Superhero comics are dominated by superheroes.
Thank you for listening, have a pleasant evening.
When it comes to law enforcement in comics, that's more or less what it boils down to. However, there is no shortage of bad guys, from purse snatchers to mad scientists to intergalactic abominations. There are plenty of brilliant adventurers in the Marvel universe to keep the people safe but considering the absolutely constant threats that surround them, Earth should have been toast by now. Spidey is the friendly neighborhood hero, but how often is he off fighting some costumed weirdo? Local lowlifes must be thrilled when he is off dodging exploding pumpkins or crawling through the sewer after some monster. Kind of makes you wonder what it is like to be a mere mortal police officer in New York City. How much help are the vigilantes, anyway?
I'm sure that this topic has been breached in various comic book issues many times but the one that comes to mind is Spider-Man Unlimited #14. It is the second story in the book, titled "S.C.U.D.S." (It stands for "Superhuman Cleanup Department of Sanitation.") It doesn't follow a cop, but does show the life of a sanitation worker named Artie. He resents cleaning up after superhuman fights and the damage they leave behind: craters in the streets, to masses of webbing across skyscrapers that need to be removed. Artie complains that Spidey never fixes the damage that he causes. "I mean, if you knock over something and it breaks, you clean it up, right? A truck is lying on its side and you just up and swing away? Here I am workin' sometimes 12 hours a day cleaning up after this jerk and what do I get for it?" Artie turns out to be a little unstable, but he does have a point and I'm sure many city workers feel the same.
Yet, for the most part, Spider-Man does have a tense but cooperative relationship with the authorities. He has unofficially partnered with officers of all ranks and titles. All of those ranks come with different responsibilities. According to Rasmussen College, there are eight different ranks. The hierarchy depends on the police agency (federal or local) but the following is most commonly used in municipal police organizations.
Police Technician Entry level position, prepares paperwork, enforces parking laws, provides general citizen assistance. Requires high school diploma.
Officer/detective/patrol officer Often respond to emergency and nonemergency calls, obtain warrants, arrest suspects and testify in court. Education demands high school or bachelors degree.
Police Corporal Act as supervisors to lower ranking officers, rank may be given to officers with a strong leadership ability.
Police Sergeant Depends on size of agency, larger agencies in larger cities supervise and train personnel, interpret and apply ordinances, weigh in on disciplinary action.
Police Lieutenant Almost middle management role, take direction from superiors and turn it into action and give plans to detectives, evaluate officers, ambassadors to the public in civil matters, requires many years of experience with strong public relations abilities.
Police Captain Report directly to police chiefs or deputy chiefs, manage and direct activities of the department, monitor budgets and programs, represent the department for the community, may conduct research and prepare reports, may need to lead in stressful situations, and have strong public speaking skills. May require college degree.
Deputy Police Chief Responsible for administration of a bureau or division of police, have all of the responsibilities of a captain but will need to take the position of a chief of police if needed, watch for compliance issues, and ensure the department is following current laws and regulations.
Police Chief Usually top authority of the department, oversee all operations, appointed by elected officials, direct the systems that maintain record and legal documents, handle public relations grievances, works closely with political leaders, address the public in times of crisis.
Spider-Man has met many cops over the years but the ones he has had the most interaction with (and/or minimally used cops I’ve found the names of) have been Carlie Cooper, Captain Yuriko Watanabe, Captain Sergeant Blume, Sergeant Stan Carter, Captain Cleeland, Captain Jean DeWolff, Detective Neil Garret, Vin Gonzales, Lieutenant William Lamont, Sergeant Lou Snider, Arthur Stacy, and Captain George Stacy.
