Community leaders on all sides react to O’Neill’s resignation, Shea’s appointment

NEW YORK — City leaders, primarily those inside the law enforcement community, spoke out Monday about the announcement of James O'Neill's departure as police commissioner, and Dermot Shea's subsequent promotion to the post.

New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill speaks during a press conference to announce the termination of officer Daniel Pantaleo on August 19, 2019 in New York City (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Several officials were complimentary of O'Neill's work as commissioner and welcomed veteran police official Shea.

“Jimmy O’Neill has distinguished himself as an extraordinary public servant to the people of New York throughout his decorated career," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. "His neighborhood policing approach, which my office strongly supports, has helped drive record-low crime even lower across our city. At the same time, his record is proof that lower crime can go hand-in-hand with fewer arrests."

“I congratulate Police Commissioner O’Neill on his esteemed career and steadfast leadership with the NYPD," said Margaret Garnett, commissioner of the city's Department of Investigation, "and I am grateful for the partnership he provided on issues of importance over the past year. Today’s appointment of Dermot Shea to Police Commissioner reflects a commitment to innovation in policing that has been a thread through Shea’s career."

The Police Benevolent Association welcomed Shea Monday with a call for change, saying "the challenges facing the NYPD are enormous, but so are the opportunities. We look forward to working with Commissioner Shea to combat the current anti-police atmosphere and make positive changes that will improve the lives of our police officers and every New Yorker we protect.” PBA President Pat Lynch had previously called for O'Neill's resignation.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea speaks during a press conference about gang violence at New York City Police Department (NYPD) headquarters, June 27, 2018 in New York City.

Other groups, like the Sergeants Benevolent Associated — notably critical of O'Neill during his tenure — stayed true to their stance after O'Neill's announced departure, namely calling out alleged "hands-off policing" and the decision to fire Officer Daniel Pantaleo.

“This announcement is long overdue,” said Edward Mullins, president of the SBA. “I believe he will go down as the worst Police Commissioner in NYPD history. As a puppet of the de Blasio incompetent and dishonest mayoral administration, he has been the catalyst for New York City’s hands-off policing and ongoing descent of overall quality of life and violent street crimes to which we are seeing an increase.

“Like any coward, Commissioner O’Neill chose to run off before the entire empire falls....I know I speak for the vast majority of police personnel when I say he will not be missed.”

Other groups were critical of today's announcement, not focused though on under-policing. Instead, Legal Aid called out the NYPD's relationship with minority groups, denouncing Shea as a continuation of the NYPD status quo instead of an advocate for police reform.

“Yet again, this administration has failed to consult the community on a decision that will affect the lives of millions of New Yorkers," said Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the criminal defense practice at the Legal Aid Society.

"Under Chief Dermot Shea’s watch, the NYPD has expanded its rogue gang database to ensnare thousands of Black and Latinx men and women, and codified practices to surreptitiously collect DNA at all costs, even from those who have never been convicted of or charged with a crime. This will be more of the same, and our clients — New Yorkers from communities of color — will continue to suffer more of the same from a police department that prioritizes arrests and summonses above all else.”

"The National Action Network and civil rights leaders across New York City are seeking an immediate meeting with newly appointed NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea to discuss current policing policies as it pertains to the treatment of Black and Brown communities in New York City.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 08: Reverend Al Sharpton speaks at the National Action Network (NAN) national convention on April 8, 2015 in New York City. Sharpton founded NAN in 1991; the convention hosted various politicians, organizers and religious leaders to talk about the nation's most pressing issues. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Civil rights leader and President of the National Action Network Rev. Al Sharpton said Monday he wants an "immediate meeting" with Shea to discuss policing policies for black and brown communities in the city.

"We're hoping that he is open to having an open dialogue with us and working together to help put an end to unlawful policing practices while increasing accountability as it pertains to NYC's black and brown communities," Sharpton said.

O'Neill had been police commissioner since September 2016, and had been a police officer since 1983. He said he's leaving for another opportunity, which Mayor Bill de Blasio said is in the private sector.

Shea, currently chief of detectives, was promoted to his current role in April 2018. He's spent more than 28 years with the NYPD.

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