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A self-funded, self-supporting vigilante firm private agency which can act as a legal authority and law enforcement power, or as an official military outfit, even with minimal (if any) ties to actual government/military/police organizations. Agents can act as fully deputized and authorized agents of the law and/or government without bothering with official credentials, pesky background checks, and so forth. The strike force can consist of a One-Man Army or an entire Redshirt Army. The agency might have its own rigorous training regimen or simply recruit former soldiers and policemen.

There are no pesky "letter of the law" rules and procedures which apply to traditional agencies and seem designed to protect the guilty while punishing the innocent. The government might even sub-contract the agency to do all its dirty work.

For an actual government agency version, see Heroes-R-Us. See also Private Military Contractors, which may overlap. There's also a good chance it could be part of a Mega Corp. May employ Corporate Sponsored Superheroes.

This item is available from the Trope Co catalog

Examples of Law Enforcement, Inc. include:


Anime and Manga

  • The Tokyo Police apparatus was privatized at some point in the history of Silent Moebius. A major plot point towards the end of the series revolves around this. Rally buys a controlling interest.
  • The police in Hyper Police are all private companies who compete with each other to catch criminals. The Heroes work for the Police Company ...Which later goes bankrupt!

Comic Books

  • In its current incarnation, The Legion of Super Heroes is almost one of these, though they eventually gain official standing.
    • L.E.G.I.O.N., their 1000-years-earlier sort-of-predecessor, fits the trope much better.
    • As does R.E.B.E.L.S., the current in carnation of L.E.G.I.O.N.
  • The Public Eye police force in Marvel 2099 work on a for-profit basis. In the intro to Punisher 2099, a man tries to call for help, but is told that an officer will be sent once the check clears.
  • In The Question, Mayor Myra Fermin was at one point considering disbanding Hub City's notoriously corrupt police force and hiring biker gangs to enforce the law.
  • Deaths Head, the self-described "Freelance Peacekeeping Agent", in the Marvel Universe.


Film

  • In the RoboCop series, the Detroit police are owned by the Mega Corp OCP, meaning that in addition to the law, they also have to follow corporate procedures, much to the annoyance of many police officers.
  • The Men in Black are funded by repurposed alien technology, so that they don't have to bother with government purse strings ...or oversight.
  • Outland. The company police on the space-mining colony are shown to be corrupt and apathetic, except for the protagonist played by Sean Connery.
    • O'Neil (Connery's character) is stated to be a Federal Marshal, rather than the regular cops, who are on Con-Am's payroll.
  • The job that we find Serenity's crew working in the beginning of the movie is actually a heist aimed at stealing the payrolls from the government-contracted security firm on a rim planet, knowing that they'll face minimal problems from the Feds later because the security company will never admit to letting their own payroll get stolen from them.
  • In Kuffs, an irresponsible young man inherits his brother's San Francisco Patrol Special Police franchise.


Literature

  • Literary example: The Campus in Tom Clancy's Teeth Of The Tiger basically serves as a private-sector Homeland Security and/or CIA. They are protected from the possibility of serving massive jail time only because of a large stack of undated pardons they have.
  • Law enforcement, like most everything else in Snow Crash, has been completely privatized, and is the domain of such concerns as MetaCops Unlimited and its smaller, more upscale competitor, WorldBeat Security.
  • In the CoDominium universe, the CoDo Fleet quasi-legally hires mercenaries to do the cleaning-up operations and planetary-government defense work they no longer have the manpower or political freedom for.
  • The Ungoverned by Vernor Vinge takes this absolutely seriously, including that from the perspective of a protection company, a national government in war mode is just another crime gang to be dealt with the same way as any other. The sequel, Marooned in Realtime, suggests that by the late 21st century, governments have essentially given way to protection companies.
  • The short story "The Hand You're Dealt", by Robert J. Sawyer, is about a case of murder on a habitat that has no government, only private services.
Cquote1.svg

  I took my pocket forensic scanner and exited The Cop Shop. That was its real name-no taxes in Mendelia, after all. You needed a cop, you hired one.

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    • There are apparently multiple such businesses--"Spitpolish, Inc" is mentioned as a competitor that has uniformed cops.
  • Jackson's Whole in the Vorkosigan Saga works in exactly the same way. You can hire the cops to arrest someone, but the target may be able to out-bid you and thereby retain their freedom.
  • Another work by Sawyer, "The Right's Tough," features astronauts that come back to Earth after over a hundred years absence to find it has become stateless. Houston no longer features a space center, so they are invited to land on the White House lawn-which has become an upscale restaurant and museum...
  • The Police in Jennifer Government, also NRA to some extent, though both factions are mostly mercenaries for corporations.
    • It shows up the highly corporate nature of these organisations. Notably, when a Nike employee is (forcefully) contracted to do something blatently illegal, he subcontracts to the Police, who themselves subcontract the job to the NRA. Nike later contracts the NRA to eliminate the Police manager who handled the original subcontract.
  • Although not stated, this is presumably the situation in Han Dold City in So Long And Thanks For All The Fish, where one "police gang" set off burglar alarms in order to trap another police gang.
  • The CorpSeCorps in Oryx and Crake, who work for the world's Mega Corps.
  • In Victory Conditions, the last book in the Vattas War series, it is discovered that the actual military of Nexus has been gutted out by long-standing corruption because everybody knew that nobody would ever dare to attack them, and so the defense of the homeworld against Space Pirates ends up falling to the corporate security forces of the planet's dominant Mega Corp. They're poorly equipped and not trained for the task, but they do have outside assistance.
  • The source of Holt Fasner's power in The Gap Sequence is the fact that his United Mining Companies Police has more firepower than anyone else in human space combined. He manages to parlay it into a legal monopoly on the use of force, thus making himself the very definition of a "government" and the real master of the (legally) sovereign Governing Council.


