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Hawkgirl: Standard interrogation technique. I was Bad Cop.

Superman: You're always Bad Cop.

Hawkgirl: Well, why play against type?
Justice League, "The Terror Beyond"

A type of Perp Sweating frequently used in Crime and Punishment shows.

One cop behaves in a very threatening and menacing way towards the suspect, while the other appears sympathetic, helpful and protective. The suspect is expected to be cooperative with the "good cop".

Sometimes presented as a Subverted Trope, where the Genre Savvy suspect makes fun of this technique.

An increasingly common variation/subversion on this trope, known as Bad Cop/Worse Cop, is based on a reversal. The first cop behaves menacingly and threateningly, and the second cop appears initially to be sympathetic then, usually in a whisper, indicates his partner and tells the perp, "He's the good cop," before revealing a far harsher and more threatening attitude toward the perp.

Two cops arguing about who gets to be the Bad Cop is a common extension of the trope.

An example of Truth in Television — both straight and subverted. This is a classic interrogation technique, but real cops generally use it only on frightened or naive suspects, because cooler heads tend to recognize it and feel insulted. In real life, this technique is used to imply that the "Bad Cop" will eventually cause some real injury to the suspect, and that cooperating with the "Good Cop" is the only way to avoid this. This makes it a legally risky maneuver because of the potential for the interrogator to say something genuinely coercive.

Not to be confused with the Canadian film Bon Cop, Bad Cop.

Examples of Good Cop, Bad Cop include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Muhyo and Roji, this is subverted. Jyo acts quite polite to the pair when they're called in for questioning about a disappearance, while his partner is less trusting. Muhyo suspects that it's just an act and he doesn't actually believe in magical law. It turns out that Jyo actually is desperate enough to solve the case that he would trust them, and was being sincere.
  • In Durarara, Kadota initially seems to be the "bad cop", when he interrogates a thug by beating him up. But then, after he turns the guy over to Walker and Erika, it's clear that Kadota is the good cop and they are the bad ones.
  • Pokémon does this in one episode, with Cilan and Meowth in the respective roles, trying to interrogate the current Monster of the Week: a Scrafty.
  • Gintama takes this to eleven when they combine it with 'Carrot and Stick' and invert good/bad and carrot/stick to accommodate the twisted mind of a sociopath. You see, to a serial killer, the goodness of the good cop will come off as offensive. One person has to be the bad cop and offer him the 'carrot' and then follow that up with a personality change into good cop and offer the 'stick' — because serial killers prefer sticks to carrots. Follow?


  • A volume of Paul Chadwick's comic series Concrete perfectly highlights the use of this trope. Two police detectives, Rimmer and Michaels, are interrogating suspects in a suspicious accident on a movie set. With the first suspect, they do the routine perfectly, with one cop getting angry and the other trying to cool him down. Then they go and interrogate the second suspect, and do the routine again--except with the cops playing the opposite parts. You can always tell whose turn it is to be bad cop because he's wearing his gun in the interrogation room.
  • In an issue of the X-Men spinoff X-Factor, during one of its Darker and Edgier periods (in the 90s, of course), two of the team members confront a villain and mention they'd considered playing Good Cop/Bad Cop, but neither of them wanted to be the "Good Cop". Unfortunately for them, the attempt at intimidation is a total failure and the bad guy gets away.
  • Most of the partnered cops shown in the Gotham Central comics series fall naturally into this routine.

 Morillo (Keystone cop): Nice good cop-bad cop routine you've got there.

      • Interestingly, before being partnered with Detective Allen, Montoya was paired with Harvey Bullock. Renee Montoya was Good Cop, he was Bad.
    • In one story, a criminal found himself facing Montoya, Bullock and "Hardback" Bock, who informed him the current setup was "Bad Cop, Bad Cop, and Bad Cop".
    • Sometimes Batman and Robin work that way as well.

 Bruce: It's a classic. Good cop-bad cop.

Alfred: And I trust that Master Richard is the "good cop"?

Bruce: Why else do you think he wears the bright colors?

      • The usefulness of the trope is even demonstrated a few pages later, when they subvert these roles:
  • In Powers, The Stoic Walker is the good cop and Deena Pilgrim is bad cop. In fact, after her Ten-Minute Retirement when she comes back and starts beating on an accomplice to a murder, the rest of the cops comment on how good it is to have her back because apparently no one else could play bad cop like her.
  • In a special issue of the The Punisher, Frank Castle once helped one Ax Crazy Italian hitwoman (a villain from a previous special) get revenge on a mob boss that had taken her daughter hostage. At one point, they interrogate a few mooks. Despite Frank's tendencies, he's shocked by the role he takes in the discussion.

