Good cop/bad cop  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Good cop/bad cop, known in British military circles as Mutt and Jeff (from an American newspaper comic strip of that name) and also called joint questioning and friend and foe, is a psychological tactic used for interrogation.

'Good cop/bad cop' tactics involves a team of two interrogators who take apparently opposing approaches to the subject. The interrogators may interview the subject alternately or may confront the subject at the same time.

The 'bad cop' takes an aggressive, negative stance towards the subject, making blatant accusations, derogatory comments, threats, and in general creating antipathy between the subject and himself. This sets the stage for the 'good cop' to act sympathetically: appearing supportive, understanding, in general showing sympathy for the subject. The good cop will also defend the subject from the bad cop. The subject may feel he can cooperate with the good cop out of trust, or fear of the bad cop. He may then seek protection by and trust the good cop and provide the information the interrogators are seeking.

Although the technique is especially useful against subjects who are young, frightened, or naïve, it may still cause an instinctive psychological response in those who are familiar with it. However, as they are aware of the attempted manipulation, they may just close-down entirely or attempt to disrupt the procedure.

There are various countermeasures available that can disrupt the tactic or cause it to backfire:

  • An experienced subject may choose to deliberately bait the 'bad cop' with provocative behavior of his own short of violent provocation (such as derogatory remarks about the bad cop or his family, racial, ethnic and gender slurs if applicable, offensive gestures), hoping that the 'bad cop' will lose self-control and react violently towards the subject.
  • Severe verbal abuse or otherwise insulting behavior targeted at the 'good cop' has also proven highly disruptive on occasion.

The good cop/bad cop routine is a common dramatic technique in cinema and television, where the bad cop often goes beyond the boundary of legal behavior. A common variant to subvert expectations is to seemingly introduce the 'bad cop' first, only to reveal that he's actually the 'good cop' despite his harshness and that the real 'bad cop' is even worse.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Good cop/bad cop" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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