Live Action TV

  • The Judoon in Doctor Who have this as their hat.
  • The Foundation For Law And Government from Knight Rider is a rare not-for-profit example, though in the original series Michael and KITT acted more like Private Investigators.
  • Section 31 on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine operates outside official Federation recognition. Few in the government even know they exist.
    • They are more like a State Sec than this, as they were an unofficial part of the government.
  • The Hands of Blue in Firefly appear to be from the Mega Corp Blue Sun Corporation (that is shown as working hand-in-glove with the Alliance state) who have the freedom to kill anyone who gets in the way of their mission to recapture River and Simon-or learns about it at all.
  • Ravenwood mercenary company in Jericho is an example of this. While originally they were a run of the mill Private Military Contractor, after the attacks they gained the status of military police.
  • IYS Insurance appears to be this in Leverage, since its run-of-the-mill insurance investigators are apparently allowed to use firearms in the course of their job.
  • In The Cape, Ark Corporation, run by Villain with Good Publicity Peter Fleming, privatizes Palm City's failing police department.
  • A Bit of Fry and Laurie had a sketch about this in their very first episode. It was a humorous take on privatizations then recently conducted by the Thatcher government, as the episode states not only the police but the UK high roads and even the royal family have been privatized. And it implies the police force is now owned by Americans. Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6CkltzGAxY A Bit of Fry and Laurie-Privatization of the Police Force.


Tabletop Games

  • Police duties in the Cyberpunk / Dungeon Punk Tabletop RPG Shadowrun are overseen mostly by private megacorporations, such as Dallas-based Lone Star and the Knight Errant division of Ares Macrotechnology.
  • The Dungeons and Dragons setting of Eberron has plenty. House Deneith is the biggest, but House Medani and House Tharashk do it also. That and everyone of the 13 Dragonmarked Houses (Eberron's equivalent of a Mega Corp) has its own security service that is however subject to local laws.
  • In Deadlands, the United States initially hired Pinkerton Detective Agency to serve as The Men in Black. They later form an official agency to deal with the supernatural; headed by Allan Pinkerton and largely manned by former Pinkerton agents.
  • Firewall, as a paramilitary Transhuman black-ops organization dedicated to containing and neutralizing x-risks, would also qualify.

Video Games

  • Elanus Risk Control Services, an arms manufacturer, provides security and policing on the corporate-run world of Noveria in Mass Effect. In the sequel, various mercenary groups provide security forces on several worlds in the Terminus Systems.
  • The Carrington Institute from the video game Perfect Dark.
  • The Liberty Police, Inc. from Freelancer. Though they will err on the side of arresting you (more arrests = more prisoners = larger workforce for their private prisons), they aren't portrayed as any more or less effective than the more traditional police forces in the other nations.
    • According to the backstory, LPI began as basically rent-a-cops but the local regular police were so useless LPI eventually took their place with everyone's approval.
  • To a lesser extent, the PIG Security group in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City enforce law against gangs in the airport, Starfish Island and the mall - but are sometimes seen by cops as a gang.
  • Sam and Max: Freelance Police, as their name suggests.
  • "The Shop" from the Soldier of Fortune series of video games.
  • In City of Heroes, Hero Corp is an organization that employs heroes for profit, selling their services to the law enforcement agencies of the area they're in. Many heroes look down on Hero Corp as sell-outs and ethically challenged, but many more look to it as a way to be a hero full-time, without a mild-mannered day job.
  • Pirandello-Kruger in ~ Mirror's Edge~ make up the vast majority of combat-armoured enemies in the game. They serve the function of SWAT teams, and are responsible for Project Icarus, a training regimen for pursuit cops to chase down and eliminate runners. They operate parallel to the city police, the "Blues", but are not intimately connected besides working to stop Faith and the other runners.
  • The Caldari State in Eve Online has eight private police agencies, one for each megacorporation.
  • Borderlands has the Crimson Lance. They are a PMC under the created and financed by the Atlas Corporation, although they have little bearing on any non-DLC story other than being Demonic Spiders.
  • Left 4 Dead 2, CEDA hired a private security firm to protect civilians, but they became infected too. The survivors having to kill some in the campaign, "The Parish".
  • The Agency in Crackdown bring peace to the city, at the cost of turning it into a totalitarian dictatorship.
  • In the X-COM series, the originally government-funded titular organization is purchased by a tycoon after the end of the First Alien War, being Genre Savvy enough to realize the threat is not over. A bit of a subversion, as the company charter specifically includes a clause that allows the government(s) to take control of the company in the event of an alien incursion. This happens in Terror from the Deep, when the underwater branch of X-COM is called upon to protect Earth. This happens again in Interceptor, where the X-COM Company sends a force to the Frontier to protect human colonies. Meanwhile, on Earth, the other branch of the company known as MARSEC is in charge of doing the same for Mega Primus.
  • In The Longest Journey, the local police force is owned and backed by a soft drinks megacorp (which, amazingly, is not part of the villain group). In addition to reading you your rights, they'll read you the latest catchy slogan and inform you of what new amazing flavors are out this month.
  • C.E.L.L. in Crysis 2.
  • Baldur's Gate has the Flaming Fist as the de facto police in both the titular city and the surrounding countryside, despite the Flaming Fist technically being a mercenary company. They still take their roles as law enforcement very seriously. So much so that if you ever fight them, their battle cry is "I AM the law!"
  • The city of Rapture in Bioshock has no official government and originally had no laws; Rapture Security can thus be presumed to have started out as the equivalent of mall rent-a-cops. Even after Andrew Ryan starts ruling over the city with an iron fist, his order to kill a "subversive" citizen is portrayed like a hit job.

