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In any film where a local cop meets a federal cop, the federal cop will always be wrong, unless the movie is set in the South.
Anonymous

When two or more law enforcement organizations both can lay claim on a particular criminal case or suspect they will rarely see eye-to-eye on the best way to prosecute/investigate the case. Local cops vs. the Federal government (FBI, DEA, etc) is the most common setup. Usually, the locals will want to shut down a petty crook to protect their town and the "little guy", while the Feds are focused on the big picture and would rather he go free so they can focus on building a case against the "big fish" higher up the criminal ladder.

Jurisdiction Friction may also occur at the initial crime scene: the hero investigator will barely have the time to unearth a few clues before the rival investigation outfit shows up to flash badges all over the place and claim jurisdiction. At this point, the hero will either turn Vigilante Man or move on to a new case that's oddly reminiscent of the old one.

Which side of the dispute is sympathetic and which is heartless/incompetent/arrogant/corrupt/trigger happy/working for the shadow government depends entirely on who the main characters are. FBI agent series such as The X-Files and Without a Trace naturally will have them in the right, while a Police Procedural like Law and Order is frequently on the other side.

In addition to local versus Feds, the friction can occur between other law enforcement subdivisions over the same suspect, like drug enforcement officers versus homicide investigators, or simply one of a city's police districts versus another. And everybody has it in for the Private Detective.

Compare Right Hand Versus Left Hand and We ARE Struggling Together! for when the factions bickering over a common goal are not part of any government.

Examples of Jurisdiction Friction include:


Comic Books

  • Walker and Pilgrim in the comic book Powers often find their investigations turned over to the Feds. Naturally, this never stops them investigating anyway.
  • A police ally of the X-Men once used this to save them when crooks-turned-feds Freedom Force attempt to arrest the mutant heroes. She insisted Freedom Force produce the documentation necessary to take the X-Men into custody (which they didn't have on them). This gave the X-Men time to flee the city.
  • The military equivalent showed up in The DCU, when The Shield (an Army Super Soldier) and Magog (Marine corporal turned emissary of one of the Old Gods) ended up on the same mission together. They spent just as much time sniping at each other's respective branches as they did fighting the main threat.
  • In Batman Year 100 Gotham City PD and the Federal Investigators clash over a murder, GCPD thinks it should have jurisdiction as the murder happened in Gotham, the Feds because it was one of their men and also because they comitted the murder and are organising a massive cover up. Batman knows he has jurisdiction because He's the Goddamn Batman
  • In Gotham Central, tension exists between the Major Cases Squad and the other squads, partly because the other squads tend to use the fact that the Major Cases Squad has jurisdiction over cases with supervillains to lazily dump routine investigations on them by claiming that the case bares the hallmarks of a supervillain.

Film

  • Bon Cop, Bad Cop has the Quebec and Ontario police arguing over a dead body found lying on top of a highway sign indicating the precise location of the Quebec/Ontario border.

 Martin: His heart is in Québec.

David: Ya l'Ontario dans l'cul aussi! (Translation: He's got Ontario up his ass)

Martin: What ?

David: But his ass belongs to you.

    • And the reason they have to work together in the first place is to stop the RCMP (i.e. the Feds) from getting involved and stealing all the glory.
  • In The Fugitive (1993), there's a conflict between the local police and U.S. Marshals over who's in charge of finding the escaped prisoners. The U.S. Marshals win when they show an order from the state governor that gives them control. Later on there's a disagreement between the Marshals and the Chicago police after Dr. Kimble is believed to have shot a police officer: the cops want to kill him, and the Marshals still want to take him alive.
  • No Country for Old Men has the local sheriff being distinctly uninterested in the investigation the feds (DEA, I think) are conducting into the mass murder that occurred in his jurisidiction.
  • Inverted in Beverly Hills Cop III, where Detective Billy Rosewood has been appointed DDOJSIOC (Deputy Director of Joint Special Inter Operational Command), responsible for coordinating the efforts of the various L.A. metro area law-enforcement agencies as needed. At one point he assembles a veritable army of different units and uniforms, including Baywatch lifeguards, to surround and secure a single suspicious van, which proves to be empty; he gets chewed out for it.
  • The movie Murder at 1600 has Wesley Snipes as a Washington D.C. police homicide Detective investigating a murder of a secretary at the White House. He has all kinds of Jurisdiction Friction with the Secret Service (which guards the White House). This is also a case of Did Not Do the Research (or maybe They Just Didn't Care) because any murders on Federal property (like the White House) are handled by the FBI.
  • In The Negotiator, Samuel L. Jackson's character is a Chicago P.D. officer who has taken hostages in the headquarters of the Chicago PD, but the building itself is owned by the Federal Government. The FBI agents agree to let the local authorities handle the situation temporarily, but then later take over. When Samuel L. Jackson escapes the building, the local police take over again, because he is now at large in the city, which is not Federal jurisdiction. (Realistically, the Feds would still have jurisdiction because he was still a suspect in a crime committed on Federal property.)
  • The Matrix, where the local cops sneer at the Agents, who are initially at least apparently FBI.