 Punisher: I don't believe it. We played classic Good Cop/Bad Cop scheme. And I was the good cop.


 Batgirl: Just shut up and follow my lead.

Robin (Damian Wayne): Why do you get to take the lead?

Batgirl: Because we're gonna play this "Bad cop, worse cop."

Robin: I get to be worse cop!

Batgirl: Attaboy.

  • The Transformers Animated comic The Stunticon Job has Sideswipe and Cheetor respectively, but both try to be the bad cop.

Fan Works

  • Done twice in Kyon: Big Damn Hero. Once with the Bad Cop/Worse Cop variant and again with Good Cop/Bad Cop.
  • Subverted in the Tenchi Muyo! fanfic Galaxy Police Files 1: Bad Cop, Bad Cop. The bubbly Mihoshi plays Bad cop while the surly Kihone plays Good Cop (Mihoshi would have broken down crying if Kihone didn't let her be the Bad Cop). They proceed to act out the worst performance of Good Cop/Bad Cop in the history of the universe (not that the perp would have talked even if they'd done it perfectly). When the interrogation fails, Mihoshi points her laser gun at the perp and says that she might as well kill him if he won't talk. The perp thinks she's bluffing... until she fires at him, the only thing saving his life being Kihone knocking off Mihoshi's aim. But what really convinces the perp that Mihoshi is a Rabid Cop is when Mihoshi tries to kill her own partner (all without losing her bubbly disposition). At this point the perp breaks down and tells them everything they want to know.
  • In Fire burns, Katherine and Robert pull this off superbly

 Davasham:You're the bad guy and you go giving me all the sarcastic lines and everything right. And then the girl comes in and she's the 'good' guy right. And I'm meant to talk to her and trust her and everything-

Robert: What the hell are you on about?

Davasham: You're the one who acts all tough-

Robert: Me? You think I'm the nasty one? Believe me, Mr. Davasham, compared to her, I'm a saint. You do not want to get on her bad side. Unfortunately for you, however, you already are.



  • Parodied in the recent Pink Panther movie: Inspector Clouseau uses this method with one suspect... but plays both the Good Cop and the Bad Cop, with comedic effect.
  • The "Bad Cop/Worse Cop" subversion was actually used by name in the film Tango and Cash.
  • In L.A. Confidential, the D.A. being questioned goes "Don't give me that 'Good Cop, Bad Cop' crap, I practically invented it." The cops then resort to Jack Bauer/Batman interrogation techniques. That works out juuust fine.

 The D.A.: (In a panic after having nearly been drowned in his own toilet) Pull him off me, Exley!!!

Exley: (calmly) I don't know how.


  Exley: Is that how you used to run the Good Cop/Bad Cop?

  • Snakes on a Plane played with the Bad Cop/Worse Cop version: we are led to believe that Samuel L. Jackson is the bad cop of his former partnership, until we discover that role corresponded to his mild mannered, happy-to-be-in-desk-duty best friend.
  • Variation in The Dark Knight:

 Gordon: If we're gonna play games, I'm gonna need some coffee.

The Joker: (sarcastically) The old Good Cop/Bad Cop routine?

Gordon: Not exactly.

    • He leaves. After a moment, the lights turn on, and Batman is revealed to have been behind the Joker the whole time. He immediately slams the Joker's head into the table.
  • Attempted in a rather obvious manner by two cops in the Ghost Rider movie, though they are quickly stopped by Johnny, who tells them that he's seen this on TV.
    • And it's subverted even further by his knowing (via his Ghost Rider powers, although he doesn't tell them that bit) that they're both good cops.
  • Men in Black. When K pulls out a strange-looking Hand Cannon and threatens to blow a shopkeeper's head off, Jay thinks he's doing this routine and immediately starts playing the good cop... until K actually carries out this threat. Then things start getting weird.
  • FBI Special agents Clayton and Archer while interrogating the protagonist in a Yemeni prison in the film Traitor.

 Clayton: "You shouldn't have hit him."

Archer: "Sorry, I left my copy of the Bill of Rights at home."

  • Used on Brianna, the little girl, in Mystery Team. Subverted in that they tell her they're playing pretend and she thinks its fun after that.
  • Parodied in The Other Guys where the good cop bad cop routine instead turns into bad cop insane cop.


