In the gothic concrete jungle that is Gotham City, crime and corruption are an everyday occurrence. Whether it be actual law-breaking criminals, the handful of recurring super powered loonies running around, or any number of the members of the Gotham City Police Department doing the same shady business, the city that the Batman calls home is a breeding ground and calling card for the worst of the worst.
But why exactly are so many tainted by the rampant corruption in Gotham? And why are the men and women in uniform that have sworn an oath to protect and serve the city constant contributors to its spread more so than even some of the most vile bad guys in town? Most importantly, why do they keep doing it in a city where the chances of Batman coming down on their head are almost a guarantee?
Shown in stark detail in the iconic graphic novel Batman: Year One by Frank Miller; the Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker series Gotham Central; and even more recently in one of the many stories celebrating the one thousandth appearance of Batman in Detective Comics #1027, the Gotham City Police Department, or GCPD, have been and probably always will be a bunch of self-serving and corrupt individuals. Running the gamut from taking bribes, to tampering with evidence, to taking part in overt racism and profiling, to quite literally working for the bad guys, the recruits populating the GCPD are mostly a common breed of immorality that Gotham just can’t seem to get rid of.
But the main reason why a lot of these cops choose to operate on the wrong side of the law is actually so simple it’s almost frustrating: they do it because they can. To put a finer point on it, they do it because in Gotham, where a laughing clown can kill dozens in a heartbeat and no good deed goes unpunished, it’s simply par for the course. This “normal” behavior is all the reason bad cops need to do the wrong thing, and when confronted about it, as shown in James Gordon’s arc in Batman: Year One, as well as a vignette story in Detective Comics #1027, the good guys are usually scoffed at and looked down upon for essentially being an annoying wrench thrown into their corrupt gears.
In reality, these good cops are the last beacons of hope in a city that can’t always have Batman around to protect it from itself, and in a seemingly vain attempt to accomplish something positive in Gotham, a handful of souls take it upon themselves to do what they can to help, even if it doesn’t always amount to much. GCPD greats like the always-loyal Jim Gordon, his right-hand man and current Commissioner Harvey Bullock Detective Renee Montoya and more do their best to tolerate the problems they see in their line of work while doing what they can to bring the idea of true justice back to Gotham City.
In a town where doing the wrong thing is seemingly held in higher regard than doing what is right, the Gotham City Police Department sits right on the tipping point between fully falling into their basest instincts and having just enough good in their ranks to cancel it all out. And while Batman might prowl the streets when the sun sets to take on the bigger threats at large, the corrupt and criminal will always do what they have to in order to get ahead for the simple basic reason that they can.