Ultimately, noir is a lodestar for decentering cop stories because it embraces fallibility. The schmucks, the washouts, the paranoiacs, and the losers of noir are captivating because they fail as often as they succeed. They are cunning and clumsy, inspiring and utterly full of shit. They are manic and perfectly cognizant, sometimes so insightful it drives them mad. Above all, noir stories bend cities and professions into odd shapes, imagining worlds where communities and individuals can solve problems without summoning lawless armed militias. There are fewer heroes in noir, but far more people. I choose option two.
At the level of archetype, fiction has mined every species of cop: dirty, crooked, straight, renegade, superhero, consultant, dog, mall, Robo. Even at the level of genus, the numbers are stifling: vice, SWAT, major crimes, sexual crimes, precincts, homicide detectives, criminal profilers, ad infinitum. As the activist Rashad Robinson (who petitioned for Cops to be canceled back in 2013, when it was on Fox) recently told NPR, “the cop character is the most overdeveloped character on TV.” We’ve reached peak cop.