  • Played straight in Book 10 of The Iliad. Diomedes and Odysseus were on a night raid and captured the hapless but useful Dolon. Bad cop Diomedes said to stand still or die. Good cop Odysseus said, "Fear not, let no thought of death be in your mind." It went on like that for awhile until Diomedes "struck him in the middle of his neck with his sword and cut through both sinews so that his head fell rolling in the dust while he was yet speaking."
  • Parodied on and off in the Discworld series ("I get it ... 'good cop, bad cop', right?" "Well, we're a little short-staffed, so if I give you a cup of coffee, would you mind kicking yourself in the teeth?") Then again, Carrot and Vimes are the quintessential pair of cops.
  • In the Doctor Who New Adventures novel The Also People, a pair of future police officers discuss what approach to take to a suspect, considering several variants that are standard in their time before settling on "standard Aristocracy drill: Good Cop, Downright Sycophantic Cop".
  • Good Omens: They're about as far from being cops as you can get, but this is very much how Aziraphale and Crowley act when interviewing Mary Hodges.
  • In the novel The Iron Hand of Mars by Lindsey Davis, Ancient Roman detective Falco and his friend Justinus are interrogating a barmaid about her missing boyfriend. She loses her temper and throws Falco out, but Justinus comforts her and she gives him the required information. Afterwards Falco mentions this technique and jokes that "the nice guy is supposed to be a fake!"
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40000 Horus Heresy novel Horus Rising, Warmaster Horus has his most trusted officers, his Mournivale, harshly criticize the tactics used on a planet, so that the criticism could be made and while he played the peacemaker.
  • In Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos, the narrator is captured and questioned harshly, then offered a drink and saluted for his courage. He recognizes it and takes advantage of the breather to plan.
  • In Neuromancer, the Anti-Hero Case gets arrested and recognizes this technique being used by his interrogators.
  • Subverted in Anansi Boys, after Fat Charlie is arrested for embezzlement. After he's brought into the interrogation room, he finds the pleasant Daisy, and says he's expecting the bad cop to come in in a few seconds. Daisy says that a: there's no bad cop, and b: she's pretty sure he's innocent.
  • In the Wheel of Time while traveling Nynaeve and Elayne unconsciously pull this off when hiring the local coach, ferry, ship, litter, or thief taker catcher. Nynaeve will complain thoroughly about the service and Elayne will immediately compliment and over tip the man.
  • Anita Blake and Jean-Claude play good cop/bad cop respectively when Anita needs some answers from a woman who is terrified of vampires. This was entirely Jean-Claude's idea, and Anita sends him out of the room after it looks--to Anita--like he threatened to rape her.[1] Knowing Jean-Claude, it was probably something a little more subtle than that. Probably.
  • In The Dresden Files Changes Tilly and Rudolph are sort of pulling this. Except that they're not partners, Tilly is an FBI agent who thinks Harry is involved but doesn't think he's guilty, while Rudolph is a Chicago PD officer under orders from very scary people to delay Harry as long as possible. Consequently Rudolph starts screaming at Harry to admit it, which he just finds funny, and Tilly orders him out of the room for impeding the investigation.
    • In Turn Coat Harry and Murphy pull a bad/worse against a suspect. In a bit of genre savvy, he had recognized the set up. In a bit of genre blindness, he thought they were pulling a good/bad.
  • Twofold subverted in American Gods — subversion the first is that Shadow is being 100% truthful in his answers even before the Bad Cop gets a chance to work his magic, but the two goons interrogating him (who aren't, technically, actual cops) don't believe him, so they beat the crap out of him anyway, assuming he'll change his tune after a solid kneecapping). Subversion the second is that even though they are looking for information, they probably don't care that he's "not talking", because they're employing the Gene Hunt Interrogation Technique.
  • In Stephen Fry's autobiography Moab Is My Washpot, the two police officers that pick the young Stephen up for credit card fraud adopt the personae of 'nice' and 'even nicer' cop.
  • Mentioned in the second Artemis Fowl, when the LEP bring in Artemis to question him about goblins using human technology. Artemis asks Root which one he is, to which Root replies "Hate to tell you this, Dorothy, but you ain't in Kansas anymore."

  The Commander loved quoting the Wizard of Oz. Three of his cousins were in the movie.

    • They then proceed to knock him out, and scan his retinas to see if he's ever seen the bad guys.
  • The Vorkosigan Saga: The Vor Game After being interrogated separately by Cavilo and Metzov, Miles wonders if they'd set up a classic "good-guy/bad-guy" interrogation tag team, but got their signals crossed and both of them thought that they were supposed to play the bad guy.
  • Occurs in I, Jedi with Corran Horn as the good cop and Luke Skywalker as the bad cop. It works quite well, because Luke's role as the bad cop merely involves him sitting there glowering — and an angry Skywalker is a terrifying sight indeed.

Live Action Television

  • Homicide: Life On the Street may hold the title of longest single Good Cop Bad Cop sequence. The Emmy Award winning episode Three Men And Adena is literally a single, forty-five minute long episode set in an interrogation room, with the two main cops taking on the necessary personas.
    • David Simon plays with this trope a lot. On The Wire, Herc and Carver have arrested Bodie for the first time, and they plan to play this totally straight with Herc playing the bad cop. So Carver goes in first and tries to bond with Bodie over their shared rough backgrounds. Bodie looks as though he's about to confess...and then tells Carver to do something unpleasant. Carver starts beating Bodie, prompting "Bad Cop" Herc to rush in and stop him.

 Bodie: "You supposed to be the good cop, dumb motherfucka!"

      • Unfortunately for Bodie, after that line they both pile on.
      • Then you have Bird's interrogation, which starts with Kima trying to get him to make a deal while Bird shouts an endless stream of anti-lesbian abuse at her. Daniels eventually has McNulty (of all people) go in too just to make sure "Kima doesn't cut his ass." McNulty plays the role of good cop by simply getting them all to sit in sullen silence until the police lab brings backs some results on Bird's gun. When the results are in, Bird goes right back to his abuse. Now thoroughly tired of Bird, a whole group of of detectives come into the room to beat a confession out of Bird, who happens to be handcuffed at the time.
  • In the Black Books episode "The Black-Out", Manny has stayed up all night drinking espresso and watching The Sweeney, and believes himself to be a copper. When he finds himself in a police station, mistaken for a genuine copper, he is cajoled into assisting in an interrogation, and asked to play the part of the Good Cop. Slightly misunderstanding what this involves, he ends up being rather too nice, making non sequiturs like "You've got lovely eyes" and "Why don't I go out and get us all some crispy duck?" This unsettles the perp, so the genuine policeman decides to leave Manny to continue the interrogation alone. As soon as he leaves, Manny falls to his knees and admits to the perp that he isn't a real copper, he's "just had too much coffee", and begs the perp to help him get out of the situation. This further unsettles the criminal, who cracks and says that he'll talk to "the other guy", as long as Manny goes away. As a result of this confession, the genuine policeman tells Manny that he's one of the best officers that he's ever served with.
  • In The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed, the suspect points out that he's familiar with the trope from literature, as well as the psychological reasons this works in real life even if the suspect is familiar with it. As expected, it does work, after a fashion — possibly because the Good Cop does like the suspect and the Bad Cop does loathe him.
  • NCIS
    • When Gibbs and Fornell are talking to a suspect, Kate asks if it is Bad Cop, Scary Cop!
    • They've also used the phrase 'Bad Cop, Stupid Cop' before if I recall, when Gibbs is trying to bluff out a confession...
  • From Alien Nation: George Francisco (alien-American cop) threatens to toss an informant off a roof. His partner balks, claiming it's his turn to throw the perp — Francisco got to do it last time!
    • Alien Nation had fun with this: Usually, if the suspect was a human, Sykes (the human detective) would play good cop while George was the bad cop. If the suspect was Tenctonese (the alien species of which George was a member), than they would do the opposite with George as the good cop and Sykes as the bad cop. Finally, if a suspect was a Purist (a xenophobic group of humans with genocidal inclinations) they'd play bad cop/worse cop with Sykes as the bad cop and George as the worse cop.
  • In Walker, Texas Ranger a generic cop is interrogating a suspect. Walker comes in and the suspect asks if it is good cop/bad cop; Walker says yes, but informs him that the generic cop (who'd already gotten rough with the suspect) was the good cop, and then breaks the table in half.
    • Another episode has an on-the-spot Good Cop/Bad Cop routine in a chop-shop. The girl playing the role of "bad cop" threatens to call on the talents of the crooks' blowtorch. They crack pretty fast after that.
  • Xander and Anya carry this to absurd extremes while interrogating Andrew on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • In The Bill, an officer goes Bad Cop on a suspect. When he leaves the room after getting what he wants, Jo Masters comments that she didn't think they did that any more.
  • From one of David Letterman's shows: Dave and Paul are Good Cop, Good Cop. "One of them plays by the rules. The other one...also plays by the rules." They aren't very effective.
  • They have a game like this on Whose Line Is It Anyway, where Colin and Ryan play two ex-cops who apply the Good Cop/Bad Cop routine on their new job (such as dishwasher repairmen), and Hilarity Ensues.

 Ryan (Good Cop): "Just between the two of us... you don't think you might have overloaded it, do you?"

  • In Veronica Mars, Keith Mars and Sheriff Lamb pull this off at least once, with Keith being the classical good cop and Lamb, the bad one.
  • In an episode of Monk the perp refers to the two cops as "good cop, demented cop" after Randy acts more of an idiot than normal.
  • Star Trek Enterprise. In "Precious Cargo" Captain Archer pulls this stunt on an alien kidnapper (his partner has taken off in a spaceship with Trip Tucker). Archer convinces the alien that T'Pol is a ruthless 'judicial administrator' appointed by the Vulcans to enforce discipline on Enterprise.

 Archer: "If you're late for your shift you might receive a beating. But for more grievous offenses, dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming an officer...we started out with eighty-three crewmen on board. We're down to seventy-six."

    • T'Pol then enters the room in formal robes and asks some sinister questions about the alien's height, weight, and possible "post-mortem rituals", whereupon Archer tells the now-panicking alien that he might be able to get her to show "leniency" if he's seen to be co-operative...
  • Torchwood often does this with interrogations with Gwen as the good cop and Jack as the bad cop.
  • In the Doctor Who serial "The Deadly Assassin", Castellan Spandrell (good cop) and Commander Hilred (bad cop) use what the Doctor calls the "hot and cold technique" on him.
  • Law and Order frequently plays with this. Ed Green's first episode outright subverts it, when he grabs a suspect and pins him to the wall before Briscoe calls him off. They go outside, and Briscoe chews Green out for being too rough with the suspect; he wasn't acting.
  • Nicely subverted in one episode of The Adventures of Brisco County Jr : in order to interrogate a german bandit who does not speak English, one of the Schwenke sisters openly seduces him to make him feel comfortable... until the other sister comes in and kick the crap out of him!
  • Justified in an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun in which Don teaches Dick to be a cop. First Dick is good cop and Don is bad cop. Then they switch places, but they don't stop there. Instead, they both do bad cop and finally both do good cop. This, by the way, is all done on the same (very confused) suspect.
    • At the end, Don explains that this eperiment proves that good cop/bad cop is the only viable combination
    • In another episode, Tommy and Sally pull this trick on a frightened neighborhood kid. They're trying to find the kid that egged their house, and the duo pull off the technique surprisingly well, for aliens. Sally, of course, is the bad cop.
  • Referred to in The Shield. When a suspected pedophile isn't confessing as to where he's hiding his latest victim, Captain Aceveda pulls Detectives Wyms and Wagonbach off the case and instead calls in notorious badass cop Vic Mackey. The perp asks 'What is this, good cop and bad cop'. Mackey replies 'Good cop and bad cop left for the day. I'm a different kind of cop' and proceeds to beat the living hell out of the perp.
  • Played for laughs in the British sketch show Absolutely. Two cops are interrogating a suspect, they can remember one is supposed to be nice but cannot remember the other part and so try a number of combinations including 'nice & flirty', 'nice & shy', 'nice & clumsy' and 'nice & forgetful'. When they eventually remember, they explain that neither of them are any good at being the bad one, so they get in a Victorian melodrama villain dressed as a Bow Street Runner.
  • Parodied in the short-lived Andy Barker P.I.. Trying to find his daughter's toy which has gone missing, a veteran detective tells Andy that he suspects a kid. After school, the veteran roughs the kid up and shouts at him, only to turn to Andy and say "OK, now you be bad cop".
  • Mocked in The X-Files episode "Hungry" when the Genre Savvy suspect, who, indeed, is a man-eating monster, calls Mulder on his supernatural slanted inquisition.

 Robert "Rob" Roberts: I'm sorry, but this is just good cop, insane cop.

  • Battlestar Galactica. Baltar uses this technique as a means of helping Gina, a raped and tortured Cylon prisoner in the custody of the Cylon-hating Admiral Cain. He pretends to Cain that his efforts to feed, clothe and comfort Gina are merely an attempt to break down her resistance through kindness, after the harsh methods of her previous interrogators failed. And in "Taking A Break From All Your Worries", Roslin and Adama try this on Dr. Baltar, first the "stick" (pretending they're going to throw him out the airlock, then drug interrogation) and then the "carrot" — sending in nice guy Gaeta to get his confidence. Unfortunately that doesn't work either as Baltar is too smart to fall for it and flips out, provoking Gaeta into stabbing him in the neck with a pen.
  • Chief Johnson on The Closer is an unparalleled master of the Good Cop role, liberally mixed with a Ditz Cop act. Her Bad Cop counterpart is often a federal agent whose authority she's taking advantage of, or a political rival on the L.A.P.D., meaning Brenda's stringing along her ally as well as the perpetrator.
  • Played for laughs in The West Wing. No one's actually a cop...

 Josh Lyman: Good cop, bad cop. I'm the good cop. The four of you are the bad cops. Will, what are you?

Will Bailey: Bad cop.

Josh Lyman: Danny, what are you?

Danny Concannon: Bad cop.

Josh Lyman: Toby, what are you?

Toby Ziegler: Hurry up.

Josh Lyman: Charlie, what are you?

Charlie Young: I love Zoey and I must have her back.

