Southeast Queens native promoted to NYPD chief of detectives

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NYPD Assistant Chief James Essig replaces Rodney Harrison as the Chief of Detectives. (Photo courtesy of NYPD)

One Jamaica native has replaced another at the highest echelons of the NYPD.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea announced the appointment of Assistant Chief James Essig as chief of detectives in place of Rodney Harrison, who was promoted to chief of department in February.

“Chief Essig’s commitment to the public good, and his vision for fair, effective policing, has seen our city through its historic crime reductions,” Shea said. “His experience makes him uniquely suited to carry on the department’s work in fighting violent crime. I am proud to announce his promotion to chief of detectives.”

Essig’s career path included assignments at the 101st Precinct in Rockaway Beach and the 105th Precinct in Queens Village. As commander of the Violence Reduction Task Force, he was an early architect of the NYPD’s use of precision policing to focus more intensively on the few individuals considered to be primary drivers of violence.

Those efforts included a 2014 takedown of the GS9 gang in a 101-count indictment charging 15 members of the violent Brooklyn street gang with homicide in a series of shootings. Essig spent much of his career combating gun violence which tormented residents across the city during the COVID-19 pandemic, with murders increasing 44 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.

“Throughout my career, my goal has always been to serve New Yorkers, to build ties between communities and their police and to prevent people from being victims of crimes,” Essig said. “My philosophy was, and remains, that if you are one of the few individuals who endanger our communities by carrying an illegal gun, firing one or using a gun to harm another person, you are the focus. Ascending to this important position as chief of detectives is a tremendous honor.”

Essig was awarded a medal for valor in 1985 for his efforts to save a woman who was trapped in the collapse of a 35-ton crane in Upper Manhattan. Essig was a young officer on patrol in the neighborhood when he rushed in to aid and comfort the 49-year-old woman, Brigitte Gerney, until Emergency Services Unit officers could arrive and begin rescue operations. Gurney told the officers that while she was pinned, with her legs seriously injured, her concerns were for the police officers risking their lives to stay by her side for several hours as they worked to free her.

Harrison, who grew up in Rochdale Village, replaced Terence Monahan who retired from the NYPD for a job in City Hall.

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