Police Commissioner Bratton retiring in September; Chief O’Neill to become new top cop

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Police Commissioner Bill Bratton will be stepping down from his duties as New York City’s top cop next month and will be replaced by the NYPD’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, Chief of Department James O’Neill.

Finishing his second stint as NYPD commissioner, Bratton said he would be moving on in mid-September to pursue an opportunity, although he wouldn’t go into detail about it. He said it was “the right time” to retire from the force after overseeing a transformation of the department in which officers are more actively working to build stronger relationships with the communities they serve.

Chief O’Neill, meanwhile, was one of the architects of the NYPD’s community policing initiative, which puts more police officers on the streets and allows the people in their area to get to know them. O’Neill joined law enforcement in 1983 as an officer of the NYC Transit Police Department, which merged with the NYPD a decade later.

Since then, O’Neill rose through the NYPD ranks, eventually serving as commander of the 25th and 44th precincts. Mayor Bill de Blasio noted that O’Neill also served in other facets of the NYPD, gaining experience in the department’s Narcotics and Fugitive Enforcement Division. Bratton appointed O’Neill as the NYPD chief of department in 2014 to succeed Philip Banks III.

“Jimmy is one of the best prepared incoming police commissioners the city has ever seen,” de Blasio said at a City Hall press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “His decades of experience have taught him not only how to lead and to continue to improve the extraordinary work of the NYPD, but also led him to the Division of Community Policing.”

Born and raised in Flatbush, Brooklyn, O’Neill said he never dreamed he would have the opportunity to lead the NYPD as its commissioner. He pledged to continue the work that Bratton and de Blasio started to strengthen the NYPD’s relationship with the people of New York City while continuing to keep crime at historic lows. The community policing initiative, O’Neill said, is critical toward achieving both objectives.

“Knowing who your police officers are is one way to strengthen the bond that exists in many places, and bridges the divide in many others,” O’Neill said. “By year’s end, we have a great chance to log the fewest index crimes in a single year … but that doesn’t mean we ever stop working to drive crime down. It is, after all, what we do.”

In his first acts as incoming police commissioner, O’Neill asked that NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker remain in his current post and appointed Chief of Housing Carlos Gomez, a Jackson Heights native who commands the NYPD units assigned to public housing complexes, as the new chief of department. Both Tucker and Gomez accepted.

Bratton first served as the NYPD’s top cop during then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s first term in office as mayor in the mid 1990s. His departure then was not as amicable then — “I got the key to the city, but the mayor had changed the locks,” Bratton recalled — as it is now under Mayor de Blasio.

Bratton said he approached de Blasio in early July about stepping down to pursue other opportunities. His resignation, the mayor stressed, had nothing to do with the ongoing federal investigation into alleged police corruption; the commissioner maintained the NYPD maintains a very cooperative relationship all other law enforcement agencies.

“This city and this department will have a seamless transition,” Bratton said, expressing pride in all that the NYPD had accomplished since returning to the post in 2014. “As we go forward with the crises of race in America, crime in America, terrorism and the turmoil of this presidential election, there’s no department better prepared to face those challenges.”

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