This city has gone through enormous changes in the past twenty five years, and the changes are reflected in the composition of the police department, which mirrors the diversity of the city considerably more than does, say, the Fire Department, which remains overwhelmingly male and white.
But while the Fire Department still has a raunchiness that's exposed from time to time in headlines and newscasts (drunken brawls, even in the firehouse), it still commands a respect from the populace that seems to elude the NYPD.
Granted, in the 71st precinct, there's a somber awareness of the ultimate sacrifice made by Police Officer Russell Timoshenko, who was murdered a year and a half ago by cheap, worthless thugs right in the middle of Prospect Lefferts Gardens.
One gets the impression that the young officer, in his apparent innocence, was not sufficiently aware of the dangers lurking on the streets around his precinct.
But moving beyond that incident, it must be said that relations with police in the 71st precinct are sometimes quite tense.
Recently, of course, there was the case of Michael Mineo, who says he was sodomized by a 71st precinct officer at the Prospect Park subways station, and the allegations are being taken seriously by many.
Other alleged abuses by 71st precinct officers came to light in the wake of the Mineo incident.
In my own experience, I was stopped and ticketed a year ago by an officer in the 71st precinct, who asserted that I had crossed yellow lines at Flatbush and Maple. When I protested to him, he wrote the ticket anyway and, in fact, followed me home.
The officer was later made a fool and liar of when I showed up in court with photos and letters from the community board and State Senator Eric Adams, saying there were no yellow lines there.
Over the past year, on our block, there is a man who has identified himself as an off duty police officer, and who regularly parks at a fire hydrant, sometimes for more than a day, leaving a photocopied NYPD parking pass on his windshield.
He has never been ticketed.
The message that this all sends to residents is from the days of Frank Serpico, when police entered candy stores and took what they wanted; when they went to movie houses free of charge; and, of course, when they parked wherever they wanted, as long as their comrades knew they were "on the job."
Fast forward to today, and it's clear there's much work to be done in the way of image polishing in the 71st precinct.
Regarding, the above headline, by the way, referring to CPR, it stands for Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect, and it adorns police vehicles.
The initials were adopted a decade ago when the police department, under Rudy Giuliani, was facing widespread charges, even from international organizations, of routine human rights abuses.