After serving three years as the city’s top cop, New York Police Department Commissioner James O’Neill has stepped down.
The exact reasons for O’Neill’s resignation on Monday were not clear, though the commissioner has dealt with backlash in the wake of controversy over the dismissal of the officer whose chokehold lead to the death of Eric Garner.
The Police Benevolent Association, which represents NYPD officers, blasted the commissioner in August for firing Officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose use of a banned chokehold led to Garner’s death in 2014. That death was one of a series of killings that sparked nationwide #BlackLivesMatter protests over allegations of police mistreatment of minorities.
Pantaleo filed a lawsuit against the NYPD last month, alleging that he was wrongfully terminated.
O’Neill’s resignation also comes amid an epidemic of police suicides, with 10 officers taking their own lives this year. The scourge has prompted new mental health initiatives to address the crisis.
But since taking the post, O’Neill has been praised for presiding over the lowest crime rate in the city has seen since the NYPD started tracking major crime. During his tenure, the city has seen the fewest number of homicides recorded since the 1950s. O’Neill has worked in New York City law enforcement since 1983 and was appointed commissioner in 2016. A city spokesperson described O’Neill has the architect of neighborhood policing, overseeing the expansion of Neighborhood Coordination Officers to every precinct, police service area and transit district. Furthermore, he’s credited with reforming department policy that drove down crime and simultaneously reduced arrests for low-level offenses.
Current NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea will replace O’Neill as the next commissioner.
“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,” O’Neill said of his replacement.
Chief Shea described his predecessor as “a mentor and a friend,” and vowed to build on O’Neill’s work on neighborhood and precision policing.
“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,” Chief Shea said Monday. “As Police Commissioner, this will be what drives me.”
Mayor de Blasio Tweeted that Chief Shea will focus on deepening police-community bonds and ending the scourge of gun and gang violence. In another tweet, de Blasio praised the outgoing commissioner, saying, “I’m lucky to have worked with as good a man as Jimmy O’Neill.
About The New NYPD Commissioner, Dermot Shea
-Started as a police officer in 1991, a year NYC saw more than 2,000 murders
-Served as precinct commander of the 44th and 50th precincts in the Bronx
-Promoted to Chief of Detectives in 2018
-Grew up in Sunnyside, Queens, the son of Irish immigrants
-Holds a Bachelor of Science from SUNY Oneonta
-Lives in Manhattan with his wife; has 3 kids, a grandson and a dog named Miley
Reuters contributed to this report.