Several lawsuits and investigations that could have significant impact on the department are pending. They include the continuing inquiry by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn seeking changes in how the department investigates and disciplines officers accused of brutality, and an inquiry by federal prosecutors in Manhattan that has concluded that members of the Street Crime Unit engaged in racial profiling.

“The department has 55,000 employees. There is going to be litigation. No one should draw conclusions from that, one way or another,” Grasso said. “We deal with it as best we can. Sometimes we go to trial, sometimes we settle. We work with the Law Department to make the best judgments we can.

“Sometimes police officers are wrong. But sometimes it’s more complicated than these cases appear to be at first blush,” he added.

Controversy — along with the low pay, the high-wire action in a very public arena, and the sink-or-swim litigation opportunities –comes with the territory of a particular kind of lawyer sought by the NYPD.

“When you’re here at the Legal Bureau, you’re involved in all the major events of New York City,” as Captain Conry likes to say. “You’re on the pulse.”