Carlie Cooper Carlie was a forensics officer who prepared the first body of the Spider Tracer Killer. The body had one of Spider-Man‘a electronic tracers attached, part of a conspiracy to ruin his reputation. After telling her sergeant about her suspicion of the tracer being planted in the body, he arrested her and claimed she was aiding the killer. She eventually escaped with with help of the criminal called Menace. Carlie was cleared of all charges. She and Peter had an awkward, flirting relationship but after she gave him an ultimatum he kissed her and they started dating. She soon deduced that Peter was Spider-Man after all of NYC was given his spider powers. Everyone else used them like amateurs but Peter was much too comfortable with the abilities. When Carlie was investigating the “Superior Spider-Man,” she was kidnapped by the Green Goblin and exposed to the goblin formula. She became one of his followers and called herself Monster. She was caught and cured by the Superior Spider-Man. After that, Carlie left New York. (First appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #545, December 2007)
Vin Gonzales Vin was a low ranking NYC cop and room mate of Peter. They didn't get along, as Vin thought Peter was skipping of paying the rent after Peter lost his job at the Bugle. Vin also hated Spider-Man, calling him a "bottom feeding lowlife dirtbag." He was in a conspiracy with other cops to frame Spidey for murders around the city by planting spider-tracers on deceased persons, to end his vigilantism. Gonzales was arrested for taking part in a conspiracy and sent to prison, where he was badly beaten by the other inmates for being a cop. Vin's lawyer sister, Michelle, got him a reduced sentence and he was soon a free man. However, he had become a member of the Green Goblin's organization, and threatened Harry Osborn after Stanley Osborn was born. Norman knew of his grandson's birth and wanted Harry to know it. Harry beat Vin up and he hasn't been seen since. (First appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #566, June 2007)
Detective Neil Garret Detective Garret first met Spider-Man while Venom was draining cancer patients of their adrenaline. The police had originally called the attacks the "Vampire Mutilations," until Spidey arrived to tell Garret about Eddie Brock. Garret didn't want a civilian to get involved with a police matter, for their own safety and he was a "by the book" cop. He was convinced otherwise by Spidey, and the detective agreed to leak info to the media to draw out Brock. He also threatened to arrest Spider-Man if he saw him again. Later, Garret helped Spider-Man after Doctor Octopus kidnapped a Palestinian Foreign Minister. Doc Ock had tried to spark a larger war in the Middle East unless Spider-Man unmasked on TV. (First appearance: The Spectacular Spider-Man (vol. 2) #2, September 2003)
Detective Jacob Raven In Salt Lake City, Detective Raven had been investigating the Tannen crime mob. In return, he and his family was kidnapped by the mob. His partner, Louise Kennedy, had been working for the Tannens and turned him in. For her betrayal, Louise was killed by Kaine, another clone of Peter. The Ravens were rescued by Ben Reilly but Raven’s wife died of injuries at a hospital. Reilly’s fingerprints were at the crime scene, leading Raven to think he was a killer. Ben’s finger prints matched Peter’s and he was arrested in New York. Kaine confessed to the death of detective Kennedy and was sent to prison. (First appearance: Spider-Man (vol. 1) #53, December 1994)
Sergeant Blume We know nothing about Blume, not even his first name. His brother's name was Billy, and he had been an honest officer. The Kingpin had tried to bribe Billy, who refused to take the money. Kingpin had Billy killed and Sergeant Blume swore revenge. He took the alias of "The Rose," and worked for Kingpin's son, Richard Fisk, who also wanted to take down his father. Blume became as bad as the criminals that he wanted to destroy: hiring a hitman, many gun offenses, and fraternizing with criminals. He was killed shortly after becoming The Rose. (First appearance: Web of Spider-Man (vol. 1) #84, January 1992)
Sergeant Stan Carter Stan Carter had originally been an agent of SHEILD and had been a participant of experiments with formulas to increase strength. The program was shut down after being seen as dangerous, and Carter resigned in protest. While he had been cleared of all drugs in his system, the chemicals had badly damaged his psychological health. He joined the NYPD and started an affair with Captain Jean DeWolff but his mentality declined after his partner was killed by young criminals. A religious man, he saw his job as being to rid the world of sin. He bought a ski mask and shotgun, and called himself the Sin Eater. His first murder was of his lover, Captain DeWolff. He went on to kill Judge Horace Rosenthal and Father Bernard Finn. Carter, ironically, was in charge of the investigation into DeWolff's death. When Spider-Man learned who was behind the ski mask, he beat Carter to the point of him needing a cane. Cater later committed suicide by cop, after holding a kid hostage with an empty shotgun. (First appearance: Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man (vol. 1) #107, October 1985)
Sergeant Lou Snider (In his first appearance, Snider is referred to as a sergeant, but in later issues is called a detective. I'm not sure if his rank changed or if the discrepancy is just an error on the part of the writers.) After Spider-Man was accused of a series of burglaries, Peter went to investigate the apartment of Desiree Vaughn-Pope, where a bodyguard fell off the balcony. Snider was in charge of that crime scene and was initially skeptical of Spider-Man's involvement, as whoever climbed into the apartment had left claw marks up the side of the building, and a steel flechette had been fired at the guard before he fell. His mind was changed after a ball of webbing was found on the roof. The second Prowler was the actual killer. Even after Prowler was captured, Snider wanted an official statement from Spider-Man, who refused. The sergeant's trust in the vigilante grew after the other crooks in the conspiracy were captured. Snider eventually became an important ally for Spider-Man when the Hobgoblin began his reign of crime. He provided confidential information regarding the Hobgoblin case, as well as the history of the Smuggler. (First appearance: Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man (vol. 1) #47, October 1980)
