Fact or Fiction? An Analysis of the film Pride and Glory

Posted: February 28, 2015 by theyoungcitybandit in Uncategorized

For the purposes of this blog, I plan to analyze the movie Pride and Glory in order to reveal the facts and fictions portrayed in the crime movies in relation to policing.


“Director Gavin O’Connor collaborates with Narc director/screenwriter Joe Carnahan on this family-focused police drama concerning an honest homicide detective (Edward Norton) assigned to investigate the precinct run by his potentially crooked older brother (Noah Emmerich). As the investigation begins to reveal some troubling facts about the precinct, it gradually becomes apparent that the policeman who is also the older brother’s best friend (Colin Farrell) may be the man orchestrating many of the suspected crimes” (Jason Buchanan, 2008: 1)



Punch’s Classification of Officer Types

Punch’s Classification of Officer Types categorizes police officers in terms of their motivations to participate in misconduct and corruption (Punch, 2009). It is important to note how Punch emphasizes that officers exercise forms of deviance for reasons beyond the sole purpose of material gain. Punch’s typology is relevant in Pride and Glory, the main characters in the movie fall under her classification of officer types.



Ray, played by Edward Norton, is the main character in the movie and is characterized by his integrity and commitment to honest policing.   According to Punch, Ray would fall fit the profile of what she calls the “Professionals”: police officers who are highly committed to upholding the law through legitimate means. “Professionals” also tend to avoid interacting with officers known to be corrupt (Punch, 2009). Throughout the entire movie, Ray struggles between his commitment to policing and his loyalty to his fellow officers and family. In the end, Ray’s commitment to his profession is stronger than his familial obligations. He is too attached to his profession to turn a blind eye, and decides to put an end to the corruption he discovers within his fathers precinct.

Jimmy and Associates


Jimmy, played by Colin Farrell, fits into the Punch’s “Dirty Harrys” profile. Although Jimmy receives material gain by selling the drugs he illegally confiscates, money is not the only thing that motivates his deviant behaviour. Like Jimmy, “Dirty Harrys” or “Noble Causers” are committed to the ends of policing and are willing to use any means to reach them (Punch, 2009). In other words, Dirty Harrys are willing to partake in corruption to close cases and speed up investigations. Dirty Harrys in philosophical terms are consequentialists; meaning that if a goal is morally important enough, any method of achieving it is acceptable (Frank, 2003). Consequentialists insist that whether an action is morally right depends only on its consequences. The right choice, they argue, is always the one that leads to the best overall consequences” (Frank, 2003: 2).

Another way of looking at “Dirty Harrys” is in terms of “noble cause” corruption. Police officers become frustrated that due process and bureaucratic rules prevent them from convicting criminals, and decide to take things into their own hands. Like Jimmy does in Pride and Glory, “some ‘tough’ cops view their role as crime control” (Westmarland, 2006: 161). Jimmy and his fellow officers are able to justify their actions because by locking up and stealing from drug dealers, they believe that they look out for the greater good of their organization and the public in general (Westmarland, 2006: 161).

Jimmy could also be defined in terms of what Punch calls “Ideological Combatants” (2009). Like Jimmy, “ideological combatants are “obsessed with crime-fighting and personally invested in a ‘war on crime’; may create opportunities for deviance” (Larsen, 2015). Furthermore, they are focused on certain group or type of crime (Punch, 2009). In Pride and Glory, Jimmy’s corruption is all in relation to the drug trade, he is not involved in illegal gambling or fraud for example.

Grass eaters, meat eaters and birds

Based on an officer testimony heard before the Knapp Commission in 1972, this typology is used to distinguish officers by their involvement in corruption (Larsen, 2015). The Knapp Commission investigated corruption within the NYPD. Pride and Glory also takes place in NY, and show many similarities to the Knapp Commision Typology.

Grass eaters

“Out of sight out of mind and the fuckin envelopes on time”

The Knapp Commission names cops who passively accept perks and rewards for deviant behaviour as grass eaters; they see the perks they receive as natural aspects of being a police officer . Officers who denied “grass” or paydays were ironically seen as the deviant one’s’ refusing kickbacks raised suspicion among other officers and was frowned upon (Larsen, 2015).

Pride and Glory does a good job at emphasizing the role of the grass-eater. In one scene, two officers Eddie and Kenny are shown in squad car driving. Eddy complains that he needs some money and Kenny reminds him that Jimmy (their leader) has advised them to lay low. Eddie argues that laying low isn’t going to pay his rent and proceeds to try to rob a convenience store. This scene is significant because it supports the notion that many officers rely on the money or “grass” they get from deviant acts, almost as if the money was a part of their salary (Larsen, 2015). It also depicts a transitional phase, where grass eaters are not fed, taking matters into their own hands. The officers go from following orders to get paid to actively searching for payoffs, assuming the role of meat eaters.

