BY JON CRONIN
In a surprise move, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton tendered his resignation Tuesday and current Chief of Department Jimmy O’Neill will replace him in September.
During a press conference at City Hall, Mayor Bill de Blasio praised Bratton, 69, for his heart and ability to create a team that has brought New York City’s crime rate to historic lows.
De Blasio said he and Bratton have created “an intense bond over the past 31 months,” had added that after Bratton steps down this “deep deep connection will continue,” and credited him with both driving down crime while ending stop and frisk and repairing a rift between the community and the police department.
He said O’Neill, the architect of NYPD’s Neighborhood Community Officer program, will be “one of the best prepared police commissioners this city has ever seen,” and added, “None of us could have imagined a more perfect transition.”
O’Neill said when he started as a transit cop in 1983, he never would have thought he would be standing at that podium accepting the position as police commissioner. He said he’s proud of the work they’ve done lowering crime and “not at the expense of the people they protect.” He added that his experience has made him realize “how valuable and fragile the community relationships are.”
O’Neill then named current Chief of Patrol Carlos Gomez as the new Chief of Department, the first Latino to hold the position.
“This is a bittersweet moment for me; Police Commissioner Bratton has been a mentor to me both professionally and personally. He has given us a fast ship – as he so often says – and left this department in impressive shape,” said O’Neill.
“Jim O’Neill’s acumen as a tough cop was honed in the subways, the streets, and later running precincts, narcotics and fugitive apprehension. But few understand the human side of policing better than Jim O’Neill. As Chief, his innovative NCO program is not only making communities safer, it has brought police and the people together. Jim has all it takes to lead the NYPD into the future,” said Bratton.
Bratton then announced that he would be moving to the private sector. After being pushed by reporters as to where he was moving to, he said it would be announced in the next few days. After being asked if he had been job searching, Bratton said that he consistently gets offers and when where he’s moving on to is revealed it will be clear why he took the position, an offer he said he would only accept if he stayed in New York City.
“I’m leaving because it’s the right time.”
Bratton, a Boston native, has also been the top cop for L.A., Boston and one previous stint in New York City from 1994 to 1996. He said during his first time as commissioner, then Mayor Rudy Guiliani gave him the key to the city, but didn’t tell him that he had changed the locks and felt he had been locked out for almost 20 years.
Bratton was also asked if his decision was influenced by protestors outside City Hall calling for his resignation. De Blasio answered, “It has 110 percent nothing to do with this.”
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), a critic of the mayor’s on police issues and potential 2017 opponent, stated, “Commissioner Bratton’s departure could not have happened at a worse time. Morale in the police department is at an all-time low and the majority of New Yorkers simply don’t have confidence in Mayor de Blasio’s ability to lead our city. Bill Bratton brought common sense and stability to an otherwise dysfunctional administration. He understood the importance of building consensus and was one of the few remaining administration officials keeping it all together. Quite frankly, I’m surprised he lasted this long.”
Anthonine Pierre, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, a group critical of Bratton, released the following statement, “Commissioner Bratton was no reformer to communities impacted by abusive and discriminatory policing, no matter how much he and his supporters attempt to promote that fallacy. He never broke his commitment to the discriminatory broken windows policing that brought this city and too many others stop-and-frisk abuses, militarized over-policing that targets communities of color, homeless, young and LGBT folks, and a range of other harmful policing practices.”
He added that the news of Bratton’s successor O’Neill does not give them hope, “Regardless of who is at the top of the NYPD, the problems remain systemic within the department and will not simply change with leadership, particularly if that leadership and the mayor remain committed to Bratton’s discriminatory ideologies. As long as Mayor de Blasio and the new police commissioner continue with discriminatory broken windows policing and failed accountability for officers who abuse and brutalize New Yorkers, the same problems will exist and this administration will have failed to provide systemic change.”
Reach Editor Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin.