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Queens Chronicle

Mayor taps Shea as NYPD commissioner

Queens native taking reins as O’Neill will leave Dec. 1 after three years

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Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 1:56 pm, Thu Nov 7, 2019.

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill on Monday afternoon formally announced his intention to retire effective Dec. 1. NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea, a 28-year veteran of the department, was named as his successor by Mayor de Blasio.

Shea, a Sunnyside native and the son of Irish immigrants, will be the 43rd commissioner since 1901, counting Ray Kelly and William Bratton, both of whom served two terms, once apiece. As O’Neill did, Shea will be required to retire from the NYPD to assume the office, as commissioner is considered a civilian post.

O’Neill is moving to the private sector.

“I grew up in Sunnyside, Queens, as the Mayor said — a couple different apartments,” Shea said in a transcript of the press conference. “Mom, dad immigrated from Ireland in the 50s, met here, and started a life as many immigrants do — wanted to build a life, met here, built a life together and have a family ... Those years, I’ll tell you that we were rich in so many ways, but it had nothing to do with money growing up. Those years really formed, I believe, the basis of who I am ... ”

“Dermot Shea is a proven change agent, using precision policing to fight crime and build trust between police and communities,” de Blasio said in a press release. “As Chief of Crime Control Strategies and then Chief of Detectives, Dermot was one of the chief architects of the approach that has made New York City the safest big city in America.”

The mayor also expressed gratitude to O’Neill for his service as commissioner.

“Jimmy transformed the relationship between New Yorkers and police, and helped to make the Department the most sophisticated and advanced in the country.”

Shea called the appointment a privilege.

“Police Commissioner O’Neill has been a mentor and a friend to me, and I am committed to building on the incredible success of Neighborhood Policing and precision policing, while continuing my life’s work to eradicate gangs and guns from our streets,” Shea said. “Every New Yorker deserves to be safe and feel safe, and that has been my mission since I took the oath and became a police officer 28 years ago. As Police Commissioner, this will be what drives me.”

“Dermot Shea has exactly the experience and skill to continue to drive down crime, strengthen relationships with the community members we serve and make sure every neighborhood has the safety they deserve,” O’Neill said. “We cannot take the historic crime reductions in New York City for granted, and Dermot’s understanding of the complex issues that lead to crime and disorder, as well as the most effective strategies for addressing these issues, is as good as it gets in policing today.”

The Mayor’s Office credited O’Neill for presiding over the lowest crime rate in New York City since the NYPD started tracking major crime, as well as the lowest number of homicides recorded since the 1950s.

De Blasio and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. credited O’Neill as the architect of the NYPD’s existing neighborhood policing practices, including the expansion of the Neighborhood Coordination Officer initiative to all 77 precincts in the five boroughs.

“I have enjoyed working with Jimmy and always appreciated his honesty and directness,” Vance said in a statement. “Like Jimmy, Dermot Shea is a ‘cop’s cop,’ a straightforward communicator, and great listener. His acumen for identifying and interrupting developing public safety trends is unmatched. With Dermot at the helm, the NYPD is poised to build upon the historic public safety gains achieved under Commissioner O’Neill’s leadership.”

Among local responses, Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) praised O’Neill, and wished Shea luck.

“Commissioner O’Neill deserves nothing but gratitude and praise for dedicating more than half of his life to serving the NYPD and protecting the citizens of New York City,” he said in a press release. “I respect his willingness to speak out about having misgivings with emptying out the jails, and his ability to deal with the administration blaming police for failures in mental health care. He did his best to navigate through this difficult time in policing despite the mayor’s controversial agendas.”

Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said the city “is losing a true leader” on his Twitter page and that O’Neill “ensured community relations were more that just rhetorical talking points in all 5 boroughs.

“He’s a bridge builder, who even through disagreement, kept an open door for everyone.” Without mentioning de Blaso by name or title, Richards appeared less than enthusiastic with the city’s chief executive.

“While we congratulate ... Shea on his elevation to police commissioner, this was a missed opportunity to ensure the diversity of the department was reflected at the top of the NYPD,” said Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St Albans, co-chairman of the Council’s Black, Latino/a and Asian Caucus, who let his disapproval be known to the New York Daily News.

“Certainly, this is a missed opportunity to have someone who really reflects the needs and values of all New Yorkers here and not just a continuation of what we’ve seen in the police department,” Miller said. “There is room for diversity.”

In an email, Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives welcomed Shea. He hopes to work with the him on Vision Zero and other initiatives to increase the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and users of mass transit.

“We invite Commissioner Shea to join us on a bike ride to experience the city as millions of cyclists do every year, and to meet with the members of Families for Safe Streets to understand the tragedies on our streets, including the role of victim blaming when some officers speak prematurely to reporters after fatal crashes,” Harris wrote.

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