John F. Timoney, who served as the NYPD’s youngest top uniformed cop, was remembered as a man who knew the streets and had a renaissance intellect that helped him to professionalize police work.
At a blue-and-white glove funeral Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, several hundred police — rank-and-file, officials, retired brass — family, friends — including author Tom Wolfe — paid homage Tuesday to the former first deputy commissioner and chief who served the NYPD for 29 years.
Timoney died of lung cancer Aug. 16 in Miami. He was 68.
Timoney, who came to the United States from Dublin, Ireland, at age 13, grew up among immigrant groups in Manhattan’s Washington Heights. He started as a NYPD beat cop in the Bronx in 1969.
Speaking at the cathedral Tuesday, Commissioner William Bratton said: “John Timoney was a renaissance man, a street-tough cop with an intellectual prowess and tactical mind that was behind every major city event . . . He was a fierce and loyal friend.” Bratton appointed Timoney the NYPD’s first deputy commissioner in 1995.
“He only had to draw his gun once,” said Wolfe, who described Timoney as “the toughest Irish cop there ever was and a good looking man too.”
Wolfe recalled that Timoney made headlines by chasing down a purse snatcher when he first arrived to be Philadelphia police commissioner in 1998. He later was known to ride his bicycle through city neighborhoods.
“I wanted not only to hire him, but hug him,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told mourners. “He banned chokeholds and believed that the police were there to deliver help and be as humane as possible,” said Rendell, who was mayor of Philadelphia when Timoney came on board.
After Philadelphia, Timoney served as chief of the Miami Police Department from 2003-10.
Monsignor Robert Ritchie said: “St. Patrick’s is a perfect place to say goodbye to John. He was a man who understood the streets of New York and was a man who gave his heart to what he was supposed to do.”
Childhood buddy Bill Callahan, who grew up with Timoney and joined the department with him, remembered when his friend first arrived from Ireland. “He fit right in. He was a New York boy on Day 1 and he learned our ways quickly. He put his heart and soul into his work and for the people of this city.”
Tom Mullens, a retired NYPD captain who attended Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx with Timoney said: “He was a 100 percent — dynamic in everything he did. After we passed the captain’s test he blew me out of the water.”
Eight uniformed police officers carried Timoney’s coffin — draped in the NYPD flag — to a hearse as the department’s Emerald Society Pipes & Drums played “Danny Boy.” The hearse bearing the coffin then slowly drove down Fifth Avenue behind the band that was lead by two flags — one American, one Irish.