Demon's Thunderous Roar') for nothing. When Masaru, Tohma and (by circumstance) Yoshino all broke the rules in episode 5? You didn't get in trouble, but you're lying if you didn't shrink back in your seat when he first hollered "YOU IDIOT!!"
  • Detective Conan has Inspector Meguire on the police force that fits this trope in form, if not in function.
  • Chief Kenji Tsuragamae from My Hero Academia. This guy's quirk gave him a dog's head and a verbal tic that causes him to bark every few words, but when he's talking, you'd damn well better listen.

Comic Books

  • Commissioner James Gordon fits this trope in relationship to his subordinate police officers, however not in relationship to Batman, who is not under his authority.
  • Maria Hill back when she was director of SHIELD.
  • Captain Cross in Powers has his cigar-chomping moments.


  • Pink Panther: Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus, actually attempted to kill his unrestrainable officer, Jacques Clouseau, when his antics got out of hand.
  • As played by Frank McRae:
    • Last Action Hero: Parodied in the form of Lieutenant Dekker, who delivers what is possibly the quintessential Turn in Your Badge speech—a two-minute-long tirade which rapidly degenerates into shouted gibberish (involving—among other things—Ferraris, the California Raisins, and The Diary of Anne Frank) while steam erupts from his ears.
    • Da Chief in 48 Hrs., Another 48 Hrs.
    • The Police Chief of Loaded Weapon 1. The chief not only devolves into shouting gibberish "If you embarrass this department, your pants will be dancing with figs. Is that clear?". He also shouts when he's complimenting his agents or otherwise not angry with them. It's even lampshaded and invoked:

[Luger is yelling about wanting the case]
Captain Doyle: Wait a minute! I'm the captain here! I do all the yelling! But if it's that important to you, take the damn case!

  • James Bond: M, particularly in Licence to Kill and Casino Royale.
  • Parodied in So I Married an Axe Murderer, in which a police detective character expresses dissatisfaction that his job is not more like the movies—partly because his boss, far from the trope, is a pleasant, amiable and good-natured administrator with an easy-going temper. In fact, the chief is so amiable, he tries to help out by pretending to be infuriated. It's rough going at first, but he does improve.
  • The Chief from the Lethal Weapon series.
  • Beverly Hills Cop. Inspector Todd is Axel Foley's boss in the Detroit Police Department. He gives Foley a hard time about his Cowboy Cop activities, tells him not to get involved with the investigation into Tandino's death and warns him if he does he's out of a job and up on charges.
    • Todd was played by Gil Hill, who really was a Da Chief in Detroit.
    • And when Axel gets to Beverly Hills, he runs afoul of Da Local Chief in Lieutenant Bogomil, who really does run things by the book and is constantly being ridden by Chief Hubbard.
    • The incompetent and rude Chief Lutz in the second movie.
  • The one from Exit Wounds. Notable because he punishes Steven Seagal's character for saving the Vice-President's life in a shoddy manner. Because in real life nobody is ever honored nation-wide.
  • Bon Cop, Bad Cop has the extremely entertaining Capitaine LeBoeuf, who gives an epic Turn in Your Badge rant, with RAEG turned Up to Eleven, to a stoned Dave.
  • Lieutenant "Mac" McMahon in Speed.
  • Captain Howard in Bad Boys.
  • Chi(ef) McBride played one in Undercover Brother. The Chief's very first interaction with Undercover Brother is a relentless browbeating typical of this trope despite the fact that they'd never even met.

Chief: Where the hell have you been?! This is a job, not some kind of damn summer camp! And I'm tired of you disrespecting me! Give me one good reason why I shouldn't fire your sorry ass!
Undercover Brother: Because I don't work for you?

  • Commander Camparelli in Flight of the Intruder.
  • A staple of Dirty Harry movies.
  • Miller, who is Elaine's gruff superior at the police station in Angels Revenge. He doesn't approve of the Angels' hijinks or Elaine's involvement, but he eventually warms to the idea—when the Angels bring the captured drugs to his office while in their bathing suits.
  • Ed O'Neill's character in The Bone Collector.