 Agent Smith: Lieutenant, you were given specific orders.

Lieutenant: I'm just doing my job. You give me that "juris-my-dick-tion" crap... you can cram it up your ass.

  • Mysteriously avoided in Taking Lives, in which the Sûreté du Québec swoop down in helicopters in front of a train station in Moncton, New Brunswick (somehow managing to get there from Quebec in 20 minutes).
  • The Spurbury Police Dapartment and the Vermont Highway Patrol continually clash over jurisdiction in Super Troopers, even leading to an out-and-out brawl at a murder scene. There is a justification beyond general JerkAssery, though: The state doesn't have the money to maintain both stations, so the Highway Patrolmen need to get big crimes on their record to justify their existence. This ends up getting resolved when the Highway Patrolmen expose the massive amounts of corruption in the Police Department... and then, when the Highway Patrol station is shut down, simply join the police department to replace the disgraced officers.
    • Notably not how things would actually be done in Vermont. The town collects the tax money for police protection, and the town selectboard decides whether to establish/maintain its own force or contract with State Police or Sheriffs - that's a town matter, not a state one.
    • The Spurbury Police Department is never actually in danger of getting shut down. The question is always whether the State Police can justify the expense of the Troopers' station.
  • Gone in Sixty Seconds has tension between the auto theft unit and the homicide unit of the same department about the Big Bad, who is wanted by both of them. You'd think that being part of the same police department after the same man they'd find it easier to work together to bring him in and simply increase his charge sheet (and thus the likelihood of him being convicted for something), but apparently not.
  • Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back has a Federal Wildlife Marshall who shows up at a diamond heist claiming jurisdiction because the criminals also arranged for the animals in an animal testing facility next door to be released at the same time. The local cops resent this... less because of the jurisdiction issue, and more because he's a complete idiot.
  • This is shown in The Dark Knight, when Batman shows up at a crime scene and asks Gordon for a couple minutes alone before his men come in and contaminate it. Gordon is happy to oblige, but his officers take offense.
    • Mr. Lau flies back to Hong Kong to escape prosecution in Gotham City, saying he's out of Dent's jurisdiction and confident that China won't extradite a national. Joker retorts, in his warning about Batman to the mafia meeting, that Batman has no jurisdiction. Lo and behold, Batman comes a'knockin' on Lau's door.
  • Becomes a plot point in Die Hard because the Big Bad knows the FBI's standard responses to a hostage situation, and was counting on them to take the case from the LAPD and follow their playbook, helping him crack a safe and cover his escape.
    • Averted in With a Vengeance. The NYPD Captain is ordering his men to search the schools and challenges the FBI Agent not to pull a jurisdictional stunt. The FBI Agent has kids in one of the threatened schools, and he's more than happy to help.
  • Averted in The Boondock Saints. FBI Agent Smecker is called in to investigate a murder in Boston because the dead men were connected with the Russian Mob. He shows up with Da Chief, who tells the detectives in no uncertain terms that they are to fully cooperate with Smecker. Smecker turns out to be incredibly good at his job and shortly earns the respect of the police.
    • Subverted in the sequel. The Detectives are trying to prevent Special Agent Bloom from finding out they were involved in Don Yakavetta's killing. Bloom knows, and is actually on their side, but is just having fun fucking with them.
  • Averted in The Presidio. The Officer's Club at the Presidio is broken into, and an investigating Military Policewoman is shot on the scene. During the ensuing chase, which spills out into the city of San Francisco, the SFPD take over, and two officers are killed when one of them is shot and their car crashes and explodes. The SFPD and the Military Police decide to work together to solve the case, although it turns out the installation Provost Marshall and the police inspector assigned to work together on the case have a history with each other, and do not get along.
  • First played straight then subverted in the film adaptation of Along Came A Spider. Alex Cross is brought in to investigate the kidnapping of a US Senator's daughter from their exclusive, secured private school. The Secret Service representative is at first cagey and defensive about having a simple detective being brought in lead the case, but later approaches Cross and apologises, says he thinks jurisdiction arguments are "a massive waste of time", asks what he can do to help.
  • In The Avengers, the World Security Council berates Nick Fury for handing over Loki to Thor to "face Asgardian justice" instead of letting him be tried on Earth as a war criminal. Fury replies by saying that he didn't give Loki to Thor. He just chose not to try to stop the demi-god from taking Loki.

