Cole Phelps, voiced/played by actor Aaron Staton (known from his work in the AMC series Mad Men) is the main character in L.A. Noire. Phelps is a former member of the United States Marine Corps, who later returned from the war as a hero, joining the Los Angeles Police Department soon after. He quickly rose through the ranks and became a detective. Phelps likes to be professional and prefers to play it by-the-books. This occasionally creates issues between him and his more reckless partners.
Cole was a lieutenant in the Unites States Marine Corps. He fought in the Battle of Okinawa during the Second World War. Phelps gained the repect of some of his men for his skill, and stealth; however many disdained his respect for the Japanese. Cole believes in doing everything by the book, and follows orders to the letter, even to the point of putting his men in danger.
During OCS (Officer Candidate School) Phelps develops a rivalry with fellow trainee officer Jack Kelso (ultimately Kelso leaves OCS to become a rifleman) which continues throughout the war; Kelso strongly disagrees with Phelps' willingness to put his men at risk to follow orders.
During the battle of Sugarloaf Hill Phelps orders his squad to break through enemy lines, despite their unwillingness. This results in him seeing his friend Hank Merril blown up the foxhole next him, and the entirety of his squad dying. For being the only survivng member of his squad Phelps is awarded the Silver Star and is promoted to first lieutenant. In addition, during one mission, he ordered a soldier with a flamethrower, Ira Hogeboom, to burn out a cave that was being used as a hospital for civilians. Cole was not aware of this and was horrified at the results. He ordered his angered squad to put the victims, including children, out of their misery. The soldiers began shooting the wounded, and one of them turned and shot and injured Cole in disgust.
He does not enjoy talking about his campaign in Okinawa, since he doesn't feel like he deserved the medal, and when asked comments that he is not a war hero.
Cole starts his career in the LAPD as a beat cop, determined to make a name for himself. Officer Phelps work on the case "Buyer Beware", where he solves the murder of a shoe store owner, earns Phelps the favour of Capt. Donnelly and he is quickly promoted to a detective working traffic.
Phelps rises quickly through the ranks and earns himself fame, and headlines. His work on a series of murders related to the Black Dahlia killer - and the eventual resolution, where Phelps kills the murderer in a shootout in the catacombs of the Christ Crown of Thorns church (although this is swept under the rug by the department since the Dahlia killer is related to a high ranking L.A. official) - gets Phelps moved to administrative vice at the request of celebrity detective Roy Earle.
Phelps work in vice brings him close to uncovering a web of corruption. This leads Roy Earle to orchestrate Cole's fall from grace by revealing Phelps is having an affair with Elsa Lichtman, a German singer at The Blue Room nightclub, and drug addict. This gets him kicked out by his wife and separated from his two daughters. Within the department Phelps is a pariah and is demoted to the arson desk and partnered with Herschell Biggs who insists that he "doesn't do partners". Biggs' reason for this becomes clear during one of the arson cases.
Elysian Fields and the Suburban Redevelopment Fund
While working arson Phelps discovers suspicious circumstances surrounding winners of a trip to Catalina Island from the Suburban Redevelopment Fund's houses burning down. He has stumbled into a major insurance scam involving the mayor, chief of police, property developer Leland Monroe, insurance executive Curtis Benson and psychiatrist Dr Harlan Fontaine.
When Elsa (who Cole is now living with) receives an insurance payout of $20,000 dollars for the death of her friend who died while working as a carpenter on a property being developed by Elysian Fields, Cole prompts her to get Jack Kelso (now an insurance investigator for California Fire & Life) to take on the case, as Phelps position in the department will mar his chances of uncovering the truth.
Both Kelso and Phelps manage to uncover a great deal about the conspiracy, and trace the fires to Ira Hogeboom, who was being used by Dr Harlan Fontaine to cover up the Suburban Redevelopment Fund scam. Hogeboom killed Fontaine and kidnapped Elsa taking her into the labyrinth of sewers beneath L.A. Phelps drowns saving Elsa and Kelso from the flooding sewer.
Phelps will work with different partners at every new desk. Generally, these partners first treat Cole with some hostility, but grow more friendly as they work together. The exception to this rule is Ralph Dunn, who seems friendly with Cole from the first moment in the game.
- It is presumed that he owns a burgundy Cadillac Series 62.
- Cole's appearance seems to have completely changed since the original L.A. Noire trailer. He seems to appear older