Josh Lyman: The bad cop, thats right.


 Josh: We're going to do good cop/bad cop.

Toby: No, we're really not.

Josh: Why not?

Toby: Because this isn't an episode of Hawaii Five-O!

    • Also played straight in season 7, with President Bartlet as good cop, and President-Elect Santos as bad cop, in getting the Russians and Chinese to settle their dispute in Kazakhstan.
  • Averted in The Thick of It. The Evil Duo of Malcolm and Jamie has been referred to as a Bad Cop/Bad Cop double-act.

 Ollie to Jamie: When I met you this morning, I thought you were the nice Scott!

    • Referenced by Nicola Murray in a later scene: while being "gang-bollocked" by Malcolm and Steve Fleming, she calls them "Good Cock/Bad Cock" respectively.
  • In the Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode "Necessary Evil", Sisko and Odo get information out of Rom this way.
    • Though Odo, with his fanatical loyalty to justice, can play both parts all by himself at the same time. If he promises you to let you off easy and protect you, he will do it without question, but he's also scary enough that you have no doubt he would do exactly what he threatens if you don't cooperate.
  • Parodied in an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, where Robert tries this technique by himself. He attempted to play both the good cop and the bad cop, switching between roles. To top it all off, he was trying to interrogate his brother and his father.

 Ray: What are you doing?

Robert: Good Cop/Bad Cop. It's taking me longer 'cause there's only one of me.

  • Michael and company from Burn Notice have had to do this a few times when interrogating people. Perhaps most amusingly, on one occasion they had to use Fiona as the good cop that a female suspect can sympathize with.
    • They like playing with this too, on another occasion Michael actually states their roles of Bad Cop, Worse Cop, Hammer. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Keen Eddie: Eddie and Monty play Good Cop, Bad Cop with boxer Jimmy Fishkin, who gets the same treatments from his criminal bosses.
  • Star Trek Voyager did this in a somewhat ahistorical account in “Living Witness.” The Good Cop was Chakotay. The Bad Cop was Harry Kim.
  • Parodied in RoboCop when Robo and Madigan have two suspects who won't talk. The cops glance at each other, and then Robo gets "angry", with Madigan declaring it "the worst glitch she's ever seen!", trying to "talk Robo out of it", and informing the criminals that the only way to get him out of it is for them to tell him the truth.

 Robocop: (punches scenery) Dismember mode.

  • Law and Order Special Victims Unit plays this straight quite often, but they also play with it from time to time. Typically Elliot is the bad cop (being known for his anger issues and crimes-against-children Berserk Button), but almost as often he'll go in as the good cop, sympathizing with a misogynist rapist-type. Pretty much every cop on the force is capable of playing either type.
  • In Community episode "The Science of Illusion" Annie and Shirley can't quite keep this straight between them.
    • To clarify, both Annie and Shirley end up trying to out Cowboy Cop the other, after being told they're too uptight. Abed, deciding that only good can come from this follows them with a bag of popcorn. He later gets to act as Da Chief after the two mess up. Even better, two seasons later he and the others engage in one long Affectionate Parody of Law & Order ("Basic Lupine Urology":). That time, Jeff and Annie switch between Good Lawyer and Bad Lawyer, (Played for Drama), Shirley channels Da Chief (from watching crime shows for 15 years), and Abed plays Good Cop to Troy's Bad Cop.

 Abed: Hey, hey. Forget him, he's the bad cop, he's stressful. But me, I'm a good cop, you can trust me.

Star-Burns: Okay, well--hey, I'm not falling for that! And you got nothing on me! And I don't have to stay here 'cause you're not cops!


 Troy: Sorry about my partner. He's been on edge ever since we switched.

  • Good Cop/Bad Cop is a common game on the sports talk show Pardon the Interruption. "Officers" Kornheiser and Wilbon will often don police outfits and debate the merits of a particular sports issue.
  • Lina and Abby even lampshade the use of this in Against the Wall when they interrogate a summons officer accused of stalking his therapist.
  • On Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Goren and Eames love to play this, switching roles as needed. Eames's bad cop is often a Straw Feminist, while Goren's is a textbook case of Brooklyn Rage (complete with exaggerated accent).
  • Parodied in a Mad TV skit where the suspect immediately sees through the good cop/bad cop ploy, forcing the cops to get creative with things like Jackie Gleason cop/Ricardo Montalban cop.
  • On Murder, She Wrote, Sheriff Metzger, a former New York cop, once attempted this gambit with a suspect, but his deputy was a bit confused; he accidentally told the suspect that Metzger was the bad cop, after Metzger warned the suspect that his deputy was the bad cop.
  • In the Criminal Minds episode "Bloodline", Hotch (bad cop) and Prentiss (good cop) play off each other very well while interrogating an UnSub. Which can be seen here.
  • Parodied in one Russ Abbot sketch, when a suspect sees two policemen entering the room, and immediately asks which one's the good cop and which one's the bad cop. They both beat him up, to which his response is "Oh! Two good cops!"
  • Toyed with on Chuck in an example of "Bad Spy/Worse Spy". In a Season 2 episode, Casey is interrogating a witness under their protection, who proves to be uncooperative and only wants to speak with Chuck, whom he (mistakenly) believes beat up the thugs threatening him. Casey then proceeds to set Chuck up as the "bad cop" to ensure the witness's full and undivided cooperation. Played completely for laughs, especially Chuck's expression as he smashes a paper cup to "intimidate" the witness.