  • Julius Root from Artemis Fowl.
  • Commander Vimes from the Discworld books is a subversion of this; he's often the main character and a definite Cowboy Cop despite being Da Chief (the Patrician has commented that maintaining an anti-authoritatian attitude while actually being authority is "practically Zen"). The Patrician sometimes fulfills the role, though. Especially when he makes Vimes turn in his badge. (Pratchett has said on the alt.fan.pratchett newsgroup that, in American cop show terms, the Vetinari/Vimes conversations are closer to the never-seen conversations that lead to Da Chief telling the Cowboy Cop "The mayor is riding my ass on this one!")
    • And Vetinari, being the Chessmaster and Magnificent Bastard that he is, has on multiple occasions acted like Da Chief, specifically to trigger Vimes Cowboy Cop nature. This allows him to reap the benefits, while everyone including Vimes himself thinks it was his idea, and thus all the power players blame Vimes for the trouble.
  • Literary example, and either a subversion or a case of Lampshade Hanging: In Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crime books, true crime stories are hugely popular, and many police procedures are determined purely on the basis of how good a story they would make. As a result, the main character's boss always behaves like a traditional Chief, knowing full well that he is fulfilling the stereotype. It is explicitly stated that he makes a point of suspending his officers at least once in every investigation.
    • Also played straight with the character of Braxton Hicks in the Thursday Next series.
  • Harold Peters Inskipp, commander of the Special Corps, in Harry Harrison's SF novel The Stainless Steel Rat and its sequels.
    • The first time "Slippery" Jim diGriz (the titular Rat) meets him, it takes him a second to make the connection between the authoritarian head of the Special Corps (whose name is not public knowledge) and legendary criminal "Inskipp the Uncatchable". The two are, of course, one and the same.
  • Both Commander Whitney and Chief Tibble serve the role of Da Chief to Eve Dallas in J. D. Robb's In Death novels.
  • Don in the Night Huntress books, to some degree.
  • Grijpstra and de Gier series by Janwillem van de Wetering: The Commissaris, a sweet, elderly man with a pet turtle.
  • Matthew Hawkwood: Chief Magistrate James Read fills this role in the novels, although he relies on a biting wit to keep in charges in line.

Live Action TV

  • Captain Trunk from Sledge Hammer!, whose complete inability to rein in his loose-cannon subordinate reduced him to a neurotic wreck. Catch phrase: "HAMMER!"
  • Lieutenant Giardello from Homicide: Life on the Street. Though he will often go out of his way to protect his men, he is not above disciplining them if necessary. While pleasant and certainly a mentor figure, he also takes a certain joy in his power.
    • Rawls and Burrell take on this role during the Commanders' Briefings on The Wire.

Burrell: "This is Baltimore, Gentlemen. The gods will not save you."

  • The Chief in Get Smart (he had a real name, but only the occasional guest character used it). Less responsible for handling a Cowboy Cop than a Genius Ditz, but it results in the same amount of frustration and headache.
  • Chief Clifford in McCloud. As a big-city New York Chief of Detectives, his conflict with the Wild West, New Mexican ways of the title character, a literal Cowboy Cop, provided much of the show's drama.
  • New Tricks: Sandra Pullman—although the show plays with this by showing Pullman's boss, who is even more uptight and rules-conscious than her, and who just as often chews her out as often as she chews her subordinates out.
  • Superintendant "Horn-rimmed Harry" Mullett in A Touch of Frost.
  • Lieutenant Castillo in Miami Vice.
  • Captain Grazer in Alien Nation.
    • More a subversion, really... Grazer was an effeminate, greedy, brown-nosing lazy Jerkass. However, he did smoke cigars.
  • Chief Supt. Gordon Spikings in Dempsey and Makepeace.
  • Chief Sinclair on CSI: NY
  • Captain Ed Hocken in the Police Squad! TV series and The Naked Gun films
  • The Chief in Funky Squad.
  • Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?: A rare female example is Lynne Thigpen's character, 'The Chief'. In the earlier series, the quizmaster Greg would come into her office Once an Episode for a sketch where he would play the role of Cowboy Cop, even if he didn't act like one at all the rest of the time.[1]
  • In the Lost episodes "Collision" and "Two for the Road," Cowboy Cop Ana-Lucia's vexed captain is also her mother.
  • In the Law and Order franchise:
  • General George Hammond from Stargate SG 1. In addition to reining in Colonel O'Neill, he also acted as the parent who broke up the bickering kids when the team argued, and never failed to stick up for them, especially in O'Neill's case as his snarking and 'screw the man' attitude almost got him kicked out the Air Force on more than one occasion.
  • Seriously subverted on Dexter with Lt. Laguerta for the most part, but select scenes with Sgt. Doakes fit the trope fairly well. Arguably played straight with Captain Matthews, Laguerta's superior (though Matthews has been rarely seen since the second season).
  • NCIS:
    • Another female example was Director Jenny Sheppard, whose relationship with Gibbs was complicated by the fact that he had seen her in stocking suspenders, the two having had an affair.
    • Leon Vance replaced Sheppard. He fits the role of Da Chief perfectly, including the being black part. He also has a tooth pick in his mouth; you can't smoke in the NCIS building.
    • And later episodes have the Secretary of the Navy, who the NCIS director reports directly to, playing a larger role in the series.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: Admiral Maxwell Forrest, Starfleet Chief of Staff.
  • The Bill. The CID heads and the Superintendents:
    • DCI Jack Meadows for CID.
    • Arguably DI Manson also for CID.
    • DI Burnside for CID.
    • DI Galloway for CID.
    • Chief Superintendent Charles Brownlow
    • Superintendent Tom Chandler (until he went crazy and killed himself)
    • Superintendent Adam Okaro (who was black)
    • Superintendent John Heaton
    • Superintendent Jack Meadows
  • Colonel Potter in M*A*S*H.
  • Captain Dobey in Starsky and Hutch.
  • Colonal Tigh in the original Battlestar Galactica.
  • Sergeant Brown in The Unusuals.
  • Chief Warrant Officer Michael Garibaldi of Babylon 5 is a rare combination of Da Chief and Da Cowboy Cop.
  • Parodied in Garth Marenghi's Darkplace. Hospital supervisor Thornton Reed is written as the standard cantakerous old boss, yet due to the Bad Bad Acting of the person playing him is anything but.
  • A Saturday Night Live skit introduces the south of the border equivalent of da chief, "El Jefe." EL JEFE!!!
  • SSA Aaron Hotchner, of Criminal Minds, especially in Seasons 3 and 4 after Rossi shows up. (See, in particular, episode 4x17 "Demonology". with both the Bureau and the State Department riding Hotch's ass.) Except in Season 5 after Foyet's attack, Hotch seems to be turning into the Cowboy Cop, putting former enemy Erin Strauss in the role of Da Chief.
  • Rescue Me has Fire Chief Jerry Reilly, eventually replaced by Sidney Feinberg and Needles Nelson.
  • U.S. Marshal Art Mullen on Justified fills this role.
  • Subverted on The Shield by Captain (later Councilman) David Aceveda. While he was often frustrated by the antics of the cowboy cops under his command(Vic Mackey in particular) and provided many of the elements this trope requires, on multiple occasions he himself was involved in illegal or illicit activity and occasionally veered into cowboy cop territory himself.
  • Parodied on Community when Annie and Shirley become campus security guards and Genre Savvy Abed coaches the Dean on how to act like an angry police chief towards them; he gets to like the role so much he takes over.

