NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — James O’Neill is stepping down as commissioner of the New York City Police Department.
The formal announcement was made at a 2 p.m. press conference at City Hall.
“Jimmy has done so many extraordinary things, I literally don’t have time to list them all,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “He led a transformation that many people thought was impossible. I heard the Doubting Thomases many times. They said that neighborhood policing wouldn’t work. They said that the changes we were making would make us less safe. They said communities wouldn’t buy in. They said police wouldn’t buy in. They didn’t know Jimmy O’Neill and they didn’t know what he built.”
Web Extra: James O’Neill Announces Retirement; Dermot Shea To Be Next Police Commissioner
O’Neill was appointed to the top job in 2016 by de Blasio. During his tenure, O’Neill led efforts to bolster community policing and repair the department’s relationship with minority communities that had complained about innocent black and Hispanic men being caught up in aggressive enforcement of minor crimes.
“Jimmy can be proud of the fact that crime in New York City today is at the lowest level its been since the 1950s,” de Blasio said. “I’m gonna miss him.”
O’Neill has presided over continuing drops in crime and the department’s response to high-profile incidents, including a pipe bomb attack in 2016 and a truck attack that killed eight people on a bicycle path in 2017.
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In August, O’Neill brought closure to one of the NYPD’s lowest moments, firing a police officer for the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner. The city’s largest police union responded by calling for O’Neill’s resignation.
“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I want to express deep gratitude to Jimmy O’Neill for dedicating his entire career to keeping our city safe,” de Blasio said. “Jimmy transformed the relationship between New Yorkers and police, and helped to make the Department the most sophisticated and advanced in the country.”
De Blasio said Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea will be O’Neill’s successor.
“The fact is that Dermot is one of the best prepared incoming police commissioners this city has ever seen,” de Blasio said. “Folks who have worked with Dermot Shea will tell you he’s the real deal. He will tell you the truth. He will always tell you what he’s thinking. He will always demand more.”
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. https://t.co/ok0DIo0GUt
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) November 4, 2019
“We’ve redefined the last six years how we police this great city. I think we’ve done what many said was impossible. We’ve had a lot of help,” Shea said. “We further pushed crime down. We’ve reduced incarceration. We’ve attained levels, whether you measure by any standard or metric, homicides, lives saved, shooting incidents, assault victims, robberies, all at historical lows. What’s difficult to measure is the impact of the crimes prevented, and I’m probably most proud of those. The blueprint is here. I think it’s time to build on it. There is more work to do for all. We can not and will not rest until all New Yorkers feel safe.”
“Dermot Shea is a proven change agent, using precision policing to fight crime and build trust between police and communities. As Chief of Crime Control Strategies and then Chief of Detectives, Dermot was one of the chief architects of the approach that has made New York City the safest big city in America. Dermot is uniquely qualified to serve as our next Police Commissioner and drive down crime rates even further,” the mayor said.
O’Neill, 61, is retiring from the NYPD to take a job in the private sector. Sources say O’Neill may take a job with Visa or the NHL.
“I’m leaving because I have another opportunity. I’ll talk a little more about that after I leave. But it’s something I couldn’t pass up. I’ve been doing this job for almost 37 years now. I love being a cop. I consider myself a cop as the police commissioner. I never considered myself a sergeant, lieutenant, captain, whatever rank I was, I considered myself a cop. Because I know what it’s like to be out there at 2 o’clock on a Saturday morning, when you’re it. And people look to you: Hey, keep me safe, make me feel better. And that’s what our cops do each and every day.”
“Its been an incredible experience for me,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill began his law enforcement career in 1983 with the Transit Police Department. He’ll be stepping down in a month.
Shea grew up in Sunnyside, Queens, the son of Irish immigrants.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)