New York City's Finest are, in reality, plenty competent, with a few exceptions. In fiction, however, the NYPD are usually portrayed as gritty dudes more than willing to bend a few rules to get what they want, not particularly interested in the particulars.
This is rooted in some historical truth. Throughout the 19th century, parts of New York City (most famously the Five Points neighborhood in the Bowery) were damn near lawless. To contend with the territorial packs of criminality, the NYPD (modern policing was still a new idea, believe it or not) learned to function as, in essence, a very organized street gang. But, you know, for justice. Cops began to stake out turf, walking around in groups of three or more, and generally being as intimidating as possible. These practices are now common with law enforcement in every major American city. Nonetheless, broad swaths of New York City remained unpoliceable well into the 1980s.
Until recently, New York City had a number of separate police agencies. Transit Police, Library Police, even the Sanitation Department had their own Garbage Police! These have all been merged into (or back into, in the case of the Transit Police, who originally were part of the NYPD until about 1948) the NYPD.
Another major leap in this trend of localization began in 1994, under Mayor Giuliani. His plan granted more power to individual precincts to make localized decisions, harsh punishment for relatively minor infractions like public urination and graffiti tagging, and what some have claimed amounts to de facto racial profiling. These and other less political factors contributed to a significant drop in criminal activity and, more recently, to the lowest violent crime rate of any major city in the United States. It also led to an increase in allegations of civil rights abuses and misconduct.
Since September 11th (when the NYPD lost 23 officers), extra equipment has been added to the patrol officer's belt, including a gas mask. Even reality-intensive portrayals of the NYPD may neglect this detail, as it looks completely ridiculous and clumsy — and as told by many cops forced to wear the stuff, it is. In addition, the NYPD now occasionally posts paramilitary troops (complete with body armor and assault rifles) outside major shopping locations, subway and rail stations, and other potential terrorist targets. They also have had undercover officers sent along with the FBI and CIA, thanks to one of the chiefs being ex-CIA and interested in counter-terrorism.
The NYPD turns up a lot in fiction set in New York City, to the point that the NYPD has its own dedicated Film Division just to assist in live action works, so we'll just limit ourselves to stuff where they are the stars. Expect many of these to be set in the "12th Precinct", which if it really existed would place the show in Lower Manhattan.
- FAKE: Is about two detectives in the fictional 27th precinct.
- Virtually every single Marvel Comics title. The Red Shirts of the Marvel Universe. The NYPD has such a high casualty rate, it's a wonder that they get any new recruits.
- One notable exception to this is Code Blue, a sort of SWAT-plus team fielded by the NYPD. They're good enough to handle middling villains from Thor's rogues' gallery, and actually backs up a SHIELD team and Thunderstrike on one occasion.
- The Punisher naturally runs into them a lot. Some are good (and they're split into "he's-a-menace" and "let-him-go-if-caught" mentalities) while others are on the take (even so, he rarely kills corrupt cops, since the mafia will usually do so for him). In one version, he was even on the force rather than a soldier when his family was killed.
- In at least some incarnations, detective Jim Corrigan — better known as the first alter-ego of The Spectre — is a part of the NYPD.
- Big Business
- Black Rain
- Blue Steel
- The Bone Collector
- Brooklyn's Finest
- City By The Sea
- Cop Land
- The Corruptor
- The Dark Knight Trilogy: The Gotham Police Department appears to be based heavily on the NYPD, right down to the uniforms, badges, patches, and even the paint job used on police cars.
- Deadly Hero
- Die Hard
- Die Hard with a Vengeance
- Live Free or Die Hard
- Fort Apache The Bronx
- The French Connection
- French Connection II
- One of Jason's victims in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan was a cop who tried to help the protagonists.
- Fritz the Cat
- Gangs of New York
- The Hard Way
- Inside Man
- Little Nicky
- Matt Cordell of Maniac Cop films is a former one.
- Men in Black
"N-Y-P-D means I will kNock Your Punk-ass Down!"