Literature

  • In the book Darkly Dreaming Dexter (not sure about the TV series), the Miami Metro PD gets into a jurisdictional tangle when the Ice Truck Killer, who they're investigating, leaves a body in an area under a rival district's jurisdiction.
  • Happens in the Dresden Files book Fool Moon, where three FBI agents are investigating a string of murders caused by a werewolf. The Jurisdiction Friction is so bad, they almost come to violence against Murphy while investigating a crime scene. This is because they are the werewolves themselves, in particular demonic-influenced ones, and gradually losing their human minds to the Beast. The fact that they're the guilty parties, having set up another type of werewolf to lose control of his curse and attack a Mob head who's escaped justice, doesn't help.
  • This is addressed in several Vince Flynn books, most notably Transfer of Power. Of course, the different Agencies have it a bit easier than most examples, because their heads know each other personally, but there is still an acknowledged interagency rivalry and pride.
  • In Gorky Park the friction between the militia (police) and the KGB was quite apparent. It become a plot point when Renko, chief investigator for the Militsiya, wonders why the KGB hasn't taken the case away from him.
  • There's serious friction between the Night Watch (once a band of incompetents, now a semi-serious police force) and the Day Watch (basically a gang with badges) in the Discworld novel Men At Arms, especially when Night Watch officers discover a body during the hours of daylight.
    • In Men At Arms there is also questions of jurisdiction when a crime has been committed on guild territory since guilds are supposed to have jurisdiction over their members. The Watch can probably handle any complaints from the Guild of Clowns but the Guild of Assassins is another matter. The Guild of Beggers is more reasonable about it.
      • It is not really an issue in the latter books when Commander Vimes and the City Watch are respected and feared enough that the guilds will not mess with them.
        • It helps that he's the Assasins Guild's landlord.
    • And in Snuff, Vimes is in the Shires, where he has a certain amount of authority as a local landowner, but is explicitly not part of the local law-enforcement hierarchy at all. But as far as Vimes is concerned, his jurisdiction is anywhere he finds a murder.
  • In the novel Pyramid Power, the Pyramid Security Agency runs roughshod over every other government agency that had anything they wanted due to their charter giving them authority over just about everything that can be associated with the alien pyramid that landed in Chicago. But one agency wasn't on the list of people they could overrule - the Fish and Wildlife Service - which brought charges against them for illegal actions against an endangered species - the sphinx and dragons that came out of the pyramid. Who then requested assistance in dealing with the violators from some of the agencies that the PSA had been pushing around - which included a regiment of paratroopers.
  • In Allegiance, Mara Jade, Darth Vader, and the Imperial Security Bureau all have their own different tasks, but there's one duty they all have in common: finding traitors and killing them. They don't get along. Vader is paranoid that Mara is being trained to replace him, Mara wishes he'd stop, and neither of them like the ISB. Both clash with Mara; the ISB tries to have her killed when she nears a truth they don't want her knowing, and Vader outright tries to murder her when he thinks she's after his target.


