NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police Commissioner James O’Neill on Monday kicked off a campaign to hire compassionate cops.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the effort comes as the shooting death of Deborah Danner, a 66-year-old emotionally disturbed Bronx woman, has cast a shadow over the department.

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O’Neill cut the ribbon Monday on a new Candidate Assessment Center, and was then briefed on a program to recruit new officers who are “compassionate” and respectful.

“We’re also instilling in our newest recruits that it’s our obligation to narrow the divide that exists between law enforcement and the communities we serve,” O’Neill said.

Narrowing that divide has become a whole lot more difficult following Danner’s death.

Danner was shot at her Bronx apartment after she threatened a police officer with a baseball bat this past Tuesday night.

Sgt. Hugh Barry, who fired the fatal shot, immediately lost his gun and badge. Officials charged that there were other options, including the Taser on Barry’s belt.

Since then, the police unions have eviscerated O’Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio, charging a rush to judgment and a denial of due process.

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The controversy will not go away. Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch was just the latest.

“I thought he made a rash call too quickly,” Lynch said on The Cats Roundtable show with John Catsimatidis on AM 970, “so quickly, they determined that he was wrong before an investigation; before the sergeant was interviewed.”

CBS2’s Kramer asked O’Neill about the criticism that Barry was hanged before he was tried.

“What I stated was that we failed as an agency,” O’Neill said. “I think it’s important that any time we receive a 911 call for somebody that’s in need of help and we respond, and we don’t do the best job we can do, and they end up dead. I think it it’s incumbent on me as the police commissioner to make sure that that never happen again.”

The commissioner shrugged off the most biting attack, from Sergeant’s Union President Ed Mullins, who called him “the neutered little puppy of the mayor.”

“I’ve been in this business a long time. I’ve got a pretty thick skin,” O’Neill said. “I’m OK with the criticism. I know how I’ve served this city for the last 33 1/2, almost 34 years.”

The NYPD has not spoken to the sergeant, and sources told CBS2’s Kramer it might be months before they do.

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They have been asked to wait until the District Attorney’s office investigation is completed.