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Smooths the bumps from Justice's path with 'is truncheon, does 'e?
Inspector Abberline on Sgt. William Thick, From Hell.

The PC who's not so PC.

A British police officer who entered the force before the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. There is something of a spectrum within this trope, with the unifying theme being a hankering for direct policing methods unhampered by such niceties as paperwork and the rights of suspects. Or, come to that, the feelings of victims.

At the one extreme are those with a tendency to favour "old fashioned" methods of policing, which usually involve beating up suspects, fabricating confessions (a process known as "verballing") and planting evidence. Being corrupt, misogynist, racist etc. is optional. Basically, the British version of the Cowboy Cop.

At the other end is the Dixon of Dock Green trope, an even more old-fashioned police officer from the days when (at least on television) policemen wouldn't even think about doing the illegal or corrupt, but were permitted to use much more force (both physical and psychological) than is perceived to be acceptable today. Such an Old-Fashioned Copper will likely be The Cape (or one of them) of the franchise -- with such a deeply-ingrained sense of fair play, there are few other possibilities for such a person. But he may also take thinly disguised glee in the bad guys getting their comeuppance. Nor would he be above giving (say) a ten-year-old a "clip round the ear", sure in the knowledge that if the child's parents found out they would face much worse.

British cop shows found many intermediates between these extremes and often had characters representing different versions within the same show.

May make use of the Gene Hunt Interrogation Technique.

See also Noble Bigot with a Badge.

Examples of Old-Fashioned Copper include:

Live Action TV

  • DCI Gene Hunt from Life On Mars. In some respects, he underplays reality- there were quite a few coppers like him.
  • George Dixon, of Dixon of Dock Green, is generally taken as the canonical example of the 'old fashioned bobby', firm but scrupulously fair, and the source of the Catch Phrase "Evening, all".
  • Hamish Macbeth (books and TV series) gently spoofs the Old-Fashioned Copper.
  • Jack Halford, Gerry Standing and Brian Lane in New Tricks, although they cheerfully excuse their flagrant bending of the rules with the (reasonable) justification that technically they aren't actually police officers any more.
  • Although the show was made when the "old-fashioned copper" technically wasn't old-fashioned, since the values represented were alive and well in the '70s, the cops on The Sweeney are pretty much the archetypal characters who represent this trope.

 Regan: Get your trousers on. You're nicked.

Carter: (to the perps girlfriend) Have a lie in, luv.

  • The 1983 sketch series Alfresco had a sketch in which a policeman in Victorian uniform walked into a modern police station, prompting another bobby to remark, "That's what I like to see - a good old fashioned copper."
  • Jack in A Touch of Frost, but not too badly and he only does it to get the right people convicted. He does have standards though, in one of the books he says that whilst he has planted evidence at crimes to point to the killer, he has never "lost" unfortunate evidence.
    • Although David Jason's cuddly TV Frost is a very different proposition from the obnoxious Frost of R D Wingfield's books.
  • The Last Detective has its hero, Dangerous Davies, as the "Dixon of Dock Green" type, but his DCI as one of these. The two were originally partners.
  • Several appear over the course of Rumpole of the Bailey. Rumpole disapproves, and not just because it's his job to defend the suspects they've stitched up. Special mention goes to Detective Inspector Brush, a recurring antagonist over the years.
  • Grim from The Thin Blue Line acts the part, but is mostly a wannabe, not to mention a buffoon. The protagonist, Fowler, is the Dixon of Dock Green type.
  • The protagonists of The Professionals, although in their case, they were officially given a "license to bend/break the law".
  • This kind of officer plays a role in the backstory and opinions of DS Ronnie Brooks of Law and Order UK. He was a young officer during the heyday of this type and disapproves of it. In one episode, he's shown as being more willing than his young partner to believe that police left an unliked colleague to die, since unlike his partner, he has a lot of experience with bent coppers.
    • Yet in a later episode, he is clearly reluctant to believe that a former partner of his is corrupt, though this sentiment could be due more to his friendship with the man rather than being willing to turn a blind eye. Indeed, when confronted strong evidence of the man's guilt, he is forced to admit it.
  • Several appeared over the course of The Bill. DI Frank Burnside was one of the most noticable and even got his own spin-off.
  • Several police officers appearing in Monty Python's Flying Circus, all of them played equally for satire and laughs. Graham Chapman was infamous for playing these.


  • Although not a British film, Sean Connery fills this role in The Untouchables. His character is introduced by being such a hardass that he tells Elliot Ness to straighten up. His idea of recruiting a new cop? Go directly to the Police Academy and find the guy who shoots straightest.
  • At the end of Cars 2, several British police cars wearing bobby helmets are actually summoned by the Queen to arrest Miles Axlerod after Mater tells her about his treason against her and that he is the leader of the Lemons.


  • These stereotypes appear in China Miéville's Kraken. They are dimly remembered manifestations of this archetype, wholly created by a police witch. This is definitely a novel in which all myths are (or at least, can be) true.
  • On the Discworld (specifically, Ankh-Morpork), "Mayonnaise" Quirke.
    • With arguably Vimes and most definitely Carrot as the Dixon of Dock Green-types.
      • Fred and Nobby skirt the edge; in Night Watch they were definitely headed that way, but in the later novels seem to realize that sort of thing just isn't done anymore, though they do seem a bit vague on exactly why (other than that if they do it and Vimes finds out... and Vimes will find out... he'll go spare - or librarian poo in the vernacular).
  • DCI Alexander Seawoll in Rivers of London, big, brawny, likes to swear a lot, hates paperwork and coppers who do magic. Also a policeman to his bones and knows exactly what to say and what not to say in a cover-up or witch-hunt.
  • Hamish Macbeth (books and TV series) gently spoofs the Old-Fashioned Copper.
  • Robert Westall often had policemen at either end of the scale appear in his work. Futuretrack Five had more corrupt British Police; a scruffier, less-disciplined and easier to con or bribe force than the unswerving Paramils. Break of Dark had Sergeant Nice; a copper who volunteered to do school talks, cycling proficiency tests and saves worms from being trampled on the station doormat.
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