This year has been eventful for the NYPD, with developments in personnel, policy and performance.
1. A new commissioner. That James O’Neill leads the department is significant because unlike two predecessors, Ray Kelly and Bill Bratton, he’s the NYPD’s first commissioner in 15 years without a national reputation or celebrity status. As a neophyte, O’Neill lacks the ego and demanding personality that Kelly used to bully people into granting him perks and power.
Kelly usurped control of the Police Foundation, which paid for hundreds of thousands of dollars in dues and entertainment at the Harvard Club and for a consultant to burnish Kelly’s image as he pondered a run for mayor in 2009. Bratton got the nonprofit organization to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to his consultants. With help from the foundation, Bratton also got a $175,000 no-show job for Beth Correia, a lawyer from Los Angeles, where he had served as chief.
O’Neill’s toughest challenge is navigating a nonpolitical course for NYPD and avoiding the smothering embrace of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is running for re-election. Despite providing funds to hire nearly 1,300 new officers, de Blasio seems unable to overcome distrust felt in the NYPD. Take his cheerleading after O’Neill disciplined a white sergeant who fatally shot a mentally disturbed black woman police say attacked him. O’Neill acted before the NYPD completed its investigation. While he said accurately that the department had “failed” this woman, the mayor exclaimed that she “should be alive right now, period.”
2. New police climate. For two decades, the media portrayed police as heroes: under Bratton for cutting the high crime rate with broken-windows and zero-tolerance policing; and under Kelly with his stop-and-frisk policy, targeting young black males, and his surveillance of Muslims. Now, Bratton’s policies are criticized for leading to the incarceration of many black New Yorkers. In Kelly’s case, stop-and-frisk was declared unconstitutional and the surveillance of Muslims was revealed as largely hype.
3. Crime rate. Overall crime, which started falling under Kelly in ’93, continued its downward trend under Bratton in ’94 and through September under O’Neill.
For de Blasio to get re-elected, he needs the department to keep it that way.