Live Action TV

  • Miami Vice did this often with the standard local vs. Feds variety. Sometimes averted when the Feds specifically asked for Vice assistance. Notably, sometimes the Vice squad bumped heads with detectives in other Miami police divisions like homicide or theft.
  • Star Trek is not immune to this; the Maquis freedom fighters were attacking Cardassians and based outside Federation space, but they were still technically Federation citizens, making it very testy--if not an outright race--as to whether Starfleet was going to find them and stop them, or the Cardassians were going to find them and kill them.
    • You won't find many Starfleet officers who actually like Section 31, and most 31 operatives regard Starfleet as idealistic dreamers with no idea of how the universe truly works. Yet both are sanctioned forces of the Federation.
    • The initial Starfleet/Bajoran Militia team up at the beginning of Deep Space Nine was like this.
  • Speaking of 24, a great many plots and subplots involve Jurisdiction Friction. 24 being the way it is, the conflict spirals way beyond Fed vs. Local. Past conflicts have involved CTU vs. The US Secret Service, CTU vs. LAPD, CTU vs. The Armed Forces, CTU vs. The FBI; it gets pretty interesting. Subverted though, in that in several instances, various organizations will team up to stop their common Big Bad.
  • Happens several times in the Law and Order franchise, not only between the NYPD and feds, but between their Order equivalents, the Manhattan District Attorney and the US Attorney's office. Also, the other boroughs, other towns or counties in the state, the state government, the Port Authority, New Jersey, other US States, the US military, Canada, and other nations. It's one of the writers' favorite ways to disrupt a case that could be a slam dunk by the 45 minute mark. It helps that New York's unique position in geography and politics means it has a lot of overlapping government spheres of influence, second only perhaps to Washington, D.C. In only the first season for example, one of three Federal inmates in a prison van is murdered during transport to court in Manhattan, leading to the detectives and FBI agents bickering over who has the right to even question the other two prisoners while the deceased is lying dead on the floor.
  • The Wire features this in season 2, with McNulty trying to prove that the deaths of 14 murdered women occurred in Rawls' jurisdiction.
    • This trope is actually subverted somewhat in The Wire as the heroes, members of the Baltimore PD, frequently must go to the Feds begging for help. The Feds frequently refuse because their focus, post-9/11, is on terrorism cases.
    • It's also Subverted in that virtually all of the friction occurs because the agencies are trying to dump the cases on others, not claim them for themselves. It's Baltimore. There are enough murders to keep everyone busy.
  • Subverted in Reno 911 where the clearly-more-competent FBI comes to town to investigate a serial killer and the local crew try desperately (and fail) to (in the words of Lt. Dangle) "not seem like dicks" to them.
    • Played for laughs on another occasion where the Reno sheriffs' drug sting operation (posing as a buyer) nets-a DEA sting operation (posing as the seller), after both go through a Long List of humorous drug euphemisms.
      • This has happened in real life more the once sadly...
  • On Law and Order SVU, Dr. Huang (an FBI profiler) often acted as a mediator between the squad and the feds. One gets the feeling during the times he actually takes the FBI's side, he does so not because he thinks they're right, but because he doesn't particularly like Stabler most of the SVU team.
    • Another episode featured Benson and Stabler going up against the FBI when one of the key participants in their case was revealed to be in the Federal Witness Protection Program as a witness to a key Federal case. Subverted, in that Benson and Stabler's interference in the Federal case merely ended up getting the guy killed and screwing up both the FBI and NYPD investigations.
    • On another episode, Internal Affairs shows up to ream Stabler and Huang after a suspect commits suicide in custody. Since Huang is FBI, everyone in the scene is perfectly well aware IA can't touch him. The IA guy starts blustering ineffectually "And you - Dr. Huang - you better watch yourself too!" Huang proceeds to openly roll his eyes and scoff at the guy in one of the greatest "bitch, plz" moments in the series.
  • Largely averted in Criminal Minds: the FBI main cast won't get involved in a case until the local authorities ask for help, since they don't want the locals to stop asking. This was a minor problem in one episode until an agent notices that a letter from the unsub was sent from a different state, giving the FBI jurisdiction anyway.
  • Stargate SG-1 bristles when it comes to the NID, but it all gets really simple once they turn out to be the Bad Guys anyway.
  • Averted in CSI, in which the titular forensic technicians have apparently unlimited authority to interrogate suspects, pursue fugitives, engage in gun battles, make arrests, and cut deals. In the real world, their obviously massive share of departmental funding alone would make the normal cops psychopathically jealous - but the eager and justifiable use of the Law of Conservation of Detail makes many a Fan Dumb believe that in the CSI-verse the normal cops are useless.
