New NYPD commish has a fan in the mayor’s family

NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill, center, and NYC first lady Chirlane McCray at  the swearing-in ceremony at 1  Police Plaza  on Sept. 19, 2016.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, center, and NYC first lady Chirlane McCray at the swearing-in ceremony at 1 Police Plaza on Sept. 19, 2016. Photo Credit: ASPCA

In what appears to be a first for the NYPD, a police commissioner was introduced at his swearing-in ceremony at Police Plaza by the mayor’s wife.

“I have come to know and admire” James O’Neill, said Chirlane McCray, referring to the new commissioner as “Jimmy,” before hugging and kissing him. She then cited “neighborhood policing,” a program through which residents would know local cops by name, she said. McCray also spoke of diversity in the NYPD, which implies the inclusion of more females and minority officers.

Her introduction of O’Neill before Mayor Bill de Blasio formally swore him in last week suggests McCray may have influence over police matters. That would upset many in the NYPD who remain wary of the mayor, his allies, his policies and his wife.

Rumors persist that McCray opposed William Bratton as commissioner, favoring instead a black commissioner. Philip Banks, the department’s highest-ranking black officer, resigned unexpectedly in late 2014, claiming Bratton had curtailed his authority. McCray was quoted by an anonymous source in the New York Post as telling the mayor of Bratton, “I told you we couldn’t trust him.”

More recently, she has praised Black Lives Matter, which many in the NYPD detest.

Already there are rumblings at Police Plaza that McCray had a hand in O’Neill’s first round of promotions. O’Neill has appointed the first black female borough commander, Juanita Holmes, and the first female chief of personnel, Diana Pizzuti. The timing of Pizzuti’s appointment is unusual because she had accepted expensive meals paid for by ex-Queens Library head Thomas Galante while she served as commander of Queens Borough North. The city’s Conflicts of Interest Board was seeking a fine of more than $25,000 but settled earlier this week for $1,500.

Assistant Chief Kim Royster and Deputy Chief Kristel Johnson, two other black female chiefs, were reportedly considered for promotions but were passed over because they have been in their current positions for only a year.

Asked whether McCray played a role in the promotions, her spokesman, Freddi Goldstein, emailed: “Commissioner O’Neill has a long history of celebrating women and diversity, which he demonstrated once again in his first appointments.”