NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — James O’Neill, now the NYPD Chief of Department, will soon take over as commissioner when Bill Bratton retires next month.
As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced O’Neill as incoming commissioner on Tuesday. He will take over on Friday, Sept. 16.
“Never in my life coming on this job in 1983 did I think I’d be standing at the podium talking to everybody as the next police commissioner,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill said those that know him well know how much he loves the job, the uniform and what it stands for – and always has.
“I remember vividly the look of relief on many people’s faces when they’d see me, a cop — a little more hair back then — standing on the same platform or riding in the same car as them,” O’Neill said.
Bratton’s departure had been expected, but it was widely believed that he would serve out Mayor de Blasio’s current term. But he apparently got an offer he couldn’t refuse and broke the news to the mayor.
Thus, the baton is passed to O’Neill, a 58-year-old Flatbush native who came up during the bad old days of New York City and began policing more than 33 years ago.
“When I first came on the job, they had us work 8 at night to 4 in the morning. It was called TPF; train patrol. You learned quickly how to be cop, how to be aware of your surroundings, how to navigate the maze of subway lines — but most importantly, how to talk to every type of person imaginable,” O’Neill said.
Mayor de Blasio praised O’Neill as someone who is “going to be an extraordinary leader for this department.”
De Blasio said O’Neill “is ready to take this department where it’s never been before in terms of a truly deep and consistent bond between police and community.”
As Chief of Department, O’Neill is a champion of neighborhood policing, which is being rolled out in 51 percent of precincts this fall.
“You’ll see what it means in the lives of everyday New Yorkers when they actually know an officer who patrols their part of the neighborhood by name; when they have a sense of personal connection,” de Blasio said.
O’Neill has the support among people who’ve seen him in action.
“He has served as commanding officer of a precinct like the 44 where you have a high of population of minority residents that have had fractured relationships with officers, and Jimmy gets that,” said City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson (D-44th). “He comes back to the Bronx. He speaks at roll call. I’ve seen him.”
But in addition to improving community relations, the new police commissioner takes office amid a still ongoing corruption investigation, continued terror threats, and police officers being targeted nationwide.
But O’Neill feels he’s ready — in part from the advice his mother gave him.
“To be a sound and moral man, and to always do the right thing — and he has,” said O’Neill’s mother, Helen O’Neill.
O’Neill got emotional thanking his mother.
“I mentioned my mom earlier,” he said before taking a long pause. “It’s hard to talk about you. She really was the one who taught me what good cops should aspire to.”
Helen O’Neill told CBS2 things you almost certainly didn’t know about her son, the new police commissioner.
“He has six siblings,” she said. “He’s one of seven.”
When CBS2’s Kramer asked what soon-to-be Commissioner O’Neill’s favorite food was, his mother said Irish soda bread.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, O’Neill’s squeaky clean reputation may bring the mayor support in minority communities that provided a good deal of his votes in the last election.
“The mayor’s minority voter approval numbers will rise, and the rest of the city will detest him more because they will see this as another chaotic day in the de Blasio mayoralty,” said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf.
Politically, the mayor also made sure that the new NYPD leadership team would be racially diverse. Ben Ticker, who is African-American, will take over as first deputy commissioner, while Carlos Gomez, who is Hispanic, will be chief of department.
O’Neill has held the department’s highest uniformed position since November 2014. Housing Chief Carlos Gomez will succeed him as Chief of Department.
O’Neill worked as an insurance underwriter before joining the NYPD, according to the Wall Street Journal.
He graduated from John Jay College with a Bachelor of Arts in Government and a Master of Public Administration. He has two sons.