One Police Plaza

The NYPD's Fabergé Egg

February 13, 2017

It’s not just that overall crime continues its nearly three-decade decline under Mayor Bill de Blasio, despite the reduction of the notorious stop-and-frisk. Now, the mayor appears to have tamed the beast that is the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.

The mayor has agreed to give the PBA’s 22,000 members a 9.3 percent raise retroactive to August 2012 that puts them ahead of all the other NYC police unions. That deal also comes with a 2.25 percent “neighborhood policing differential.” The mayor’s justification for the differential came with his usual nonsense. But, since when do cops get a bonus for doing their jobs?

Cops may detest him and the union will never endorse him but the raise does neutralize them. No more demonstrations outside Gracie Mansion or his gym in Park Slope. No future demonstrations at his every appearance in an election year.

As for neighborhood policing — whatever that turns out to be and wherever it takes us — that is the baby of Police Commissioner James O’Neill, who is yet another mayoral success. Despite being white and Irish in an administration that prides itself on “diversity,” he has proved to be a mayoral dream in his six months as commissioner.

The city’s first non-celebrity police commissioner in two decades, Bill Bratton plucked him off the shelf, where former commissioner Ray Kelly had placed him for seven years after an overtime mess at a Brooklyn narcotics unit. O’Neill may not check off any diversity boxes but he speaks in an authentic cop’s voice — and so far has done the mayor’s bidding.

With the mayor cheerleading, O’Neill stripped a white sergeant of his weapon and placed him on desk duty, saying he had not followed procedure after fatally shooting a deranged black woman who attacked him with a baseball bat. O’Neill will probably fire Officer Richard Haste, a white officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager in his Bronx apartment bathroom. It’s believed de Blasio wants Haste out. Ditto for Daniel Pantaleo, whenever the NYPD gets around to trying him for the “chokehold” death of Eric Garner in Staten Island.

Realizing his value, O’Neill’s handlers at 1 Police Plaza treat him as gently as they would a Fabergé egg.

When he eulogized the late Steven McDonald at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, he mentioned that both McDonald’s grandfather and father had been police officers, and added that his father had even driven young Steven in his patrol car. Then he joked: “Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.”

When the NYPD released a transcript of his remarks, his media reps omitted the joke. They also declined this reporter’s request for an interview.

In keeping with de Blasio’s we-should-all-love-each-other spirit, O’Neill recently kissed the mayor’s wife, Chirlane McCray, and City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson on their cheeks at a news conference at Police Plaza on sex-trafficking. Can you imagine Bratton or Kelly doing that?

Still, there remains an undercurrent of racial discord that never goes away. Last week, at a hearing of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, which Gibson chairs, Councilman Jumaane Williams complained, “In the department, there’s only one constituency that outpaces, statistically, everyone else and that’s white males and we have to figure that out.”

Williams might have added that the last three commissioners have been Irish — whatever that’s worth. Maybe he can also figure that out.


Copyright © 2017 Leonard Levitt