Annie:"That African-American police chief Abed was playing was right!"

  • Inspector Brakenreid in Murdoch Mysteries.
  • The X-Files: FBI Assistant Director Skinner is more reserved than the classical archetype, but he fulfills pretty much the same function to Mulder and Scully: giving them 48 hours to solve a case, demanding them to turn in their weapons, wearing suspenders, and generally being a Reasonable Authority Figure whenever he is not being pressured by The Conspiracy.
  • Simon Banks of The Sentinel. He's A Father to His Men, he wears suspenders, smokes cigars, usually has on a shoulder holster, and always has the mayor up his ass. He can be hard-nosed, but at the same time he gives Ellison a lot of leeway (like letting him be followed around by an Anthropology student). Really, all he needs is a moustache.
  • In The Good Guys, lieutenant Anna Ruiz fits the trope description perfectly, which fits the show's concept as a parody of cop shows. She did sleep with Dan, though, but all women sleep with Dan.
  • In Reno 911!, Lieutenant Dangle is a parody of this trope. He appears to fit the trope pretty frequently, but he's also shown to be... well... many, many unsavory things.
  • The Shadow Line has Patterson, Jonah Gabriel's boss, who spends much of the series chewing Gabriel out and discouraging Gabriel from further investigating Harvey Wratten's murder. His boss, Commander Khokar, is another, more hostile example. However, both of them subvert the by-the-book part of the trope when they turn out to be working for Counterpoint.
  • Blue Heelers has Senior Sergeant Tom Croyden, though a straighter example would be the recurring Inspectors Monica Draper and Russell Falcon-Price.
  • Inspector Thatcher and Lt. Walsh on Due South.
  • Several undersherriffs take on this role in CSI with Mobley and Atwater in the earlier seasons, and later McKeen and most recently Ecklie.
  • City Homicide has Detective Superintendant Waverley, and arguably Detective Senior Sergeants Stanley Wolf and Terry Jarvis. Matt Ryan takes on this role after being promoted to Sergeant.
  • Not a police show, but in Neighbours Senior Sergeant Allan Steiger took on this role when Stuart Parker joined the force.
  • The same applies to Sergeant Darren McGrath in Home and Away when Peter, Jack and Charlie's work is the focus.
  • The Closer and Prime Suspect are notable for having one of these as the main character (Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson and DCI Jane Tennison, respectively), though both have their own Chiefs: DCS Michael Kernin and Assistant Chief Will Pope.
  • Lennart Brix in Forbrydelsen is another of the more cerebrally threatening and less noisy versions of this character type.