- Money Train
- The Naked City
- One Good Cop
- Prince of the City
- Q & A
- Rumble in the Bronx
- The Seven-Ups
- Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D..
- Summer of Sam
- The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
- Taxi Driver
- The Usual Suspects
- The Warriors
- We Own The Night
- World Trade Center
- Agent Pendergast
- The Section 13 Case Files
- The 87th Precinct operates in a No Communities Were Harmed equivalent of NYC.
- The 2014-15 US broadcast season is scheduled to feature at least seven shows with the NYPD in a major capacity... that's not including the summer shows.
- Barney Miller: Widely regarded by actual law enforcement, then and now, as the series that best depicts the reality of police life: a lot of paperwork, strange victims/suspects in the squadroom, with occasional rather than frequent actual violence.
- Blue Bloods: Every male member of the titular Reagan family serves in the NYPD, with Grandpa Henry and The Patriarch Frank as retired and current police commissioners, respectively.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine
- Brooklyn South
- Cagney & Lacey
- Car 54, Where Are You?
- CSI NY
- The Job
- Law & Order
- Life On Mars (US version)
- Miami Vice - One of the two leads is a former Bronx cop who winds up in Miami tracking down his brother's murderer.
- Naked City
- New Amsterdam
- New York Undercover
- NYC 22
- NYPD Blue
- Person of Interest - during the first three seasons, a subplot about a corrupt cadre of NYPD officers and patrolmen, called "HR", makes up the show's Story Arc. In Seasons 4 & 5, however, the NYPD takes center stage as the long-term identity of hero John Reese (as the fictitious Detective John Riley), though the HR arc is over.
- Public Morals
- Tanked - Irwin 'The General' Raymer earned his nickname during his time in the NYPD at Coney Island.
- Third Watch
- True Blue
- The Unusuals
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- Daredevil (2015): The 15th Precinct contains a slew of dirty cops on Wilson Fisk's payroll. Matt and Foggy have a contact in the NYPD in the form of Foggy's childhood friend Sgt. Brett Mahoney, who provides them with cases and inside information.
- Jessica Jones (2015): Jessica's pursuit of Kilgrave is bolstered in part with two NYPD cops as her allies - Will Simpson and Oscar Clemons.
- Luke Cage (2016): The female lead is Misty Knight, a Detective at the 29th Precinct. Her partner Rafael Scarfe is a Dirty Cop on Cottonmouth's payroll. The show itself heavily explores the topic of how the NYPD deal with superhuman threats, and whether or not the police should trust the vigilante types to help them do their job.
- The Rolling Stones' "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)":
The police in New York City
Chased a boy right through the park
In a case of mistaken identity
They put a bullet through his heart
- And then there's The Strokes'... "New York City Cops". Due to the fact that the song mocks their competence ("New York City cops/New York City cops/New York City cops/They ain't too smart"), it was replaced by "When It Started" from the American release of Is This It after the 9/11 (the album came out only less than a month and a half before).
- A Couple of Guys: Joey's a New York police officer. We occasionally see his fellow officers.
- Parasite Eve
- Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in North America), being a murder mystery set in New York City, naturally features a lot of these, and two of the four player characters are investigators themselves. The beat cops do not wear typical NYPD uniformed, instead being costumed in some alternate universe blue and yellow fashion statement.
- Max Payne
- Grand Theft Auto. As the LCPD in any game featuring Liberty City.
- True Crime: New York City
- The New York City faction in Neuroshima Hex! has NYPD cops and SWAT Units. Notably, they can still go toe to toe with murderous machines, mutant supersoliders, well armed raider gangs and hardened post-apocalyptic survivors, making them Badass Normal without a doubt.
- The best friend of the Gargoyles, Elisa Maza, is a New York City detective. Her father is a retired cop and her brother was a cop until Xanatos turned him into a Mix-and-Match Man. They, as well as Elisa's conspiracy-obsessed partner Matt Bluestone and her boss Captain Chavez are all recurring characters. They largely don't follow the stereotypes, however.
- Top Cat lives in New York, meaning Officer Dibble is a New York cop.