    • Actually has been played straight a couple of times. The first season had at least one episode where the CS Is clashed with the FBI. Popped up again more recently in "Zippered".
  • Parodied on Psych when the Treasury Department horns in on a case. Naturally, they have their own Federal psychic consultant.
    • And used again when Chief Vick (police) and her sister (Coast Guard) get in a fight over which of them has jurisdiction over a case.
  • Comes up frequently in NCIS. Is the dead body of the week a matter for NCIS, their counterparts in the Army, the FBI, or a local enforcement agency? Sometimes, characters on all sides get so snappy about jurisdiction that it seems they're more interested in having cases on their records than catching the bad guys... and the main characters are not above playing some dirty tricks in order to keep control of an investigation, such as when they agree to hand over a corpse to the FBI but put one of their own (live) agents in the body bag instead.
    • The pilot episode both played it straight and subverted it. First, a Navy Commander dies on Air Force One, and the case is fought over by NCIS, FBI, and the Secret Service. Then a Marine Major dies in identical circumstances and the local police have no problems handing the case over, 'cause they've got another body across town to deal with.
    • Gibbs has a frontierish eye-for-an-eye attitude toward justice that in some ways resembles that of a clan chief more then that of a cop. The cases he demands are often those in which he vaguely feels he has some reason to think It's Personal.
    • Mostly ignored on NCIS: Los Angeles as the LAPD usually isn't informed of what's happening. Did show up in an episode where each group was conducting an undercover op into the same people, which caused enough of a problem that the team gained an LAPD detective as a liaison and member of the team.
      • Los Angeles also tends to give this a nod whenever the team has to do something that would require going through local channels, but don't have the time - Hettie goes a long way back with a lot of people and can easily procure the warrants needed to veto the usual chain of command.
      • This gets played for laughs at one point where the local cops hand over a case with absolutely no hesitation. The team thinks this is suspicious... then notice the dead guy kept a meticulous filing system without a computer.
  • Built into The Closer, given that Brenda Leigh Johnson, a detective with the LAPD, is married to an FBI agent.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard occasionally saw this, when Hazzard's Sheriff Rosco Coltrane clashed with Sheriff Little of neighboring Chickasaw County.
  • Inverted in Homicide: Life On the Street, when a detective takes a corruption case involving a judge and local drug dealers to the local office of the FBI and the friction comes from the fact that the FBI don't seem interested in taking the case or what the cop has to say. Disgruntled, the cop leaves, but one of the agents corners him and explains off-the-record that they're already investigating the case; official policy is not to let on to the locals, hence their apparent lack of interest. Satisfied, the cop agrees not to let on that he talked to them.
  • Sometimes played straight, sometimes averted, on The X-Files. Considering that Agent Mulder is the Trope Namer for a conspiracy believing weirdo, understandably some local cops are annoyed when he shows up spouting his nonsense. Others are happy to let him take the case off their hands, and a tiny minority even believe him.
  • Surprisingly averted in a Season Two episode of Castle. The FBI shows up, there's a little Jurisdiction Friction but they ultimately wind up helping more than getting in the way (although they still need Castle's insight to actually get the case solved), and the FBI agents in question are nice people. Most of what tension there is seems to stem primarily from the fact that Beckett is seething with jealousy (not that she admits it) about Castle's fascination with the gadgets the FBI bring with them and the way he clicks with the lead FBI profiler.
    • Again averted in in "Setup"/"Countdown," when the Department of Homeland Security pulls rank once the case involves possible radiation and foreign terrorism. The DHS agent in charge, while a hard-ass, is actually a reasonable guy; the fact that Castle had a private meeting with a member of a foreign government's Secret Police is a valid reason to be furious.
    • Comes up again in "Lynchpin." There's Jurisdiction Friction but Castle and Beckett are on the other side of it as they're working with the CIA and required to keep secrets from their colleagues at the NYPD.
  • Similarly averted in Rizzoli and Isles. When the FBI shows up, the only real friction is between Detective Frost and the head agent, and it's immediately obvious that it's something personal. She was Frost's former fiancé.