  • Mentioned in Saxon's "Slow Lane Blues", after the song's protagonist is caught by cops from speeding:

 They took me to the side and gave me some grief

Said I was crazy I couldn't believe

Good cop bad cop they played the routine

They took away my car I tossed them the keys


Tabletop Games

  • In Paranoia, pairs of Internal Security agents were assigned to carry out this trope, complete with a detailed script ("good cop leaves to go get the perp a drink, bad cop comes in and shoves the perp around", etc.). Then, due to budget cuts, both roles got assigned to the same agent — but the script never got changed, leading to some very confused perps.

Video Games

  • In the Let's Play of Knights of the Old Republic 2, the protagonist attempts a Good Cop, Bad Cop routine on the Sullustan mechanic on Dantooine. Things go a bit wrong, however, mainly because his "good cop" happens to be HK-47.
  • Sam and Max Freelance Police: The eponymous duo tried to pull this one while interrogating Jimmy Two-Teeth in the first puzzle of Culture Shock (Sam is the good cop, Max is the bad one). While they aren't interrogating, usually when you can choose if the one talking is Sam or Max, Sam tries to be helpful somehow (or at least have some tact) while Max just say straight what is he thinking. Since the games are puzzle-based, this usually backfires unless you think carefully.
  • Thane's loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2 gives the player the option of whether to be the good cop or the bad cop while interrogating Elias Kelham. Humorously, you can choose to be the good cop and then beat the guy within an inch of his life while Thane just sort of stands there (there was apparently supposed to be a proper good cop route, but it didn't make it in).
    • There's an alternative — just scare the ever-living shit out of him, causing the remainder of the interrogation to proceed incredibly smoothly and last about 30 seconds:

 Shepard: My name is Commander Shepard. I'm a Spectre.

Kelham: Yeah? Prove it.

[Shepard draws his/her gun and presses it against the criminal's face]

Shepard: I don't have to prove anything. Spectres are above the law. Are we clear?

Kelham: ...crystal...

(a while later)

Thane: That may go down in history as the shortest interrogation ever.

  • FBI agent Norman Jayden and police lieutenant Carter Blake respectively from Heavy Rain tend to have this dynamic when facing suspects together — which is just about every time, seeing as they work together for most of the game despite the fact that they seem to loathe each other. In fact, two achievements in the game obtainable in one of Norman's chapters are called "Good Cop" and "Bad Cop," the former obtained by stopping Blake during an interrogation done his way and the latter by encouraging him.
  • Cole Phelps and his partners in LA Noire.
    • According to Yahtzee, Cole Phelps and himself, if played right.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, Lt. Boyd hires you to be her "bad cop" in interrogating a captive centurion. (Boyd apparently plays "passive-agressive, sarcastic cop".) She essentially wants you to beat the crap out of him until he talks, since you're not hindered by any pesky "proper treatment of PO Ws" laws, although the right skills can make him sing without even touching him, which nets you a better reward.
  • CIA agents Gordon and Whistler use this technique when interrogating Sergeant Blackburn in Battlefield 3; Gordon acts calm and implores Black to take his time and give the best explanation possible, while Whistler repeatedly hounds him with accusations and insults.


  • In No Need for Bushido, a captured soldier confesses before even being questioned after he hears a Good Cop, Bad Cop discussion going on outside the door before the protagonists come in the room.

 Ken: What?!! You're sending Wataro in? How come I don't get to interrogate him?

Ina: Because you'll kill him.

Ken: Yeah, so?

  • Calamities of Nature points out that God is performing the ultimate good cop/bad cop routine.
  • Gil and Bang in Girl Genius, only they're not acting (well, at least Gil isn't). Then Gil becomes bad too.
    • On the other hand, the circus folk fool them by playing Good Perp Bad Perp.
  • Two police sergeants, Spears and Samu, attempt to get dr Piper Kaufmann to spill her guts in Webcomic/Intragalactic by using the time-tested "girl cop, boy cop".

