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Queens Chronicle

A new top cop in trying times

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Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2019 10:30 am

New York City police commissioner has never been anything but a tremendously demanding job, involving incredible responsibility, fraught with dangers physical and political. Every move is met with criticism, every Twitter twit with a smartphone is a critic and every day could bring the next blackout, drug scourge or 9/11.

Into this cauldron of constant crisis and chaos now steps one Dermot Shea, until Dec. 1 the NYPD’s chief of detectives. Mayor de Blasio calls Shea “a proven change agent.” Wanting stability in our police force, we’ll take more comfort in Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s calling him “a cop’s cop” (though we also take comfort in Vance being district attorney somewhere other than Queens). We’re happier to know that Shea is a 28-year veteran of a department that has driven crime down at a barely imaginable rate over his time on the job, and in the fact that he’s a son of Queens — raised in Sunnyside by a pair of Irish immigrants who built a solid middle-class life for their family at a time of rapid change, not always for the good, in the Big Apple. Now their son has reached the apex of his noble profession.

He better be up to the task. He’s following a string of recent commissioners who’ve all taken different approaches to the job but have shared one thing: success. Crime rates are at lows not seen for decades. (Yes, yes, cops sometimes downgrade an incident to keep up appearances, but murders have gone from 2,200 a year to less than 300, and nobody’s hiding 1,900 bodies without anyone noticing. So just stop.)

But there’s no guarantee the relative good times will last, and, in fact, there are worrisome signs they won’t. Shootings are up in some areas — 8.6 percent in Queens so far this year compared to last. You’re seeing homeless people — not the families who just can’t make ends meet, but the men with obvious substance abuse or mental problems, or both — in places you rarely saw them before. Police officers are being attacked more often when they respond to calls; maybe it’s just with a bucket of water one day but then it’s with a metal chair the next. Protesters are proud to walk behind a banner reading “Punch that cop” and to shout “F--k the police.” So-called “bail reform” will be letting more serious criminals out on the street any time now as new law set to take effect Jan. 1 is applied retroactively. Down the road, there’s the ill-advised closure of Rikers Island to deal with.

Into all this steps one Dermot Shea, and we wish him the best in his new job and give his rank and file our support.

Welcome to the discussion.