CIVIC CENTER — The man chosen to replace Police Commissioner Bill Bratton when he steps down in September said his philosophy of policing was first shaped when he worked as an overnight transit officer in gritty, early '80s New York.
Brooklyn-native James O’Neill was officially named the next commissioner during a press conference on Tuesday, 33 years after he first started patrolling subways between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. in Transit District 1.
“A lot of people back then really didn’t want to ride between eight at night and four in the morning, but they did so to get back and forth to work to provide for their families and to improve their lot in their life,” said O’Neill, the NYPD's chief of department until next month. “And they were happy to see a uniformed cop because they felt safer.”
O’Neill, who grew up in East Flatbush, said he learned how to “talk to every type of person imaginable.”
He was promoted to sergeant in 1987 and worked his way up to the commanding officer of the 25th and 44th precincts, which he said helped instill his belief in neighborhood policing to repair the sometimes fractured relationships between police and communities.
“This is truly a shared effort, a shared responsibility,” O’Neill said. “Our success as a police department, as a society, [is] only when we work together.”
He went on to work in the narcotics unit and the fugitive enforcement division before being named Chief of Department on Nov. 3, 2014 after Philip Banks unexpectedly resigned.
O’Neill was intimately involved in using CompStat to help identify crime trends in neighborhoods and helped implement Bratton’s plans for new neighborhood policing models like having officers walk beats again and build relationships with community members.
“This is the man who created that vision of neighborhood policing and he is the man who will see that vision through for the good of all New Yorkers,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said during the press conference.
“He is ready to take this department where it’s never been before," the mayor continued, "in terms of a truly deep and consistent bond between police and community.”
O’Neill also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in government and Master of Public Administration degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
In his off time he enjoys watching the Rangers and is an avid ice hockey and roller hockey player.
O’Neill embraced de Blasio before taking the podium and joked about another aspect of his background.
“It’s not true, Irish people do hug once in a while,” he said.