Police Brutality Gambit – TV Tropes
Officer O’Troper is in an interrogation room with Professor Evil, he’s started getting somewhere. They found his fingerprints all over the Death Ray and they have a receipt for a fluxoid charger from Radio Shack paid for with foreign money out of Professor Evil’s account. It’s an open and shut- HEY! Why’s the professor clawing at his own face? Prof. Evil then proceeds to cry Police Brutality and they’re forced to release him, and he then finds an Ambulance Chaser and proceeds to unleash a Frivolous Lawsuit on poor old O’Troper. A subtrope of Wounded Gazelle Gambit which occurs in Police Procedurals. Basically a suspect injures himself and accuses the police of Police Brutality in order to try and get the charges dropped. Alternately, the suspect may incite the officer into hitting him.
In reality, this rarely works; real-life interrogations are sometimes filmed, while police cars normally have audio and video recorders running at all times. And both judges and juries are in general more disposed to believe the word of a cop when it comes down to a he-said, she-said situation (which can be unfortunate when the cop really is corrupt).
Not to be confused with Good Cop/Bad Cop, where police use the threat of brutality as a gambit.
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Anime and Manga
- In one chapter of Cat’s Eye a perp does his worse to piss off the police officers interrogating him and trying to save him from whatever Cat’s Eye would do him for stealing their target for a heist, and upon getting punched by a fed-up officer he starts claiming police brutality. It bites him back in the ass when Hitomi disguises herself as Asatani and uses the situation to trick the police to leave alone her with the perp, who nearly gets an heart attack.
- One episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex starts with an off-duty Togusa coming to the aid of a woman being chased by an armed cyborg; Togusa has no choice but to aim at the cyborg’s arms and legs just to disable him, but the cyborg still manages to shoot the woman and kill her anyway. The cyborg’s defence (with the help of a corrupt District Attorney) tries to claim Togusa has a grudge against cyborgs (on the grounds that being the only baseline human in a team full of them gave him an Inferiority Superiority Complex) and accuse him of excessive force (with the intention of blackmailing Section 9 through it). There was enough incriminating evidence to give the criminal his own proper trial for murder anyway, but Section 9 weren’t happy about how Togusa was treated; the cyborg and his attorney had an unfortunate car accident.
- In the book The Invisible by Mats Wahl, one of the suspects smugly points out that the female cop who had struck her earlier (after said suspect rambled after killing and beating up the victim, who the female cop sympathized with) could be used as evidence against the cops.
- There’s no violence involved, but in An Uncertain Place, by Fred Vargas, part of Emma Carnot‘s plan to demolish Adamsberg’s career involves planting false evidence in order for the rest of the police to think that Adamsberg himself planted the evidence in order to accuse Vaudel’s son of being the murderer.
- In Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, Magdalene Lee goes into hysterics and rushes away as she and her husband George are being interrogated, and George (who’s in Parliament) promises to raise questions of police brutality in the House and slams the door. She returns later alone to admit she was calling her lover on the night of the murder and therefore wanted to get George away.
Live Action TV
- In a sketch on Alas Smith and Jones, a criminal having been warned that anything he says may be taken down and used in evidence starts reciting (deadpan) “What are you doing officer? Stop hitting me…” as the constable dutifully writes it down.
- In The Closer, Captain Raydor is royally pissed when she misses Christmas with the family because a creepy child makes some rather unconvincing claims about Pope beating him up in a closet with a baseball bat. Keep in mind, the kid’s untouched, and her investigation is nothing but a technicality.
- CSI: Miami. One of the Big Bads does this. Horatio is forced to release him until the medical examiner shows that the injuries were self-inflicted. The second time, Horatio does not even do anything about it. Somehow putting cameras in the interrogation room must be too expensive. Probably because they blew the budget on those holographic Viewer Friendly Interfaces.
- CSI: NY:
- A random crook tries this, and Mac simply points out how easy it would be for them to prove that neither he nor Detective Flack could have injured him, so he hurt himself for nothing.
