4 THE QUEENS COURIER • NOVEMBER 7, 2019 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
brutality, suicide crisis
shaped the O’Neill Era
BY ALEX MITCHELL
Over his three years as the NYPD’s top cop, outgoing Police
Commissioner James O’Neill faced one challenge aft er another —
including crises of homeland security and responses to allegations
of police misconduct.
His tenure as commissioner began with a bang. On his fi rst
offi cial day at the post in September 2016, the “Chelsea bomber,”
Ahmad Rahimi, injured 30 people with pressure cooker explosives
that exploded on Manhattan streets.
Th e following year, O’Neill also dealt with two other terrorist
attacks on NYC as commissioner in 2017: the ISIS Halloween
truck attack which claimed the lives of eight people run over on the
West Side Highway by Uzbek immigrant Sayfullo Habibullaevich
Saipov. Th ere was also the attempted Port Authority bombing —
when Bangladeshi immigrant Akayed Ullah inadvertently detonated
a pipe bomb in a Times Square subway passage, injuring
himself and three others before being taken into NYPD custody.
Separately during his time, the commissioner made eff orts
towards amending what he identifi ed as wrongdoings of the
department’s past, especially against the LGBTQ community.
Earlier this year, O’Neill issued a formal apology to that
community on the department’s behalf for its handling of the
Stonewall Riots in 1969.
“I’m not an expert on what occurred at Stonewall,” O’Neill said
in June. “But I do know that the actions taken by the NYPD were
wrong. Th e actions were discriminatory and oppressive and for
that, I apologize.”
It was also O’Neill’s responsibility to handle disciplinary actions
against NYPD offi cer Daniel Pantaleo for his fatal chokehold
against Staten Island man Eric Garner while resisting arrest in
Aft er years of trial and litigation in the face of national media,
O’Neill terminated Pantaleo from the department in August,
causing a rift with a move the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association,
amNewYork has previously reported.
“I was determined to carry out my responsibility as Police
Commissioner unaff ected by public opinions demanding one outcome
over another,” he said at the time of Pantaleo’s termination.
Adding to the strain, in 2019, the NYPD faced a diff erent crisis:
a sudden spike in police offi cer suicides. Th e commissioner
worked with the city to bring about additional mental health programs
for offi cers and public pleas that any offi cer in dire need
O’Neill came out as an outspoken critic of the city’s recent vote
towards a borough-based jail system aiming to replace Rikers
Island. Despite his criticism, the de Blasio Administration supported
the eff ort, which the City Council approved through legislation
passed in October.
Days before announcing his retirement, O’Neill also took
Governor Andrew Cuomo to task aft er Cuomo mentioned that
subway crime was on the rise.
“We get about six major crimes per day and there are six million
riders per day, so that is not a system that is out of control,” the former
transit cop said, while noting that overall crime in New York
is down during his tenure.
Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill announces the fi ring Police Offi cer
Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner.
Photo by Mark Hallum
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill with Mayor Bill de Blasio announcing the top cop’s resignation.
O’Neill resigns in favor of
a private sector position
BY MARK HALLUM
Th e nation’s largest police
force will have a new leader in
December when current Chief of
Detectives, Dermot Shea, replaces
the outgoing Commissioner
James O’Neill, who formally
announced his resignation
Monday in favor of an undisclosed
private sector job.
O’Neill simply said it was
“his time” to move on despite
questions of recent controversy
regarding the fi ring of Offi cer
Daniel Pantaleo in the Eric
Garner case or the spate of police
involved shootings and suicides.
“It weighed heavily on me, but
I felt that this is my time,” O’Neill
Mayor Bill de Blasio said his
decision to name Shea as O’Neill’s
successor – rather than seeking
new leadership outside the
NYPD – was based on a personal
conviction that the department
is going in the right direction
with new inroads made within
the community through programs
such as the Neighborhood
Coordination Offi cers initiative.
“O’Neill led a transformation
that many people felt was
impossible … Th e relationship
between our community and our
police is fundamentally diff erent
than it was a few years ago.
Th is is a safer city and a fairer
city,” de Blasio said. “In 2018,
15,000 fewer people were arrested
than fi ve years earlier and we
O’Neill spent 37 years in the
NYPD and the last three years as
its commissioner. He will leave
the department at the end of
November, O’Neill said.
Shea, from Sunnyside, Queens,
started his career in the NYPD
in 1991 and has since climb
through many facets of the agency
before being appointed to his
current role under the leadership
of former Commissioner
Bill Bratton, who stepped down
Shea did not elaborate on a
strategy for ending the high
number of offi cers suicides —
ten so far this year — but that
any cop taking his or her own life
is too many. He pledged additional
departmental measures in
the future to help save offi cers’
Th e current chief of detectives
came under fi re earlier this year
aft er a WABC-TV investigation
found that the NYPD undercounted
the number of rape incidents
in recent years. Shea said
he would have a dialogue with
concerned groups in the future.
Shea’s top cop appointment,
however, did not sit well with
some in the legal community.
Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-
Charge of the Criminal Defense
Practice at The Legal Aid
Society, was nonplused by Shea’s
appointment to top cop in the
city, explaining that it was another
failure of behalf of the de
Blasio administration to seek a
transparent, community driven
decision in terms of law enforcement.
Richards, who represents communities
in southeast Queens,
believes that the NYPD needs to
better refl ect the city’s diversity
from the top down.
“As a true believer in the benefi
ts of community policing and
the impact that it has on our
neighborhoods, he has served
our city well,” Richards said. “As
we look towards a new commissioner,
I am concerned with the
direction we are going. Th e faces
of everyday offi cers is changing,
as the NYPD shift s to a majority
minority department. Th e top
of the department should refl ect
that. Even as we see great progress,
there is still much more
work to be done to ensure our
department represents the communities
it so severely polices.”
As of Monday aft ernoon, the
de Blasio administration had not
yet appointed a successor to Shea
as chief of detectives.