Not all at NYPD buy into neighborhood policing

Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill appear to face pushback on the implementation of neighborhood policing.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill appear to face pushback on the implementation of neighborhood policing. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

A behind-the-scenes battle at top levels of the NYPD is raging over neighborhood policing, a signature policy of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner James O’Neill.

Some brass question the policy’s effectiveness and resist implementation. Also, there seems to be a lack of communication among O’Neill, Chief of Department Terence Monahan and precinct commanders over how to implement the policy, which aims to build relationships between cops and the communities they police. “It’s not working the way they want it to. They’re not getting the engagement they want,” said a police source familiar with the situation who spoke anonymously to address the controversy. “But because crime continues to fall, they can maintain to the public that neighborhood policing is working.”

Clouding the picture is a decision by the privately funded, nonprofit Police Foundation. After spending up to $5 million to support neighborhood policing with advertising and surveys, it refuses to extend the contract of the policy’s most prominent consultant, John Linder.

Traditionally, the foundation follows the policies of the commissioner. It is unclear whether the foundation has reached the limit of its funding or whether NYPD brass communicated displeasure with Linder to the foundation. Foundation president and CEO Susan Birnbaum declined to provide an explanation.

Complicating the situation is the continued influence of former Commissioner Bill Bratton, now an executive with the global CEO advisory firm Teneo Holdings. Specifically, NYPD officials critical of the policy cite O’Neill’s hiring of Bratton’s Teneo colleague Judy Pal as an assistant commissioner. Bratton did not return a phone call.

“I am working through some neighborhood policing projects . . . ,” Pal said.

But, a top police official who asked for anonymity to speak freely said, “Nobody knows what she does.”

Adding to the tensions is the future role of Linder, a Bratton acolyte. Referring to neighborhood policing, Linder acknowledged resistance in the NYPD. “Operationally, some may not see how they fit into neighborhood policing.”

Police sources said O’Neill is considering hiring Linder, whose contract with the foundation ends in May. Said Linder, “My role is under discussion.”