  • One of the Beastie Boys played this role in the music video to "Sabotage".


  • Bill Bailey does a riff on this trope on the Cosmic Jam DVD of his one man stage show.


  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney,
    • Police Chief Damon Gant is a friendly chap who keeps inviting people to go swimming with him. He's also a blackmailer and a murderer. Phoenix refers to Mia as 'the Chief'.
    • The first three games feature a literal background character in the form of the head detective, who seems a total slacker, forever watching Asian soap operas and having Internet conversations with 1337aZnPrInceSz.
  • Pursuit Force: The character of the Chief from the PSP game series is an intentional homage/parody of this character type; appropriate, as the Pursuit Force series itself is an unashamed homage/parody of the "cowboy cop action movie" genre in general. Though he's not openly antagonistic towards his team, he's a grumpy hardass who's constantly riding them to get results. He's also got some hilarious comments in the case of outright failure:

Chief: What, have you got wax in your ears!? I specifically told you not to die!

  • In Mass Effect, Executor Pallin fills the role for resident Cowboy Cop Garrus Vakarian in C-Sec, complete with the traditional "Your investigation is finished!" argument.
  • True Crime: Streets of LA. The police chief is pretty reasonable, but the FBI chief fits this trope to a T.
  • In the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Vector the Crocodile of the Chaotix Detective Agency plays with this: he doesn't work for any sort of government authority and is not bound by their rules, but he still insists his two employees (and Charmy in particular) behave themselves and appear professional so they can get the job done and look good for their clients, despite being quite unprofessional himself. Once the job is finished, however, they have no qualms about beating the tar out of thier client if they were tricked or unpaid.
  • In L.A. Noire, since you're constantly being transferred to different departments, you cycle through a number of Chiefs, but they all warn you to be on your best behavior.

Web Comics

"Shut up, Detective."

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Chief Quimby from Inspector Gadget. While not being much of a blowhard himself, he nevertheless suffers greatly from Gadget's bumbling.
  • Junior Comissioner Vallejo in Fillmore! fits this trope perfectly.
  • Captain Fanzone of Transformers Animated is this type.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The family watch a show about a Cowboy Cop called McGonnagle, a beautiful parody of this trope.

Da Chief: You're off the case, McGonnagle!
McGonnagle: You're off your case, chief!
Da Chief: [Perplexed] What... does that mean, exactly?
Homer: It means he gets results, you stupid chief!

    • And of course there's McBain's chief in one of his films where he's going after his arch foe (MENDOOOSSSAAAAAA!)

Chief: In this station we do things by the BOOK!
(Holds up book of regulations...which McBain propmtly blows a hole through)
McBain: Bye bye book.

  • The Chief in Teamo Supremo.
  • The Chief in Action League NOW, with a case of No Name Given. Particularly irate in that his men are often incompetent and cause massive chaos WITHOUT getting the job done.
  • The South Park episode parodying cop shows/movies has a chief constantly yelling at the boys for collateral damage, frequently repeating the phrase "The Mayor is gonna have my ass!" This eventually devolves into "The mayor...my ass...bleh bleh BLEH!" The fun part was that the boys were completely innocent about the collateral damages. All times it was just that they happened to end up in the middle of different gang-fights.
  • Commander Stargazer in Silverhawks. He'd be out there with the rest of them, though, if he weren't an older model, and therefore not powerful enough to take on the Mob alone. He's rather fatherly towards the Hawks, particularly Quicksilver and Copper Kid.
  • In The Batman, Gordon didn't appear until the last episode of Season Two. Until then, the one who would qualify would be Chief Rojas, a Jerkass type and a Mean Boss to the other police, who considered Batman as much of a threat as the villains he fought.
  • Commander Joseph Walsh from Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. Voiced by the same guy as Stargazer. The Series 5 team is always just on the borderline of acceptability. His rival, Obstructive Bureaucrat (and Jerkass) Senator Whiner, is always looking for an excuse to shut the whole thing down. Still, Walsh knows that if he gives his Badass Crew 24 hours, they get the results. He and Zach both trade off on A Father to His Men moments, too. In Walsh's case, it's a bit more literal, as Shane actually is Walsh's biological son.
  • A key component of Assy McGee.
  • Lin Beifong, daughter of Earthbending champion Toph, is the chief of the Republic City metalbending police in The Legend of Korra. She cares nothing for Korra's Avatar status, especially since the first thing Korra did in the city was smash up a street.
    • She proves to be less by the book, however, when she decides she's going to track down Amon and her missing metalbenders even if she has to go outside the law. Not quite as by-the-book as she first appeared.
  1. Also seen in Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiago