Seven months after Lawrence Byrne retired as NYPD deputy commissioner for legal matters, his position remains unfilled.
An independent panel formed by Commissioner James O’Neill cited the position as “critical” to making changes to the NYPD’s disciplinary system, including more transparency and accountability. O’Neill has said he accepted the panel’s recommendations.
Yet, according to police sources who spoke on condition of anonymity to candidly address the matter, three people whom O’Neill interviewed to succeed Byrne and whose names he passed along to City Hall for approval months ago were rejected. Like Byrne, one of the candidates was a former assistant U.S. attorney with a police family background.
Not filling a key spot with one of O’Neill’s recommended candidates places him in a delicate space: the perception that he allows City Hall to vet or appoint its own people to the department’s top positions.
A similar situation occurred in March after the retirement of department spokesman Stephen Davis. While the past three police commissioners selected their own spokesmen or women, City Hall selected Davis’ successor and the NYPD appointed Phillip Walzak, who worked in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2013 and 2017 campaigns.
In the case of the deputy commissioner for legal matters, not since the bullying days of Mayor Rudy Giuliani has City Hall exercised veto power over a top NYPD appointment. Byrne, for example, was appointed by Bill Bratton in 2013, and not interviewed by City Hall.
The roadblock at City Hall appears to be Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter, who, the sources said, sought to place an assistant in the job. Carter did not respond to requests for comment. Instead, Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci asked whether NYPD Confidential’s sources spoke on or off the record.
Walzak then responded with this email: “These rumors are false. The truth is the NYPD is engaged in a comprehensive process to identify the best person for the DCLM position . . . The office and the Department have been skillfully served by acting [Deputy Commissioner Ann] Prunty, who has successfully steered the NYPD through a number of important and complex issues over the past several months.”