  • Mostly absent on Numb3rs - when the LAPD show up, it's usually to provide the FBI with more boots on the ground.
  • Although the Sanctuary team has no real jurisdiction, this trope comes into play a few times as they try to gather abnormal-related evidence before the law enforcement comes in and sets up jurisdiction.
  • Played straight and parodied on Dollhouse. FBI Agent Ballard gets stonewalled by an ATF Agent after the latter completely botches a high-risk warrant on a religious cult (Does This Remind You of Anything??). Later, several of the Dolls and their human handlers are sent to investigate an outbreak, but the handlers are only given cover identities as private security. Topher, as a joke, programs the Dolls to think they are NSA Agents, who act like jurisdiction-stripping jackasses to their handlers.
  • The Shield: Played for serious drama, as Vic manipulates the LAPD and ICE against each other in an effort to get a job offer and an immunity deal from the latter.
  • JAG: The CIA and other espionage agencies are evil or morally gray/grey. The FBI is portrayed as using Jurisdiction Friction to take control of the investigation and refusing to cooperate with others.
    • In fact, only the JAG lawyers acts like ideal police. Everybody else is concerned with controlling the publicity.
  • Babylon 5:
    • When an alien structure is found on the planet near Babylon 5, another Terran cruiser fights over jurisdiction with Captain Sinclair over who should investigate it.
    • Talia Winters and Susan Ivanova argued on what to do with a teenage thief who just awakened with Telepathic abilities; Talia wanted the teenager to join the Psicorps, and Susan wanted to have her go through the justice system. Dr. Stephen Franklin intervened, saying that since the teenager is unconscious, she is in medical care, and both of them should leave as they could be disturbing the patient.
    • When the war criminal known as Deathwalker turns up on Babylon 5, just about every member race of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds sends a warship that demands that she be turned over or else they would attack the station. Ivanova defuses the situation by getting them to argue with each other over which one of the threatening warships Deathwalker should be turned over to, as there was only one of her. Also, the major powers want her immortality drug or want to avoid a trial.
  • Michael Westen made use of this trope one time, walking into a torched building and claiming to be from the county government. He didn't get free access to the site, but it bought him a few minutes while the city fire chief called the county office.
  • The second season of Dexter has a variation. When Dexter's victims are discovered, an FBI taskforce is sent to assist Miami Metro, because the task force leader (Special Agent Lundy) is an expert at difficult serial killer cases. This trope is defied by Captain Matthews, who insists that the case will not be a "jurisdictional circle-jerk." Lundy joins his task force with the Homicide team and generally works well and respectfully with them. When another killer starts copycatting Dexter, Lundy warns that the FBI may seize total control of the investigation; Dexter ends up killing the copycat, so that he won't be locked out of the loop.
    • Happens again (briefly) in the Third Season: A series of murders are blamed on a local drug dealer that killed the kid brother of a Crusading ADA and a high-ranking Miami-Dade Sheriff's Deputy. ( Dexter actually killed both the dealer and the brother, the latter by accident.) When a body is found matching the killer's MO but outside Miami's metro area, the Deputy uses this to shoehorn his way into Miami PD and take over the investigation.
    • The fourth season has the FBI take control of the investigation into the Trinity Killer. The Homicide team is especially bitter about this, since they had not only done pretty much all of the legwork by then, but the FBI had been ignoring Lundy's insistence that the killings were connected for 15 years.
  • On The Mentalist, the CBI often finds itself bumping up against local police departments who are not happy about them having jurisdiction.
  • A non-law enforcement example occurs in the last episode of The West Wing, where a train is caught in an ice-storm at a point hazily around the Massachusetts / New Hampshire border and both state governors are dithering about exactly who's responsibility it is to send the rescue teams out. This means that one of President Bartlet's last official acts in office turns out to be calling both governors at the same time, picking one at random, and basically telling him not to be such a damn idiot and send his state's National Guard out anyway, since no one cares who's job it is to rescue the train as long as someone does it.
  • On New Tricks the team occasionally experiences this when a cold case they are investigating turns out to be connected to an active case. They are not supposed to be investing active cases since most of them are not actually police officers any more.
  • In an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun, Officer Don's sting operation against a video pirate is taken over by a state cop played by Miguel Ferrer:

