Nov. 5 (UPI) — New York Police Department Commissioner James O’Neill announced he is resigning to take a job in the private sector.
O’Neill will be replaced in leading the nation’s largest police force by NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a press conference Monday.
“I say this with admiration and, of course, sorrow that Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill, who has done such an outstanding job over these last years, will be leaving for a role in the private sector,” de Blasio said.
In a statement, de Blasio thanked O’Neill on behalf of all New Yorkers for “dedicating his entire career to keeping our city safe.”
The mayor credited him with transforming the relationship between citizens and the police while helping to make the department the most advanced and sophisticated in the country.
“He led a transformation that many people felt was impossible,” the mayor said during the press conference. “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.”
O’Neill’s resignation comes three years after de Blasio picked him to take over New York’s top cop position from then-Commissioner William Bratton.
De Blasio said in his time leading the force O’Neill had helped fundamentally change the relationship between the city and its citizens, lowered crime in New York to its lowest level since the 1950s and made the city safer with 150,000 fewer arrests in 2018 than five years prior.
“This is all part of his legacy, but most importantly, Jimmy’s legacy will play out in the lives that were changed, people alive today who wouldn’t have been, the families intact, the folks who know safety, who know what mutual respect between police and community means because they’ve experienced it because of what he set in motion,” de Blasio said.
O’Neill said in his over 30-year carer that no matter what title he held he always considered himself a police officer.
“I never considered myself a sergeant, lieutenant, whatever rank I was; I considered myself a cop because I know what it’s like to be out there at two o’clock on a Saturday morning and people look to you, ‘Hey, keep me safe, make me feel better,'” he said. “And that’s what our cops do each and every day, and they do it because they want to.”
His resignation follows his decision in August to fire officer Daniel Pantaleo over the 2014 chocking death of Eric Garner that ignited protests in the city.
The move was met with harsh criticism from the New York City Police Benevolent Association who accused O’Neill of choosing to “cringe in fear of the anti-police extremists rather than standing up for New Yorkers.”
Shortly after, the union passed a resolution of no confidence in de Blasio and O’Neill, calling for their resignations while citing Pantaleo’s firing as the “final straw.”
“Both men have displayed an appalling pattern of malfeasance and nonfeasance that disqualifies them from continuing to serve in their current offices,” PBA President Patrick Lynch said then in a statement. “Neither can hope to regain the trust or confidence of New York City police officers. They must resign or be fired.”
Following the appointment of Shea, Lynch said the union looks forward to working with the new commissioner when he takes over Dec. 1 to “combat the current anti-police atmosphere” in New York.