New Leadership in NYPD Offers Hope of Real, Needed Improvements

Commissioner O’Neill, center, with Mayor de Blasio the night of the Chelsea neighborhood explosion, September 17th, 2016 (via NYTimes, Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Earlier this month James P. O’Neill became the 43rd Commissioner of the New York City Police Department. With over 30 years of service in many different leadership roles, O’Neill has the opportunity, and challenge, of leading the Department in a time when police and community relations are being scrutinized across the nation. His adaptive style of leadership and emphasis on knowing the community one serves points to an improving relationship between police and the people of New York.

The driving force behind the Neighborhood Coordination Officer plan that was put into effect by his predecessor, O’Neill is a proponent of neighborhood policing and open dialog between community members and police. Throughout his career he has made operational decisions by getting to know his community, his fellow officers, and area elected officials to learn what worked, what did not, and what people in each level of participation needed. He is using his experience of in field policy enforcement as a framework for creating Department wide policies which will encourage other officers to take a similar adaptive approach in their roles.

“We need to evolve, we need to make a better connection to the community” — O’Neill

One could argue that O’Neill is just in the right place at the right time, that the NYPD needed a change and he was well positioned to fill a role, but his commitment to service throughout his career proves otherwise. As the NCO program is implemented in more neighborhoods we can expect to see O’Neill continuing to improve his policies by listening to not only those enforcing them but also those effected by them.

( Rojas, R. (2016). For New York’s New Police Commissioner, Less Crime Is Just a Start. Retrieved September 30, 2016, from

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