NEW YORK – Prosecutors took a shot at the nation’s largest and arguably most powerful law enforcement union Friday, slapping criminal charges on 13 members after a lengthy probe into the longtime but under-the-table practice of making parking tickets disappear for friends and family.

The charges against the New York Police Department officers, two sergeants and a lieutenant were announced just three days after the embarrassing arrests of five police officers in a separate gun-running sting.

On Friday, hundreds of members of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association came to support the officers, clogging the street near the Bronx courthouse, filling the hallways near the arraignment room and applauding in court after the officers left.

Patrick Lynch, president of the union, which has nearly 23,000 members, said ticket fixing was sanctioned at the highest levels of the department, and vowed to prove it.

“Taking care of your family, taking care of your friends is not a crime,” he said. “To take a courtesy and turn it into a crime is wrong.”

The officers pleaded not guilty to charges including misconduct, grand larceny and obstructing governmental administration. The case was touched off when authorities investigating a potentially crooked cop overheard talk of fixing tickets.

Earlier this week, federal prosecutors in Manhattan brought conspiracy and other charges against five current and three former officers alleging they were part of a gun-running ring. In two other recent unrelated federal cases, one officer was charged with arresting a black man without cause and using a racial slur to describe the suspect, and another with using a law enforcement database to try to trump up charges against an innocent man.

“It’s not the best time for the department,” said longtime police historian Thomas Reppetto. “Does it rise to the level of the great scandals that have occurred in the past? No. Ticket fixing is not on the same level as drug dealing.”

Still, he said, it was wrong and union officials shouldn’t be trying to pretend it’s OK. Bronx residents had similar reactions as many stopped to watch the commotion outside courtroom, with some calling the officers crooks.

“It’s a double standard. If a cop doesn’t have to pay a ticket, then why do I?” said resident Terril Strod.

Among those charged were Jennara Cobb, an internal affairs bureau lieutenant who pleaded not guilty to charges she leaked information to union officials about the probe.

As a result of her meeting, word spread through the union and members started to alter the way they fixed tickets, prosecutor Jonathan Ortiz said.

“The investigation was significantly compromised because of her actions,” he said.

Her attorney, Philip Karasyk, said she denied the allegations and had been unfairly singled out. She was released on bail.

“That wiretap was leaking like a sieve,” he said.

The majority of those arrested were delegates and union members. Among those charged were union officials Joseph Anthony, 46; Michael Hernandez, 35; and Brian McGuckin, 44. They are police officers but work full time for the union.