The NYPD underwent a changing of the guard near the top of its ranks Thursday, as Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison was promoted to Chief of Department — succeeding Terence Monahan, who’s joining the de Blasio administration’s post-pandemic recovery effort.
Monahan, a 39-year NYPD veteran and Bronx native, will serve as senior advisor for recovery safety planning. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that Monahan’s chief duties will be to provide outreach to businesses large and small to help address their security needs and ensure that they return to full strength within the five boroughs.
Harrison, meanwhile, becomes the highest-ranking uniformed member of the NYPD and the third Black Chief of Department in the force’s history. In his new role, the Queens native now oversees the more than 40,000 uniformed and civilian NYPD members in various operational areas, under the supervision of Police Commissioner Dermot Shea.
For Shea, the choice of Harrison as his second-in-command was “an easy choice.” Harrison has served in all five boroughs, in various commands, throughout his NYPD career, and worked with Monahan to institute the NYPD’s neighborhood policing program — which, before the pandemic, helped drove crime down and rebuild frayed relationships between police and the communities they served.
“He is so well-rounded and ready for this job,” Shea said. “I think the sky’s the limit.”
Harrison saw the moment as bittersweet; he regards Monahan as a mentor who guided him throughout the years. In taking his place, Harrison said he would double down on efforts to rebuild the public trust while keeping the city safe.
“Neighborhood policing, that philosophy is what this city needs. We cannot keep this city safe without a partnership with the people that we serve,” said Harrison, who grew up in the Rochdale Village co-ops and recalled having “negative interactions with law enforcement.”
But instead of driving him away from a career in policing, Harrison said it motivated him, in a way, to join the NYPD and bring about change.
“There were some struggles sometimes, some frustrations, but I also took a leap of faith in coming to this organization,” Harrison said. “Once, I was stopped by a police officer who was extremely unprofessional, and I said to myself, ‘All cops can’t be like this. How could I make a difference?’ And that’s why I applied for this job.”
He also stressed his unflinching support for the men and women of the NYPD, and assured that he would work hard to build a strong connection with communities across the city.
“I’m here to protect you, I’m here to serve you,” Harrison added. “I’m going to be knocking on your door. I’m going to be going to churches and community meetings. In order for me to be successful and keep this city safe, we have to work together, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
As for Monahan’s new role, de Blasio said he’ll be working alongside newly-appointed Recovery Czar Lorraine Grillo as part of a team of experts guiding the rebuilding of New York in the post-pandemic era.
Monahan acknowledged that he had been considering moving into the private sector before jumping at the opportunity to join the recovery effort in New York. While leaving the NYPD after 39 years of service is difficult, he said that he relishes the opportunity to prove that the city will come back from COVID-19 stronger than before.
“For me to continue to serve the people of this city and ensure its recovery is a true honor. The importance of this mission isn’t lost on any of us,” Monahan said. “In this new role, I’ll have an opportunity to help ensure that these businesses know that this is a safe city and they can return. And when business is booming, this city thrives.”
After a difficult 2020 in which the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the NYPD, exposed societal inequalities and featured protests over police injustice that again frayed relations between cops and the communities of New York, de Blasio, Harrison and Monahan said the time had come for the city to unite and move forward.
“We believe 2021 is going to be a very different year in which we come together and move forward,” de Blasio said. “We’ve got to take this city to a better place, and that means bringing police and community together.”