New York, NY – New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday afternoon that New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner James O’Neill was stepping down from the helm of the nation’s largest police department.
De Blasio also introduced former NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea as Commissioner O’Neill’s successor during a press conference at city hall.
Chief Shea will be sworn in as commissioner in December.
The mayor said Commissioner O’Neill was leaving New York a “safer city and a fairer city” and said his friend “Jimmy” had proven you can reduce crime without locking up so many people.
“For 35 years Jimmy O’Neill has served this city with distinction, with dignity, with his whole heart,” de Blasio said before introducing Chief Shea as “an American Dream story if ever there was one.”
The incoming commissioner is the son of Irish immigrant parents, he said.
The mayor pre-empted his own press conference with a series of tweets introducing his choice for the new commissioner.
“Born and raised in Sunnyside, Dermot Shea is a New Yorker through and through. A 28-year veteran, he knows 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 tweeted.
“As Commissioner, Chief Shea will focus on putting 21st century precision policing to work in order to deepen police-community bonds and end the scourge of gun and gang violence,” the mayor added.
The news of Commissioner O’Neill’s resignation comes just days after more than 1,000 anti-police protesters marched through Brooklyn carrying hateful signs encouraging violence against NYPD officers.
Protesters filled the streets on Nov. 1 and stopped traffic while chanting “no justice, no peace” in response to videos that showed NYPD officers fighting with teens and making arrests inside subway stations.
The protesters also objected to a planned police crackdown on fare evaders.
Shortly before 9 p.m., hundreds of protesters flooded Brooklyn subway stations in a “mass fare evasion” to protest the “criminalization of poverty.”
The 61-year-old police commissioner took the helm of NYPD in 2016 after former Commissioner Bill Bratton stepped down, and the last year of his police career has been the most tumultuous.
NYPD officers have literally been under assault for months as criminals have been emboldened to attack by de Blasio’s liberal policies and criticism of police.
Commissioner O’Neill has been under fire from the NYPD union, whose leadership has vocally criticized him and called him a liar.
“Turn the flag upside down - we’re in distress,” Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Patrick Lynch told reporters at a press conference after the commissioner announced in August that he was firing Officer Daniel Pantaleo for his role in Eric Garner’s death.
“The captain has jumped ship,” Lynch continued. “The mayor told him to do it. And the streets are falling to chaos.”
Critics said that Commissioner O’Neill’s decision to terminate Officer Pantaleo despite the fact he had previously expressed support for the officer was based on political pressure from the mayor.
Shortly after Officer Pantaleo’s termination, the PBA leadership announced a vote of "no confidence" against Commissioner O’Neill and de Blasio.
“For years, Mayor de Blasio has demonized police officers and undermined our efforts to protect our city. For years, Commissioner O’Neill has cravenly acquiesced to the Mayor and his anti-cop allies,” Lynch said.
In his resignation speech, the commissioner thanked the mayor “for making the police department a better department with all that support.”
“I have to thank all the line of duty families and all the police officers who have been killed in the line of duty,” Commissioner O’Neill also said, and then named all the NYPD officers who had died in the line of duty under his command.
“New Yorkers need to know that this is not an easy job… the job the police officers do every day… and how they go out there and willingly face the dangers we face every day,” the commissioner said.
He brushed off assertions that his resignation had anything to do with recent controversy in the department.
“I’m leaving because I have another opportunity… it’s something I couldn’t pass up,” Commissioner O’Neill.
Sources have said the commissioner will be taking a new job in the private sector.
NYPD sources told Blue Lives Matter that they are “cautiously optimistic” about the new police commissioner.