- An accidental version occurs a few episodes later when a teenager collapses while alone with Flack. It turns out that he was responsible for framing the Victim Of The Week as being a pedophile and took an overdose of pills, which caused him to collapse. Flack is cleared in the following episode.
- In a previous episode, a Serial Killer whom Mac had been chasing for some time decided to throw himself off a building after being handcuffed so Mac would be accused of murder.
- On The Inside a psychopathic little girl threw herself out of a treehouse and broke her arm, pointing the finger at Agent Locke who had just confronted her with evidence she was the murderer of the week.
- JAG: In “Survivors”, a Shell Shocked Marine Colonel intends to take his son, whom he believes to be the reincarnation of a war buddy from The Vietnam War, to a cabin in the woods. Faced with an arrest warrant, he has a scuffle with an unsympathetic deputy sheriff at a gas station. Having almost reached the cabin, with the help of Harm, the cops also arrive. The incensed deputy sheriff tries to arrest Harm, but Meg claims that she has a tape from a surveillance camera at the gas station, which would show that the deputy sheriff had committed acts of Police Brutality. Although it’s later revealed that Meg had no such video, the deputy sheriff had in fact been more brutal than necessary at the gas station and backed off from arresting Harm as a precaution.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
- There was once a case where Stabler beat up a suspect who fought back and accidentally hit Benson. When asked about the badly beaten man’s injuries, Cabot claimed that the only ones he had were on his fist were from punching the detective and threatened to charge him with assaulting a police officer. Another time, after it was pointed out that Fin and Stabler could be charged with assault after a particularly brutal interrogation, Fin just dismissed it and said he would like to see a lawyer try it. (Of course, it would have been hard in that case, because the assault was their response to the suspect saying he needed an attorney, so he was unlikely to ask for one again even if he had not committed suicide in the interrogation room.)
- One episode had a perp pull this on Stabler, claiming he followed him home after he was released and jumped him. The stuffy, unlikeable, Internal Affairs agent naturally brings Stabler in on these charges, believing the perp in an instant, but that might be because Elliot has a history of using the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique.
- SVU really likes this trope… In the episode “Delinquent”, a variant of this trope is invoked when an arrested teen loudly accuses Stabler of “touching his junk” as a patrolman is walking by. Since they were in a storage room at the time (using it as temporary lock-up rather than throwing the kid in with the adult criminals) and had their backs to the door (because the kid’s hands were cuffed behind him, and Stabler was in the process of cuffing him to a rail), the patrolman could only testify in court to what he heard and what he didn’t see. And once again that Internal Affairs agent instantly believes the perp.
- This happened in an episode of Life – a suspect slammed his head onto a table and then started claiming that Crews was a crazy cop who pulled a knife on him earlier (which he did, while attempting to apprehend the suspect) and now was terrorizing him. They did have to let him go – not because of the fake injury (they had tapes) but the pulled-a-knife-on-him thing, which was kind of against the rules.
- Millennium. A Creepy Child does this to discredit Frank Black.
- Inverted in Reno 911!. After giving up chasing a Burger Fool mascot who disrespected them, officer Jones and Garcia have a friendly conversation with him about the chase. It comes the reasons why he was able to get away was because his milkshake costume was so heavily padded; the mascot invited the two to beat up on him with nightsticks to prove his invulnerability, to no avail. The three depart on friendly terms and soon after the milkshake guy gets hit by a speeding vehicle due to not looking both ways. But since the entire chase was filmed, it was easy work for Internal Affairs to recut it to look like the Reno cops intentionally beat up and pushed the poor man into traffic.
- In the pilot episode of RoboCop: The Series, during Robo’s first attempt to arrest Cray Mallardo, Mallardo screams and bends over in a manner that makes it look like Robocop is beating him from the perspective of the security camera in the corner. It wouldn’t have held up in court against Robo’s memory files, but Robocop was shot by The Dragon with an enormous rifle the moment he left the building, rendering him unable to testify.