 Spears: All right, pigeon — are ya gonna talk, or do I have to ovulate again?

Samu: Please, miss, do what she wants! My penis can't hold her back forever!


 Harold: Sounds good to me, I always wanted to be the bad cop.

Syrus: You are a bad cop. In fact, you're a terrible cop.


Web Original


 Rorschach: How the hell did I end up being the good cop?

  • Parodied: In Loading Ready Run's "commodoreHUSTLE: Showdown", Kathleen and Paul interrogate Tim for Geoff's location. Bill has a hard time discerning who is the good cop.

 Kathleen: Oh no, we roll with bad cop/crazy cop.

Kathleen and Paul: (gesturing to each other) S/He's crazy cop.

  • Referenced in Red vs. Blue by Doc. He is quick to point out that his two captors are really bad at this trope and more of a bad cop/even more awful cop.
  • Parodied in The Onion article "Good Cop, Avid-Stamp-Collector Cop Routine Not Working".
  • Discussed in this blog piece in reference to efforts to undermine the influence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The blogger mentions a human rights activist who has started up girls' schools in the country criticizing the US military's own efforts to fight the Taliban. The blogger notes that the activist essentially wants to have the good cop without the bad cop, in that he wants to have human rights brought to the country through teachers such as himself without the military being involved. The blogger believes that the problem with this view is that you can't have the good cop without the bad cop; trying to start up a school that promotes human rights in the jurisdiction of a repressive regime such as the Taliban without the threat of force from the military is likely to get you killed before you can start.

Western Animation

  • In one episode of The Simpsons, Lisa is being interrogated at school by Principal Skinner and Groundskeeper Willie, but the pair continually (and unintentionally) keep swapping the Good and Bad roles, much to Lisa's amusement.
    • When Being questioned by the police about Mona Simpson's whereabouts Selma Bouvier attempts to engage the police in a game of Good Cop Bad Cop. To her dismay they were all good cops.
  • In a rather bizarre episode of Justice League Unlimited involving Time Travel, Batman winds up playing Bad Cop/Worse Cop with himself, some thirty years in the future. Apparently, a seventy-year-old Bruce Wayne is the most terrifying being in existence.
    • As voiced by Kevin Conroy? Damn straight.
    • This is commented on by the other characters:

 Static: Wow. Batman playing good cop.

Green Lantern: Everything's relative.

    • And then there's the conversation in the page quote. Superman almost sounds like he's jealous.
    • In another episode, Batman is missing, and Superman and The Flash try to interrogate Copperhead, who was part of the gang that captured the Bat. Copperhead just laughs at Superman's attempt to play Bad Cop, prompting the Man of Steel to frustratedly wonder how the hell Batman does it.
  • From Family Guy: Good Cop, Developmentally Disabled Cop.
  • Transformers Animated, Optimus and Grimlock fall into this while questioning Powell...only it was more like "Good Cop, Crazy Dinosaur Cop."

  Optimus: Did I mention my partner is extremely hungry?

    • And now again, this time "Robotic Cop, Organic Cop With Terrifying Snot."(Lately Autobots have been getting more and more terrified of organics.)
  • A teaser on Batman the Brave And The Bold has Batman as the good cop and Detective Chimp as the bad cop.
  • The Boondocks parodies this with an interrogation between Good Cop, Bad Cop and Butt Monkey Tom, who is being accused of a crime that he obviously didn't commit solely because both he and the real perp are black. The bad cop immediately accuses Tom of the crime and assaults him before the good cop pulls him off. The bad cop grudgingly walks out of the room... before rushing in two seconds later to assault Tom again.
    • Furthermore, when the Bad Cop is finally led away for good and the Good Cop starts doing his spiel, Tom protests that he's a prosecutor, he knows all about how the good cop bad cop thing works. Ten minutes later he's tearfully signing a confession as the Good Cop very insincerely promises that Tom will never do any jail time.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures — Jackie and Jade while interrogating the mask of General Ikazuki. This is followed by Finn and Ikazuki when they need Tohru to provide them with a mask removal potion.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Played with by Rainbow Dash (bad cop) and Fluttershy (good cop) to greed-enlarged Spike after he kidnaps Rarity. Rainbow Dash demands he release Rarity, while Fluttershy adds her typical passive comments to Spike (who she's afraid of now.)

 Rainbow Dash: Put her down right now!

Fluttershy: I-If you wouldn't mind, that is.

Rainbow Dash: I mean it, dragon boy!

Fluttershy: Uh, we'll be ever so grateful if you'd be so kind as to possibly consider...

Rainbow Dash: Drop her, scaly!


  1. He rubbed the woman's shoulders, whispered something into her, ear and she started shaking.