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Useful Notes / New York City Cops

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A batch of New York City's Finest.

"You see this? Huh?! N.Y.P.D.! Means I will 'Nock - Yo' - Punk-ass - Down!"
Officer James D. Edwards III (later Agent J), Men in Black

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.

A common accompanying character is the wise-cracking New York City cop, perhaps best illustrated by the late Jerry Orbach's Lennie Briscoe in Law & Order.


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.

Anime & Manga

Comic Books

  • Witchblade
  • 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 S.H.I.E.L.D. 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.
    • Daredevil runs to them more frequently, especially since his day job is a lawyer.
    • A good number of characters from the Spider-Man mythos are members of the NYPD or strongly tied to them. One of his prominent Love Interest, Gwen Stacy, is the daughter of Captain George Stacy. His successor Miles Morales is the son of an NYPD officer (or SHIELD Agent) Jefferson Davis.
  • In at least some incarnations, detective Jim Corrigan — better known as the first alter-ego of The Spectre — is a part of the NYPD.



Live-Action TV


  • 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).

Newspaper Comics

  • A Couple of Guys: Joey's a New York police officer. We occasionally see his fellow officers.


Video Games

  • 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. Max starts out as a New York City cop, before transferring to the DEA after his wife and daughter are murdered in the first game's prologue. In the second game, he's back on the force, but he ends up resigning after everything that happens.
  • Grand Theft Auto. As the LCPD in any game featuring Liberty City.
  • Parasite Eve: Protagonist Aya Brea is a detective junior grade from the 17th precinct.
  • Spider-Man (PS4)
  • 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.
  • Unavowed. Vicky Santina is a Staten Island detective (though she has been placed on suspension) and the Player Character might be too.

Western Animation

  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): NYPD