 Jack: Jack McMannus, state crime division.

Don: What? Like the Feds?

Jack: No. Feds are federal. I'm with the state. See, it's Feds, [gestures up high] state, [gestures slightly lower] you. [gestures way down low]

[later]

Tommy: Hey, who's this guy?

Jack: Jack McMannus, with the state.

Harry: Ooh, a Fed! [gestures up high]

  • Alcatraz: Since Alcatraz was a federal prison, Hauser's federal taskforce should have jurisdiction over capturing the returning "63s". However, since the government's been keeping a tight Masquerade on the disappearance and return of the inmates, and the crimes committed by the 63s so far have fallen under SFPD jurisdiction, there's been a lot of headbutting between the groups. Fortunately, since Rebecca's a cop, she's able to handle the cases without stepping on toes.
    • Episode 4 has Hauser intentionally invoking this trope as a delaying tactic -- the villain of the week has taken hostages in a bank, and the police have arrived to deal with it. Hauser plays the role of traditional FBI agent in these situations in order to distract the cops long enough for Rebecca to sneak in and extract the target.

 "I'm going to go join that jurisdictional pissing match over there and buy you some time."

  • A big part of early episodes of Chuck, in which CIA agent Sarah and NSA agent Casey have to work together with MacGuffin Guy Chuck. This fades in later episodes to the point where the writers seem to forget that Sarah and Casey work for two different agencies.
  • The main concept of Bron Broen. A serial murderer dumps human remains exactly on the border between two countries, so that the police of the cities on each side of the border have to co-operate unwillingly.
  • The Murdoch Mysteries episode "Anything You Can Do" begins with a Mountie taking control of Murdoch's investigation on the grounds that the victim is a suspect he's been pursuing.


Tabletop Games

  • In the Champions universe the two U.S. government anti-supervillain agencies PRIMUS and SAT have been known to squabble over who's in charge of investigating or dealing with supercrimes. Likewise, conservative elements in the U.S government resented the way UNTIL charged around the U.S. and created SAT specifically so the U.S. could handle its own super-problems.
  • Used to great effect by the shadowrunning Genre Savvy. The very basis of the setting's Mega Corp system is that corporations of a certain size are granted extraterritoriality over their possessions, with private security to enforce corporate laws which may or may not match up with the local government's version. A sufficiently daring shadowrunner can commit a run in a government area and escape into a corporate zone, or vice versa, where the opposing police force cannot pursue him. Tensions between public and corporate police forces are high enough that extradition is rarely an issue; between opposing corporations, even more so. Just be careful not to get caught: Private security tends not to be overly concerned with such trivialities like the Geneva Convention, and the poor unlucky runner might find himself the recipient of some creative product testing rather than a nice safe prison term.
  • Space Marine chapters in the Warhammer 40,000 universe can be notorious for this. The Space Wolves and Dark Angels chapters, rivals for the past 10,000 years, have actually fought wars with each other over jurisdictional grievances.

Video Games

  • In Alan Wake, an FBI agent called Nightingale assumes control of the Sheriff's Office and the Washington State Rangers of Bright Falls, Washington in order to capture the eponymous protagonist. However, it soon turns out that Nightingale is a Trigger Happy drunkard, who tries to shoot and kill an unarmed Wake and instead nearly injures innocent bystanders on two separate occasions. The local sheriff, Sarah Breaker, calls him out on this, and it turns out that Nightingale is suspended, and is trying to capture Wake on his own accord and without any legal backing in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, as he thinks Wake is responsible for the death of his former partner. He is wrong, if only slightly.