Lt. William Lamont Lt. Lamont was probably the cop that Spider-Man had the best working relationship with. Lamont was first mentioned as a youth officer at the 14th precinct. Spidey approached Lamont while looking for an occult powered kidnapper called Shade. The officer was completely unfazed by Spider-Man dangling behind him. They had a similar sarcastic sense of humor and Lamont immediately seemed amused by the vigilante. Lamont was the cop that Spider-Man went to when he found a letter from Gwen Stacy, and needed to know about the indentations left on the paper. In an unfinished story, Lamont was speaking with Spider-Man at what was possibly his final adventure many years in the future. He tried to convince Peter (he had learned Spider-Man's ID at some point) that he didn't need to go through with his plan and Peter said he had to, for Mary Jane and their son. (First appearance: Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 2) #41, July 2002)
Captain Cleeland The captain was the supervisor for Det. Garret during the "Vampire Mutilations." She kept her officers focused on Otto Octavius as he waited for Spider-Man to unmask in Times Square. After Ock escaped into the sewer, she told a nearby officer, "The next time the Commissioner asks me to oversee a delicate political incident, remind me to tell him to stuff it where the sun don't shine." She also trusted Garret to get the Foreign Minister away and safe from Octavius's hideout. (First appearance: The Spectacular Spider-Man (vol. 2) #2, September 2003)
Captain Jean DeWolff Jean DeWolff came from a family of cops, from father to step-father. She was a tough detective that climbed the ranks quickly and was picked by the new Commissioner to be the Captain of Manhattan's 5th precinct. She met Spider-Man and Iron Man as they investigated bombings committed by the Wraith and saw the vigilantes as useful. She worked with Spider-Man many times in the future, such as drawing up amnesty papers for the Black Cat and appointing guards at Felicia Hardy's hospital room. Stan Carter eventually joined NYPD and became romantically involved with DeWolff. Jean was killed by her unstable lover. (First appearance: Marvel Team Up #48, August 1976)
Captain George Stacy George Stacy wasn't only a high ranking officer in the NYPD, he was also the father of Peter Parker's college girlfriend, Gwen. Stacy first had to deal with Spider-Man after the webhead had been forced to cooperate with Doctor Octopus to steal a top secret military device. Colonel John Jameson allowed Spider-Man to escape after Octavius had been captured and the military wanted to know why. Stacy commented that it was difficult to see Spider-Man as a criminal since he had fought supervillains before, including Doc Ock. Stacy admitted that he had been following Spider-Man's activity and found the story fascinating. Captain Stacy later wanted to compare notes with Peter on his "captor," (Peter had gone missing and blamed his disappearance on being taken by Spider-Man) but instead let he and Gwen go out. George was later brainwashed into stealing police documents and handing them over to the Kingpin. George was saved by Spider-Man in a prison riot, and promised to testify in court on his behalf, and gave Spidey credit for ending the riot. George eventually died protecting a child from falling debris during a fight between Spidey and Doc Ock. (First appearance: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #57, February 1968)
Captain Yuriko Watanabe
“Yuri” came from a line of NYPD officers. Her grandfather had received the Medal of Honor but her father had been convicted of taking bribes. After returning home from war, she joined the police and supported Spider-Man after seeing him help during a gang war. Yuri became the Wraith, using technology from the Chameleon and Mysterious to intimidate criminals. She impersonated Captain DeWolff, tricking people into thinking she was a ghost. She helped Spider-Man several times, but became a criminal herself after her mentor, Teddy Rangel, was killed in a shootout with Tombstone’s gang. Tombstone was captured but quickly released by a corrupt judge, making Yuri give up on the system. Watanabe was eventually fired after breaking protocol. Wraith became increasingly violent and Spidey questioned her ethics, to her indifference. Watanabe eventually killed a henchman of the gangster Martin Li which was the breaking point for Spider-Man. He webbed her up and took on Mr. Li but when he returned, Wraith was gone. (First appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #600, 2009)
Arthur Stacy Arthur is George's older brother. While not a cop, he worked for private security for many years. He had originally lived in England when his brother was killed, and then at some point moved his private investigation firm to Hong Kong. After the Chinese took control, Arthur moved to New York. At that time, Ben Reilly and Peter Parker had found a Spider-Man skeleton in a smokestack. The discovery returned Arthur's interest to Spider-Man, making him again think that he was a murderer. He never did discover the connection between Peter and Spider-Man. (First (brief) appearance: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #93, February 1971) Return appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #418, September 1996)
New York’s finest has a mixed record in Spidey’s world. Many have died in the line of duty and others have been as bad as the people they arrest. Still, even the officers that have supplied information to Spider-Man have been breaking ethics. George Stacy, as important a character as he is, was acting as more of a father to Peter than he was as a cop. I don’t expect Stan to know everything about police procedures but Stay’s character bugged the hell out of me. Why is a retired cop still get so involved in ongoing investigations? We need an anti-George Stacy.
I liked stories where Spidey gets involved with the cops, it added a level of realism. The stories involved corruption, self sacrifice and allowed our larger than life hero to interact with normal people. When people died in those tales, they stayed dead, which we all know is a rare thing in comic books. I’ve tried to weave together the police departments, which is why I included the explanation of police rankings. I wanted to see who was whose superior and what their jobs involved. I don’t think the comic characters activities match too well with the reality. Oh well.