Peter Frase has a very interesting post up about the role of popular culture in legitimizing the police. Frase recounted a forum he attended with Alex Vitale talking about his book, The End of Policing. In response to a question about why people believe that the function of policing is to maintain peace in the liberal order when its actual practice and history suggest otherwise, Vitale cited television cop shows like as "a relentless machine for producing and reproducing the legitimacy of policing in the public mind."
This is what called to Frase's mind the perpetual plot line he calls "'ACAB-EU': All Cops Are Bastards, Except Us.":
The trope works by consistently portraying its central characters as liberal fantasies of the good cop–whether it’s the pseudo-scientists of CSI, the workaday victim-protectors of SVU, or the magical profiler-geniuses of Criminal Minds. At the same time, it makes a seeming concession to concerns about police misconduct, by constantly putting its protagonists in conflict with "bad cops" and their enablers, whether it be a rapist Corrections Officer or a corrupt small town department whose cover-up leads all the way to the Governor.Of course this trope works for politicians too. And economists.