Meat Eaters


Meat-eaters, as described in the Knapp Commision, are “proactive carnivores” (Larsen, 2015); they are actively seeking opportunities to abuse their police powers to gain some form of benefit. The Knapp Commission testified that “The meateaters are different. They’re out looking. They’re on a pad with gamblers, they deal in junk, or they’d compromise a homicide investigation for money” (Larsen 2015).

Jimmy, the “leader” of the corrupt cops, fits the perfect description of a meat eater. As his brother-in-law Ray, “the professional” (Punch, 2009) cop, discovers clues and follows various leads, he uncovers Jimmy’s secret. Not only have the men in Franny’s precinct been making money by confiscating drugs and reselling them, but Jimmy has been heading the entire thing. Ray uncovers that Jimmy has been setting up other police officers by tipping off dealers that he was working with before they got raided. Ray also learns Jimmy has participated in tons of planned executions, and that he killed off one dealer he could start working another.




The Knapp Commission Typology uses the term “Birds” to classify senior officers who are aware of corruption taking place, but choose to remain indifferent. The commission defines birds and suggest that “the birds just fly up high, they don’t eat anything either because they are honest or because they don’t have any good opportunities” (Larsen, 2015). At one point in Pride and Glory, Ray discovers Jimmy and his gang of police officers as they are torturing a suspect to find out information. Ray calls Jimmy’s commanding officer and chief Franny to alert him about what Jimmy has done, but Franny does not offer him the advice that he was hoping for. After realizing the extent of Jimmy’s corruption, Franny fears that his position could be jeopardized and initially refuses to help Ray. Although he was not aware of the extent of the problem, turning in Jimmy would mean admitting a degree of involvement. Franny argues that all they have to do is give Jimmy a slap on the wrist and cover their tracks. Franny is a prime example of a bird; which can be distinguished by his choice not to intervene or reprimand the corrupt officers in his precinct.

When Jimmy frames Ray, it would also fall under Roebuck and Barker’s Classification of Activities, which categorizes officers according to the type of corruption they partake in (Roebuck and Barker, 1974). Jimmy engaged in what Maurice Punch would define as “flaking and padding”, and addition to Roebuck and Barker’s work. Flaking and padding refers to planting or adding evidence to a scene to attempt to set someone up (Punch, 2009).

Blue Code of Silence


The blue code of silence is an aspect of police culture that discourages police officers from reporting on one another (Westmarland, 2005). One could even say that police follow as similar code as the streets do; dont snitch on your own. Tensions commonly arise when”individual integrity and group loyalty are in opposition and are simultaneously expected” (Kleinig, 1996: 67). We see this in Pride and Glory throughout a large majority of the movie. In one scene, Ray explains that he believes Jimmy is involved in corruption to his superior Franny. His advice to Ray is to sit on it and see what really happens before stirring up a mess, reminding him that he has to protect his own. Ray obviously doesn’t like it, but his father orders him to keep quiet and Ray reluctantly agrees. The blue code of silence works “[strengthens] internal solidarity, but also inappropriate loyalties or secrecies” (Westmarland, 2006: 161). In the beginning of the movie Ray is still dwelling on a prior incident where he succumbed to internal department pressures in protecting a bad cop, ultimately costing him his marriage. Although Ray eventually breaks the blue code of silence, we see how much he struggles with this throughout the movie. In fact, that is the major source of conflict in the film; the struggle between being integrity and loyalty.

Punch’s Three-level Typology of Origins

In Punch’s Three-level Typology of Origins, she highlights the various origins for police corruption; corruption within the police domain, externally driven corruption and system failure. Most of the corruption that takes place in this movie, falls under “within the police domain” and the “externally driven corruption” categories.

Within the Police Domain: “This encompasses grass-eating, conventional corruption, process corruption (including ‘testilying’), meat-eating, and strategic ‘noble-cause’ corruption” (Larsen, 2015).

Externally Driven: ‘This includes state domination, whereby police engage in deviance at the direction of / in furtherance of the interests of politicians, as well as capture by deviant elites, whereby the police collude with cabals of politicians, organized criminals, and local officials” (Larsen, 2015). In the movie, Jimmy’s actions are also influenced by his partnerships with organized criminals in the drug trade. He gets to a point where he is in so far deep, that a gangster visits him at his home and threatens to harm his family.


The use of deadly force

Pride and Glory, among many other crime movies present a distorted view of police use of deadly force. Often in crime movies,  there is heavy emphasis on police brutality that results in death- especially via gunfire (Crawford, 1999). In crime dramas, viewers are often bombarded with shootout scenes and murder when in reality, the majority of police officers can expect to work their entire career without firing so much as one shot in the line of duty. In fact, though the rates vary, police in all cities kill rarely. Pride and Glory takes place in New York for example, where the average police officer would have to wait an average of 694 years before killing anyone (Crawford, 1999). Below I have highlighted two scenes from Pride and Glory that involve the use of of deadly force.

Example A:

The movie begins with a scene that reveals 4 dead officers at a crime scene. In fact, this is the incident that motivates Ray to go back into police work. At this point he is unaware that the officers were killed because the gang members were tipped off by Jimmy.

