O’Neill steps down as NYPD commissioner, de Blasio picks Shea as successor

Commissioner James O’Neill is stepping down as the leader of the NYPD.
File Photo

Police Commissioner James O’Neill is stepping down as the NYPD’s top cop.

The 35-year veteran of the NYPD is said to be taking a job in the private sector, the New York Daily News reported. Taking O’Neill’s spot at the helm of the NYPD is current Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea.

De Blasio spilled the beans about the change of guard at One Police Plaza in a Twitter thread Monday afternoon, about an hour prior to a formal press conference at City Hall.

De Blasio said O’Neill “is the architect of neighborhood policing,” a program which reintroduced beat cops to communities in order to improve relations.

“He drove crime to record lows while working tirelessly to bring police and communities together. He leaves behind a city that’s safer than it’s been in decades,” the mayor tweeted. “I’m lucky to have worked with as good a man as Jimmy O’Neill.”

The mayor also praised Shea, a 28-year NYPD veteran “born and raised in Sunnyside,” Queens as knowing “what it’s like to walk a beat and lead a precinct.”

“He helped build the strategies that have driven crime to record lows. He’s a proven change agent,” de Blasio added.

Shea will officially take office as the next police commissioner on Dec. 1, de Blasio announced.

“This is a tremendous honor and a tremendous responsibility and I’m grateful to the Mayor for this privilege to serve,” Shea said in a statement. “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. 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.”

O’Neill, 61, became commissioner in September 2016, taking over the nation’s largest police force from then-Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. He originally joined New York City law enforcement in 1983 as a member of the NYC Transit Police Department, which merged with the NYPD a decade later.

During his tenure, O’Neill found himself and the NYPD at the center of multiple controversies, including the handling of disciplinary actions against Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who had placed Eric Garner of Staten Island in a fatal chokehold back in 2014.

Following a departmental trial which found Pantaleo responsible for Garner’s death, O’Neill formally fired Pantaleo — a move that angered the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.

Earlier this year, O’Neill also issued a formal apology to the city’s LGBT community on the department’s behalf for its handling of the Stonewall Riots in 1969.

In October, O’Neill publicly expressed concerns over the plan to close Rikers Island and replace it with four smaller, borough-based jails. The City Council passed the proposal, which the de Blasio Administration supported, later in the month.

This is a developing story; check later for further updates.

—Additional reporting by Vincent Barone

Reach editor Robert Pozarycki at rpozarycki@qns.com.
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