Western Animation

  • SpringShield, founded by Homer Simpson, Lenny Leonard and Carl Carlson on The Simpsons, which went on to take over police chores for the whole city. No surprise, it didn't end well.
    • Only because they were so effective. Homer went and arrested Fat Tony, essentially ending crime in Springfield. As soon as he was released, he announced that he and his associates would kill Homer the next day, which lead to Homer pleading with the townspeople to help him. Of course, they didn't — even Lenny and Carl abandoned him. Homer lampshaded it perfectly:
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 Homer: I don't get it. I finally did a job where I wasn't lazy, stupid or corrupt — and I'm gonna get killed for it!

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Real Life

  • Bounty Hunting/Bond Enforcement is a common real life manifestation of this idea, though both the successfulness and legality of the work tend to vary. A lot.
  • While private investigators don't necessarily enforce the law, they do enough law-related work and occasionally criminal investigations to possibly qualify.
  • Security firm Blackwater (currently Academi) tried doing this, and now its members have been accused of overstepping their authority in Iraq.
  • Finnish Protection Service, who have been criticized for issuing parking tickets. It was ruled that since they were employed by another firm AND had informed people that they would issue tickets for illegal parking, they didn't break law.
  • The historical Pinkertons gained an especially bad reputation among unions for strikebreaking and excessive force. There was one particular incident where the state militia had to be called in to rescue the Pinkertons who attempted to sneak up on striking workers at the Carnegie Homestead Steel plant, and instead had it blow up in their face — literally. The U.S. government even had to ban itself from hiring Pinkerton agents.
  • In some states of the U.S., all it takes to have your own legal private police is a license to operate a railroad. The president of the railroad can appoint anyone as railroad police (or can appoint a chief of the railroad police with the power to do the same), and even though they are private employees of a commercial organization, they have the same power as the state police or the highway patrol anywhere in the state. If the railroad operates in multiple states, the railroad police typically have authority in all of the states the railroad operates in. Some states require the governor to recognize the railroad (California) and some states merely require the railroad apply with a circuit court to get permission to appoint railroad police (Virginia).
  • Between roughly 1870 and 1930 the Coal and Iron Police had law enforcement powers in Pennsylvania. They were, as the name suggests, paid and run by the coal and iron companies.
  • Sandy Springs and the other "contract cities" that have sprung up in New Orleans; their local government is made up of the four guys that sign contracts to allow for CH2M Hill performing all of the actual work.
  • Some forms of anarchism believe that such private militias could replace the state law enforcement and do a better job than it does. Anarcho-capitalism, in particular, advocates "private defense agencies" — thus taking the "inc." part of the trope name literally. Its advocates think these agencies would work like the heroic versions of Law Enforcement, Inc., while its critics often argue that their profit motive would lead them squarely into the territory of the corrupt versions of the trope. Your Mileage May Vary.
  • Reality in the UK; a more recent version advertises directly to the public in what basically amounts to a protection racket.
  • Clamping of cars in cities is often done by a private firm. Many of these have been accused of being overzealous in order to make a profit.
  • San Francisco Patrol Special Police agencies are an additional police force for paying customers.
  • Urban legend alleges that Disneyland and Walt Disney World have their own police forces, but this isn't actually true: the parks' security staff can only detain troublemakers awaiting the arrival of state police. The misconception probably arose because the legal jurisdiction of municipal cops from Anaheim or Orlando does not extend to the parks.
  • You get a lot of these on college campuses, especially in the US. Larger, more prestigious, and wealthier schools (especially public colleges) can be important and influential enough to have their own police force. However, many other schools (normally smaller private colleges) tend to rely on the city police.
  • There are privately-run prisons in the United States. There have been scandals in which these prisons bribe judges to send more inmates to them, increasing their profits.
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