The world of Zootopia is an inspirational tale about overcoming prejudice and stereotypes to make a better, more inclusive world. But when the protagonist is the city’s first bunny police officer, who happens to break the law and put the public at risk more often than not, it undermines the positive message she should be sending. Here’s why Officer Judy Hopps is not the inspirational hero the movie portrays her as.
Putting the Public in Danger
Perhaps the first questionable thing Officer Judy does is chase down a flower shop thief through the streets of Little Rodentia. Sure, she catches the perpetrator, but in doing so, she puts the lives of countless small mammals at risk, not only coming close to stepping on them, but even causing whole buildings to nearly collapse.
In a real life setting, this would be like an officer instituting a dangerous high speed chase through a busy residential/commercial part of town simply to catch a shoplifter. It is critical for an officer to use reasonable judgement when balancing the risk presented by their actions with the crime they are attempting to investigate. Destroying a few blocks of town over a misdemeanor is certainly unacceptable and would result in any officer getting severely disciplined, if not fired, which is what Chief Bogo intends to do before Assistant Mayor Bellweather gets involved.
Recording Someone Without Permission
Surprisingly, one thing most people think is illegal in the film is the way Judy records Nick without his knowledge. In fact, while an officer of the law must get a warrant to tap someone’s phone or place a recording device in their car or home, when a person is in public, they have no right to privacy and it is entirely legal for a police officer to record them. If recording someone in public was illegal, then it would be illegal for police to use body cameras.
Judy can even lie to Nick about having his tax records to get him to do what she wants as police are within their rights to lie to suspects. That being said, blackmailing him to get him to help her investigate a crime would certainly not be acceptable police behavior, especially once the investigation became dangerous.
Nick really should have known that police commonly tell suspects they have evidence of their guilt to get a confession when they have none. The police will say a person is free to leave anytime and don’t Mirandize the suspect giving the wrong impression their statements won’t be used against them. That’s why you (and Nick) should always consult a criminal defense lawyer before speaking to the police.
Manufacturing Probable Cause
Here’s where things really took a bad turn. It’s one thing for her to talk Nick into helping her by exploiting his recorded confession of tax evasion, but she broke multiple laws when she threw the carrot pen containing the recording over the limo company’s fence in order to get “probable cause” when Nick climbed the fence to get the recording.
Perhaps the most problematic of these laws for a police officer is the act of manufacturing probable cause in order to avoid a warrant. This is just as bad as a police officer falsely claiming to hear screaming or planting drugs in order to take advantage of the probable cause exemption.
Additionally, she also puts Nick in danger at this point, by not only asking him to commit a crime he would not have otherwise committed (the literal definition of entrapment), but also by having him break into a locked property that could potentially be guarded by armed and aggressive guard dogs.
Threatening a Witness Into Talking
After surrendering her badge, Judy finally cracks the case of why predators have been going savage and talks Nick into helping her. Unfortunately, one way she does this is to get the biggest crime boss in the city, Mr. Big, to threaten the Duke Weaselton so he’ll admit who hired him to steal the nighthowlers. Sure, she’s not a cop during this part, but this could cause some serious problems for the prosecution when they try to put together the case against Bellweather later on. And her close relationship with Mr. Big (she’s the godmother of his grandchild) should be a red flag when it comes to her getting her badge back.
Sure, Judy is a cop at the end of the film, but in reality, she should be banned from the force. This may be a shame for her, but she’s the one who insisted on breaking the law and ignoring proper police protocols. The real shame here is that the city’s first bunny police officer served as a warning about why perhaps rabbits aren’t great police officers rather than an inspiration about how bunnies can be officers too.
Sadly, overeager police who are willing to bend the rules aren’t just a fictional problem in Disney/Pixar movies. If you have been charged with a crime or are being investigated by the police and believe your rights were violated, please be sure to mention that information to your lawyer. You can schedule a free initial consultation by calling (760) 643-4050.
Image by Mikes-Photography