All of my favorite crime thriller TV series include some form of corruption within the police force. After scouring the internet a bit, I wasn't surprised to find that I'm not the only one who enjoys a little fictional law enforcement drama. If it's dirty cops you want to watch or you're in the mood to watch corruption within the police force get exposed, TV has your back with a number of binge-worthy TV shows.
1. Dexter (2006-2013)
It goes without saying that Dexter is one of the best corrupt cop shows ever. Why? Dexter was quite literally a serial killer working for and with the cops. He used every resource at his disposal to continue killing, and even if his targets were equally as nefarious, it doesn't justify his actions.
2. True Detective, Season 1 (2014)
True Detective's first season was insanely amazing and highlights what it means to be a detective on that level. We love to see it, especially when it involves Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson on the screen acting opposite one another.
3. We Own This City (2022)
We Own This City is a miniseries based on the true story of corruption in the Baltimore Police Department's Gun Trace Task Force. This gripping series honestly portrays the brutal enforcement of anti-drug policies that make anyone wary of the police's seemingly absolute power.
4. Orange Is the New Black (2013-2019)
Orange Is the New Black focuses heavily on life in an all-woman minimum-security federal prison. Though much of the show details life as an inmate and dealing with the drama of prison life, it’s inevitable for corruption to pop up. Some of the correction officers overseeing life at Litchfield Penitentiary are less than couth characters, taking advantage of the women. From drug smuggling to brute force leading to the death of an inmate, Orange Is the New Black focuses on real issues in the American prison system, some of which are pulled from Piper Kerman’s memoir about her real experiences at FCI Danbury. Granted, the correction officers aren't quite police, but they are legal law enforcement officials.
5. Southland (2009-2013)
Southland’s entire premise revolves around officers of the Los Angeles Police Department, so, of course, it’s going to touch on corrupt cops. What’s refreshing, though, is that it’s not just about the corruption in the police force. While it does pop up, the show is more a character drama, following rookie Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie) and his training officer John Cooper (John Cooper) as they patrol the streets of the City of Angels and manage its crime and their personal lives.
6. The Wire (2002-2008)
This famous crime series examines the Baltimore drug scene from the perspective of drug users and dealers, as well as the police assigned to track them down. One huge theme in The Wire is the corruption of the Baltimore police force and how that impacts the lives of the city's people.
7. The Shield (2002-2008)
The Shield follows the detectives in an experimental division of the Los Angeles Police Department called The Strike Team, who use illegal methods to track down, interrogate, and ultimately convict criminals. But the team's crimes start catching up with them as time passes.
8. Line of Duty (2012-2021)
One cop's morals are challenged when his team asks him to help cover up an illegal shooting. When he chooses to turn against his team, he's recruited to join a special task force investigating corruption in the police force.
9. Narcos (2015-2017)
As drug kingpins in the late '80s make a fortune manufacturing and trafficking cocaine from Colombia to the U.S., authorities did everything they could to stop them. Or at least, that's what they want you to think. Narcos is a complex series that navigates the many layers of the drug trade.
10. City on a Hill (2019-2022)
What begins as a quest to uncover the secrets behind an armored car robbery turns into a collaborative effort between an unlikely team of investigators who work together to take down racism and corruption in the Boston police force. City on a Hill is set in the 1990s when violent crime and corruption went hand-in-hand in this New England city.
11. Bosch (2014-2021)
The Los Angeles Police Department doesn't know what hit them when a homicide detective goes on a mission to uncover the truth behind a series of suspicious deaths. But can the justice-seeking officer discover the real culprits before they stop him?
12. Better (2023-Present)
After her son suffers from a life-threatening case of meningitis, a corrupt cop working for a criminal mastermind has second thoughts about her secret job. As she struggles to sever ties with the criminal, the cop questions why she aligned herself with such a cruel man in the first place.
13. Mayor of Kingstown (2021-Present)
Mayor of Kingstown focuses on corruption and systemic racism in the US prison system. It's based in Kingstown, Michigan, where the prison industry reigns supreme. One family has the task of regulating crime in the city, which has consequences.
14. Shades of Blue (2016-2018)
One cop makes extra money to support her daughter's future by accepting bribes and stealing drug money until the FBI catches her. She then becomes an informant, requiring her to rat out her coworkers and set out on a path of honesty.
15. Gang Related (2014)
When one detective with secret ties to a terrifying gang learns his partner on the police force was killed by the gang, he must choose sides. But can he overcome his fear of the gang's cruel and callous leader to serve justice for his late partner and best friend?
16. The Oath (2018-2019)
Created by a deputy who served for 17 years in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, The Oath is a thrilling series about a group of corrupt cops who operate secretly. To cover their tracks and protect one another, members of the corrupt insider group face off with criminals and cops alike.
17. Gotham (2014-2019)
Gotham tells the story of Bruce Wayne's friend in the police force, James Gordon. In Gotham City, the police are crumbling with corruption, and only a few cops in the system, like Gordon, are willing to search for truth and justice. Not only does this brave officer fend off corruption at every turn, but he also must track down iconic criminals like the Penguin and Catwoman.
18. The Tower (2021-2023)
When a young girl and a long-time cop mysteriously fall off a building a die, one officer is determined to uncover the truth behind their deaths. But as she delves deeper into the case, she must watch her back because of what she learns about fellow members of the police force.
Maya (she/they) is a queer entertainment and culture journalist from Worcester, MA with bylines in publications like Pulse Magazine, HorrorPress, CM Pride, Fangoria, and TransLash News & Narrative. They cover interviews, reviews, roundups, news, and more in the entertainment and lifestyle space. She loves horror, LGBTQ+ representation, and creativity. They hope their writing both entertains readers and inspires them to think critically.