- Occasionally referenced in The Shield, but it’s almost always subverted: Vic Mackey does employ police brutality, all the damn time, but he’s so intimidating that the suspects will rarely if ever actually try to accuse him of it. One notable exception is when a suspect freaked out over Vic’s bad cop methods and screamed police brutality, but Vic never even actually touched him. Vic is very confused.
Aceveda: What did you do?!
- Referenced in The Wire: Bird is injured during his arrest, so Landsman takes a Polaroid of his existing injuries so he can’t claim they were inflicted in custody. But Bird is so insulting to his interrogators that Daniels ritually tears up the Polaroid in front of him before he, Landsman and Greggs commence with a three-man beat-down.
- In The X-Files the mutant serial killer Tooms sneaks into Mulder’s apartment and beats himself up with one of his shoes, causing Mulder to be warned to stay away from him. The fact that Mulder ranted that Tooms was a killer mutant at his trial didn’t help.
- A memorably funny instance on an episode of World’s Dumbest…: a guy punches a cement wall, then starts screaming about how the police had broken his hand during the arrest. When informed that he’s on camera, he curls up on his bunk and starts crying.
- At least two other instances involve a guy banging his head against the partition in the police car in full view of the car’s camera saying how he’s going to get out/get back at the cop due to ‘police brutality’.
- Inverted in Ripper, where Detective Magnotta beats up Jake Quinlan in the interrogation room, then scratches himself with a knife so he can claim he was defending himself.
- Gaia: Viviana combined this with Batman Gambit: She allowed herself to be captured by the Canian military, as part of her plan to incite rebellion. She snuck recording devices in with her, betting on the Canians looking going straight to torturing her, due to her past as leader of The Shadowdancers. She figured her people would get her out before the Canians could do any real damage to her (or at least was prepared to make that sacrifice). She didn’t count on Eldor strolling in, slaughtering half her captors, and kidnapping her for his own purposes.
- Star Wars Rebels: In “Through Imperial Eyes”, Ezra makes it look like Agent Kallus was beating him to get a confession. Unlike most examples, however, this is because the person supposedly using Police Brutality is actually the Reverse Mole, and they’re trying to avoid getting him caught. The government in question couldn’t care less about their officers committing police brutality, and would even encourage it (said Reverse Mole is implied to have willingly beat up prisoners in the past when he was still loyal, hence why the characters are trying to keep this image up).
- Doesn’t work so well in Real Life. Most of the time it comes down to the police officer’s word against the suspect’s, and most judges will end up siding with the cop.
- This trope is one of the main reasons why most jurisdictions have fitted out police interrogation rooms and cells with video cameras; it’s a lot harder to pull this kind of stunt when it’s all being videotaped. Of course, it acts as a deterrent to any officer who does feel like getting a bit too physical with a suspect as well.
- Unfortunately, in dirty precincts, such footage can “go missing”, or be otherwise tampered with.
- This trope is also discussed in Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets, from which Homicide: Life on the Street took much of its inspiration. Whilst acknowledging that genuine police brutality does exist, the author notes that since most of the murders that the detectives face occur either between criminals or to people that the detective has no particular personal stake in, there’s actually not a great deal of incentive for the cops to risk the case, their clear-up rates and their careers to rough up some local criminal simply to get him to confess to killing another local criminal.
- Of course the book did have an example of a case blowing up when one detective said that they had a phone book in the interview room to look up an address while the accused said they had beaten him with it.
- Michael Jackson claimed in an interview that he had been injured and mistreated when he was booked on child molestation charges in 2003. The police department in question released video and audio tape to discredit his claims, although Jackson’s family still claimed that they were biased. The charges were investigated and eventually rejected the following year (this makes the “They Don’t Care About Us” lyric “I’m a victim of police brutality” Harsher in Hindsight…since he wasn’t).
- A woman who was pulled over and arrested by a traffic cop in Palm Beach, Florida accused the cop of raping her. Luckily the police car’s camera proved she was lying.
- One recent incident had a man in a jail cell beat himself up to try and frame the police for assaulting him. The cell, however, had a security camera which was quickly pulled out as evidence.
Published at Mon, 27 Jan 2020 10:22:00 +0000