Example B:

Two members of Jimmy’s crew try to rob a liquor store, which goes badly. A bystander and one of the two cops are killed, and the other holds the store owner hostage. Francis Jr. goes to the liquor store to talk his officer into freeing the officer. He manages to get the officer out of the store alive as police hold back the people on the streets, who are on the verge of rioting.

The Role of the Detective and Patrol Officer


The film industry is often criticized for overemphasizing and exaggerating the role of the detective. Many movies imply that police investigators are highly effective crime fighters with particularly cunning skills that ensure they solve crimes that ordinary men and women would not be able to do (Crawford, 1999). They face gang shootouts, high speed chases and many other intense life or death situations. On the other hand, they give off the perception that patrol officers are incompetent, lazy and overall incapable of keeping the public safe. Similarly, in Pride and Glory, Ray and Jimmy’s roles as police investigators are highly emphasized. Kenny and Eddy, the patrol officers or “grass eaters” in the movie, are portrayed as unintelligent and incapable of doing their jobs without Jimmy’s guidance. Films fail to consider that most of the cases closed by detectives are solved because the patrol officer has caught the perpetrator at the scene of the crime or because a witness comes forward (Crawford, 1999).

Police Corruption: Blurring between reality and fiction

Police corruption is perhaps the most well known and prevalent problem that comes up in policing. Corruption has also provided to be a main source of conflict in movies in the crime genre. In Pride and Glory for example, the whole movie revolves around the idea of police corruption and the struggle to preserve integrity in the line of duty. This is the one aspect portrayed in film that offers a frightening glimpse of reality that most viewers do not witness in real life. These scenes are often graphic, raw and disturbing, and present the viewer with the opportunity to analyse situations that are taking place in society. However, although the corruption in crime dramas represent or mimic real life events, these forms of corruption are rare. Take Pride and Glory; Jimmy and his gang are able to get away with murder, extortion and drug dealing for a long time before they are stopped. The problem with having real life situations mimicked in these movies is that they exaggerate the extent to which they occur. How can you tell people that police corruption is a rare phenomenon when it is present in almost every single crime drama! Things get even worse when the movies present themselves as “true stories” when in reality, they often magnify the severity of the situation (Crawford, 1999).

& the Moral of the Story is…

Throughout my research on this particular blog and my personal experience watching tons of crime movies, I want to stress that it is important that we take the material we see in these movies with a grain of salt. Although we like to think that we are able to separate fact from fiction, preconceived notions about police work stem from fictional reenactments and representations of crime. Although the images we view in these movies are often exaggerated and fanatical, i’m not saying we should ignore them. Films, especially those that deal with real life issues like police deviance, reflect “their times and the trends in politics, law and society” (Crawford, 1999: 7). Movies that address law and crime change as we develop. As I have discussed in this blog, there are many theories presented accurately in these movies, such as the one’s we see in the Knapp Commision and the typologies theorized by Punch. There is something very significant that goes on in terms of the way the film industry distorts police corruption and deviance. These distortions are not random, the film industry is affected by social influences and events, particularly those that involve the criminal justice system. Movies reveal a lot about how we perceive crime, and how those perspectives advance and shift as society changes.


Buchanan, J. (2008, January 1). ‘There Was Something In This That Was A Little Bit Above A Cop Drama’ Retrieved February 28, 2015, from http://www.mtv.com/movies/movie/286159/moviemain.jhtml

Crawford, C. (1999). Law Enforcement and Popular Movies. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 6(2), 46-57. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.albany.edu/scj/jcjpc/vol6is2/crawford.

Frank, R. (2006). The Status of Moral Emotions in Consequentialist Moral Reasoning. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://www.law.yale.edu/documents/pdf/Intellectual

Kleinig, J. (1996). The ethics of policing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Larsen, M. (2015). Four Typologies of Police Corruption [Class Handout]. Police Accountability, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Richmond, British Columbia.

Pride and Glory. (2008). Retrieved February 28, 2015, from http://www.imdb.com/

Punch, M. (2009). Police corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing.

The Knapp Commission report on police corruption. (1973). New York: G. Braziller.

Roebuck, J., & Barker, T. (n.d.). A Typology of Police Corruption. Social Problems, 423-437.

Westmarland, L. (2006). Police Ethics and Integrity: Breaking the Blue Code of Silence. Policing and Society, 145-165. Retrieved February 28, 2015.

  1. Mike Larsen says:

    This is an exemplary post.

    I am particularly impressed by the nuance with which you have approached the ‘representation vs. reality’ issue. Rather than simply stating that certain aspects of the film are inaccurate, you begin to discuss the forces that shape the production and consumption of particular distortions in fictional representations of policing.

    Question: Which character is the audience meant to identify with in Pride and Glory? What is the nature or source of that identification?

    Another question: Do you believe that the director of the film was seeking to convey a particular message about policing and police deviance? Sometimes this is quite explicit – for example, the message of the original Dirty Harry film. Does Pride and Glory use the police organization as a setting for a story, or is it seeking to tell a particular story about policing?