The shooting of two police officers last week sharply highlights the strange dichotomy of the community's disposition toward the NOPD.
Here, in 2012 New Orleans, antipathy toward the police is nearly institutionalized, the result of years of accusations, incidents, investigations, arrests and convictions of New Orleans police officers.
That's the new truth. The way things are.
But the sudden reflexive reaction of the community after news of the shooting broke last week harkened back to earlier, simpler times.
You could feel it all around town: Folks gathered around TVs and radios for the latest update. The internet and talk radio lit up with messages of healing, hope and comfort. Calls for prayer for the officers and their families jammed the Twitter universe.
Emergency blood banks were overwhelmed with donors. Even Mayor Landrieu rolled up his sleeves.
The communal outpouring of grief touched a deep-rooted nerve, so often sadly dormant, but still re-energized by the dreaded call over a police radio: "Officer down."
As children, we were indoctrinated with the notion that the police are a special class of citizen, to be admired, respected, revered. Officer Friendly was the ubiquitous American police officer, a good, honest and righteous man.
But then, details of last week's shooting slowly dribble out. Even more details remain undisclosed. The blue curtain descends. Something seems amiss.
A collective dread gathers. You think: Not again.
You wonder: What really happened?
Whether or not something bad went down in this case is not the point. The point is that suspicion of the police is every bit as much of a default position for the citizenry as is trust.
The two emotions wage a battle for our hearts and minds.
We struggle to retain our old-fashioned regard for the men and women who wear the badge, convince ourselves they are the good guys, pillars of the community.
But reality has badly tarnished that crescent shield. Into any story of police violence creeps inevitable doubt.
It was comforting, almost nostalgic, last week to see that our immediate reaction to an officer in danger is to rush in and help.
It's disheartening to realize that it ever got to this point, and that our doubts are unfortunately rewarded as often as our belief that the police live and die by the motto, To Protect and To Serve.
You don't want to believe what your suspicions whisper in your ear, the voice in your head that keeps trying to tell you: Officer Friendly doesn't live here anymore.