The NYPD is bracing for another round of high-level reshuffling expected to force some veteran brass into retirement, with commanders hand-picked by Police Commissioner James O’Neill taking their place as he reshapes the department to embrace his neighborhood policing concept.
O’Neill said on Thursday the recent shifting of personnel that led to four chiefs retiring and promotions for others will necessitate more changes.
“Any time we move people up there is a domino effect, so we will fill in the gaps appropriately with the right people,” O’Neill said.
Asked how many commanders would be affected, O’Neill refused to give a number, but some high-level NYPD officials expected there to be 60 to 100 personnel moves.
The changes are likely to “come down to the fact that we will have to make some new precinct, [housing police] and district commanders, down to that level, moving people around,” said O’Neill, following a ceremony at the police academy in which 785 new recruits were sworn to begin six months of training.
Changes at the department began last week when O’Neill announced the promotion of Chief Terence Monahan to chief of department, the highest uniform rank, following the retirement last month of Carlos Gomez. With Monahan’s elevation, his old job of chief of patrol was filled by his deputy, Rodney Harrison, now the highest-ranking black chief. Other commanders moved up to fill additional positions.
What caught many off guard was the retirements of four senior three-star chiefs — Joanne Jaffe, James Fox, Diana Pizzutti and Thomas Purtell. Asked about rumblings that some of those chiefs — all white and in their late 50s or their 60s — might cause legal problems for the department, O’Neill answered, “Each and every one of them made a large contribution to making this city safe . . . I thank them for that.” The commissioner said he wants a command staff with values “consistent with mine.”
Pressed for an explanation about the departure of the four retired chiefs, O’Neill said “the people I have put into place, their values are more consistent with mine when it comes to neighborhood policing.”
One lower-level commander who didn’t want to be named said there is a feeling of anxiety among many seasoned NYPD commanders who believe others are being promoted who “have not paid their dues.”
Police historian and author Thomas Reppetto said that after the election of Mayor Bill de Blasio, it had been expected that O’Neill, who took over from William Bratton in September 2016, would select his own commanders.
“Everybody [every commissioner] wants his own people around them,” Reppetto said.