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Police cliches

Discussion in 'Tea Room (Book Chat)' started by jessica, March 19, 2018.

  1. jessica

    jessica Active Member

    'K, this is the third book I've read in a row where the police bodyguard was actually the serial killer. :rolleyes::rolleyes: Why is this such a trope? I mean, if that happened in real life it makes the headlines, but fictional police seen to be either one step behind, or one of thems a murderer:rolleyes:. There's no grounds for competent Leos unless they are the hero? Why do author keep doing this?:rolleyes:
  2. Jackie

    Jackie Member

    Oh gosh, those police tropes always get me. I mean, I can understand that they have to have the cops be a little slow in order to keep some mysteries going (i.e. give the normal people a chance to solve things on their own), but it gets out of hand sometimes. I haven't read one in a while where the police is the serial killer, but I know there are a lot of those out there. I guess they just like to make the police incompetent/evil unless they're the protagonists.
  3. tirial

    tirial IT fixer extraordinaire

    I suppose competant police would end most stories very quickly.

    Look at The Bill. As a procedural it ran for 30 minute episodes. Then they went to an hour and officers started murdering each other and blowing up police stations (and looking like supermodels). Yes, it might be action, but it is still filler. And silly.
  4. Reader

    Reader Vile Critic

    Cheap drama and an easy enemy, perhaps? There's a degree of dramatic shorthand available with the police as a symbol, is there not? The police are an easy symbol of authority, so what better way to make your character the underdog than have the police be their opposition? Alternatively what better way to make the stakes high and emphasis the character is on their own than have them be ineffective?

    There is also the drama element to consider. Competant police would involve certain characters being whisked into witness protection, and all the reader would see of the plot was a phone call at the end saying they'd got the culprits.
  5. Zelda

    Zelda Member

    I see where you're coming from and I agree with you. However, my concern is this: At what point does this have the opposite effect? For example, let's say that a book had the police serving as the opposition of the protagonist. Having the police turn out to be bad isn't surprising. In fact, you expect it in that scenario. Wouldn't it be more refreshing to find out that they weren't bad after all? You could still have the dramatic element if they weren't incompetent but only appeared that way because the protagonist was following different leads. There's not always just one way to solve a crime. It could also serve as an interesting character arc for the protagonist if they had trust issues with the police because of their problems with authority, something in their past, etc. To learn that they're not the enemy could give them some growth. Or maybe the protagonist has been withholding evidence they've found on their own because they didn't trust the police and realize that things could get resolved sooner if they'd worked together or they had been more open-minded.
  6. Reader

    Reader Vile Critic

    @Zelda, welcome to the boards. Don't misunderstand, I was answering the question of why authors use it. As to whether I am in favour of it, definitely not. The corrupt or corrupted police officer has become cliche to the point of being lazy writing. Any shock or twist value it has is long passed.

    I will only give a pass for CID novels, because the CID are supposed to be investigating corrupt officers. If CID are involved it is not an attempt at a pointless twist, just business as usual for the genre.
  7. Zelda

    Zelda Member

    @Reader, thank you! I'm sorry if I sounded aggressive and/or challenging in my response. That definitely wasn't my intent! I was just saying in a ton of words what you so eloquently were able to put in two sentences. I understand why it's become a trope. It's an easy way to keep a lot of stories going. But, as you said, it's become so common that it's just lazy at this point.

    Absolutely, CID novels get a pass. If they weren't investigating corrupt officers then there would be a problem.
  8. Reader

    Reader Vile Critic

    My apologies, I am a little sensitive to this. I thought I might mention that of the last five books I read for review:
    YA Paranormal: Police Officer in the pay of an evil corporation.
    Serial Killer thriller: Police Officer working with the serial killer.
    Women's Fiction: Police Officer working with the traffickers.
    The remaining two were a political tract targeted at children (which may yet receive its due slating, as I do not appreciate abuse of a vulnerable audience) and a poetry book - which had police and the concept of authority as the enemy.

    On the topic of competant police, there is one I read last year where the police were competant, and that was the lead character's main problem. Her attempts at an amateur investigation kept being stymied by things like procedure, harassment complaints, and the local police's demand that she stay off their crime scene if she didn't want to get arrested for tampering with evidence. It was a refreshing change. I just need to look up the name.
  9. Terry

    Terry Member

    This is the trope I keep encountering. Stupid police who keep either missing clues or get the wrong idea or are always five steps behind everyone else.

    The only thing on these is lines that's always dumb is when people called Ins. Lestrade from Sherlock Holmes stories as being stupid. He's a good copper, just nowhere near as good as Holmes is, so of course he looks stupid by comparison, who wouldn't? Yes, I know the answer is Mycroft Holmes
  10. Jackie

    Jackie Member

    @Reader, the last book you mentioned sounds really entertaining, not to mention a refreshing change of pace. I'd love to give it a read if you find the name!

    @Terry, that's the one I encounter most frequently as well, although I have come across a few that dealt with corrupt police officers (or other men who are supposed to be on the right side of the law, serving justice, and all of that). I completely agree with you about Ins. Lestrade. Just because he's not on Sherlock's level (and really, who is?), that doesn't mean he's incompetent. That's supposed to be saying more about Sherlock than Lestrade in my opinion.
  11. Tregaron

    Tregaron Member

    Please do. I think I remrember that one, but even if I am wrong, it sounds like a breathe of fresh air.
  12. Zelda

    Zelda Member

    @Reader I don't think any apologies are necessary. Your list just goes to show that this is happening across many genres. I'm actually the most upset about the political tract aimed at children that you mentioned. I think we expose children to far too much sometimes. What was their agenda? (I apologize, I know that's off-topic but I'm very curious.)

    The last book you mentioned sounds refreshingly delicious. I would love to read a book with that sort of realism in it. It would be nice to see competent police officers stopping someone from investigating because, well, they're breaking the law by doing it. That's their job.

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