Web Comics


Web Original

Western Animation

  • South Park, in an episode parodying 24: Kyle's attempt to track down a terrorist cell through social networking websites is taken over in sequence by the FBI, Homeland Security, the CIA, the Secret Service, and the NSA, all within less than two minutes. Kyle then takes it back by just saying so.

 NSA Agent: All right, we're in charge now!

Kyle:(pause) Not any more, you're not!

NSA Agent: Oh, snap.

    • This was also parodied earlier when the boys were playing cops, and had their game taken over by a bunch of kids playing FBI. Later, real cops are taken over by the real FBI in exactly the same fashion.
  • The Simpsons episode "Marge vs. the Monorail" had Police Chief Wiggum and Mayor Quimby arguing about which of them is in charge of handling the out-of-control monorail situation. In the end, neither of them does anything about the monorail because they're too busy reading the town charter to see who really is in charge of the situation (and getting distracted when Wiggum notices he's entitled to "comely lasses").
    • Subverted in a later episode, where Sideshow Bob's plan to murder Bart without legal consequences involves the murder takin place in "Five Corners", point where five US states meet, Chief Wiggum arrives to arrest him at the last minute, so Bob steps into another state where the Springfield PD has no jurisdiction, it's then revealed that Wiggum contacted the police of the other four states, and each is waiting in their respective jurisdictions, and amicably work together to bring him in.
  • A minor one occurred in an episode of The Fairly Odd Parents where Timmy wished he was the most wanted kid in the world. This prompted the Dimmsdale Police Department at his house, then the FBI helicopters arrived few seconds later. One of the police officers then shouted "Hey, we were here first!"

Real Life

  • Real life example: The Waco Siege in 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) tried to raid a compound, and made a complete mess of things. The FBI steps in, takes over, brings in a friggin tank, and makes an even BIGGER mess of things. The two agencies have been at odds ever since.
  • Considering the multiple law enforcement agencies and the occasional shift of control (control of the drug unit is shifted from department X to department Y), this is certainly a reality in the United States. [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7]
  • Margaret Garner, when cornered by slave catchers, killed her children rather than let slavers take them back with her. This produced a legal discussion as to whether the Federal Fugitive Slave Act trumped mere state murder charges. It did, so she had to flee.
  • In countries that have a gendarmerie (regular soldiers trained as cops who enforce the law among the civilian population) there is often a rivalry between the gendarmerie and the local police.
  • Richard Ramirez (also known as the Night Stalker) avoided capture because of exactly this.
  • In Real Life, in British Policing (at least, say 90% of the time), whether this is any uncertainty whatsoever, the bickering will be over why one's own force shouldn't be responsible for an investigation. This shouldn't be complicated because jurisdiction in Great Britain is very simple - the force which polices the area where the crime happened investigates - but it never works that way in practice. Where there are no cross-border issues, it becomes a question of which squad or team within the individual force gets lumbered with the responsibility - and then it gets ugly.
    • The exception to this is any incident involving armed forces personnel, because they're subject to military law and are supposed to be handed over to the military police... unless civilians were involved, in which case it gets complicated. For example, the submarine HMS Astute was paying a goodwill visit to the city of Southampton when one of the posted sentries suffered some sort of mental breakdown and opened fire in the control room, killing one officer and wounding another. The perpetrator and his victims were all Royal Navy personnel, but the ship was in a civilian port rather than a Royal Dockyard and when the shooting occurred, several members of the city council were in the compartment whilst being given a tour of the non-classified areas. Figuring out whose jurisdiction that falls under will probably take much longer than the actual trial.
  • This trope is a fact of life in countries with a federal political system, including Canada and the United States. Different levels of government are continually squabbling over who has jurisdiction in any given sphere, arguing over money and agitating against perceived "unfair" treatment from each other. In some cases, this is deliberately encouraged-it's been suggested that the United States deliberately chose a federal system to divide power between the federal and state governments and prevent either one from becoming too much of a threat to individual liberty.
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