The following are Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea’s remarks, as prepared for delivery.
Good morning, everyone. I want to start out by saying, “Thank You.” I will certainly forget to mention some people – simply because there are so many who should be acknowledged. So, thank you to all my friends, family, co-workers – past and present, uniformed and civilian – and all the elected officials and other dignitaries here.
And thank you to those who traveled from far and wide, including many of the NYPD’s line-of-duty families. We will never forget the sacrifices made by your courageous loved ones – our friends and colleagues. And we vow to always remember that the emotional toll and sacrifice has not ended for you – the mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, and sons and daughters of our heroes. Thank you for being here.
There are three additional people, in particular, that I respect, and to whom I owe a great deal: Bill Bratton, Jim O’Neill, and Ben Tucker. I have learned so much from each of these men, three leaders who have long understood that law enforcement is so much more than a job – it is a vocation that calls many of society’s best people to service. And each has, in his own way, left his mark on our profession.
And thank you, Mayor de Blasio, for putting your confidence in me to lead this organization. I could not possibly be more proud to serve as the 44th Police Commissioner of the greatest police department in the world. It is truly humbling, and I am looking forward to working with everyone who lives, works, and visits here, to make New York City even safer.
The man that I am today, I am because of two people: My mother and father – two immigrants who came from Ireland in the 1950s, met here in New York, settled in Queens, and raised five children. They came here like so many others, with a dream for a better life. And they instilled in all of their children values that, to this day, make us who we are. Values such as: sacrifice, love, faith, decency – treating all people as you would treat your own family. Mom, thank you. And I love you.
To my best friend and loving wife of nearly 28 years, Serena: I could not begin to put into words what you mean to me. To our children, Jackie, Lauren, and Richie: I guarantee this is the last time you will ever have to come to another promotion ceremony.
On a serious note: My family, like most law enforcement families, took in stride the frequent late nights, the many missed holidays and other special occasions, and what I know is an extremely stressful reality for all families of police officers: The worrying and holding-of-breath they do as we leave our houses each day to go about the critical business of keeping others safe.
It is, without a doubt, their encouragement and steadfast backing that made this day, in this auditorium, possible.
The first 20 years of my career as a cop were spent on the streets. The 4-6 was first, after graduating from the Police Academy in 1991. I always found great satisfaction in walking out of the station house to head to post after receiving my assignment at roll call. 184th to 187th Streets on Ryer Avenue was my first assignment. And I remember it like it was yesterday.
You never quite new what to expect each tour, but I loved every bit of it, especially the simple things: walking your post and talking to people. Back then, there was so much open-air drug-dealing that, oftentimes, people were scared to talk to the police because of retribution by drug dealers. Back then, tips were whispered in hushed tones as you passed in a hallway.
There would be many assignments over the years, but there was always one common denominator in all of them: I genuinely thought that, wherever I went, I would never work with finer people.
Along the way, I was privileged to lead two Bronx commands, the 50th and the 44th Precincts. If you aren’t familiar with the Bronx, the 4-4 is home to the New York Yankees, which was always a running joke because I was a die-hard Mets fan. More than once, I came into work to find Yankee paraphernalia littered across my desk. And the irony wasn’t lost on me when, years later, I realized I was to be the 44th Police Commissioner of the City of New York. I guess things have come full circle.
Thinking back on the early 1990s, I recall seeing poverty as I’d never seen it before. What struck me then – and I have never forgotten it – is how much people depend on their police.
New York was a very different, much more violent city back then. The year I joined the NYPD, the city recorded more than 2,100 murders. Last year, there were 295. Burned-out buildings and garbage-strewn, vacant lots have since been replaced by parks and condominiums.
And while the city has absolutely been transformed, and policing has also changed in many respects, there are some constants that are as true today as they were 29 years ago: Policing is about more than public safety, it is about service. It is about providing hope. It is about protecting those who can’t protect themselves. And it’s about changing lives.
This is my message to Police Officers: Never forget for a second – not one second – the impact you make on others’ lives. It’s not always easy to measure, but IT IS happening – from a Police Officer comforting a crime victim in their darkest hour; to standing watch as people walk home, preventing them from ever becoming victims; to working with kids and being a role model. You do all of this and more – so much more. And sometimes in just one eight-hour shift.
It is often said that in law enforcement we interact with people on their worst days, when they are most vulnerable. And that’s often true, which is why it’s so important that you never take for granted your ability to give that person something to believe in. Again, never, ever underestimate your impact. You literally change people’s lives.
As we said we could in 2014, we’ve shown that we can drive crime down significantly with a far less-intrusive enforcement profile. In fact, we have done what many believed was impossible: We’ve pushed crime down while also reducing street-stops, criminal summonses, arrests, and incarceration. And throughout our police department, we are building trust and strengthening relationships in every New York City community.
Neighborhood Policing and precision policing are seamlessly blended together, and serve as a model of American Policing – and proof that, yes, you can have it all. No one is better than NYPD police officers at fighting crime. And no one is better than NYPD detectives at solving cases.
To the members of the Detective Bureau: you are the epitome of professionalism. You are the heart and soul behind our precision policing, and a major reason that we can lay claim to the title, “Safest big city in America.” You have no rivals.
But we are not done – far from it. Now is NOT the time to look back at all we’ve accomplished. Now is the time for us to look ahead to what we can accomplish – what we will accomplish.
We are going to build upon the framework of Neighborhood Policing to both bolster existing relationships and create new ones, from one end of New York City to the other. We must not only call on our colleagues in law enforcement, but also create new partners with residents, clergy, community-based groups, and private-sector entities.
We must also be resilient and remember that declines in crime are never to be taken for granted. Whether it’s murder, shootings, robberies, sexual offenses, or assaults in our transit system, we must remain vigilant. We must remember that we are the advocates for the victims – for the survivors – and we are the ones who must ensure they are never left behind.
We must also be responsive to residents at every opportunity, remembering that every encounter – from a 311 call about a blocked driveway, to a trip to the local precinct to report a crime – is an opportunity to strengthen Neighborhood Policing. Each encounter is an opportunity to make a first impression.
There are significant challenges on the horizon, however – we are already seeing signs of them. People that live in our communities, too, are already talking about them – looming changes that will again test you and your ability to keep all New Yorkers safe.
But we are a very strong organization. I have confidence in you, because time after time you have proven your dedication to the people of this great city. And I know we will adapt and we will work with all of our partners to seek change, as necessary, in order to keep everybody safe, including cops.
Members of every community, in every neighborhood, should feel they are understood by their police and know they are treated fairly. And that is how people come to view their police through a lens of trust. We have a common adversary, after all: Those who commit crime and violence.
Let me be clear: I do not want to see one more child killed. I don’t want to see one more young person shot. I do not want see one more completely avoidable funeral. At the same time, I do not want to see one more kid wander along the road to getting arrested. And I know these are desires shared by all 8.6 million New Yorkers, and the millions more who come here on a daily basis.
If we can prevent those things – if we can live together in a city that provides safety for all, that keeps young people from ever being introduced to the criminal-justice system, the feeding ground of crime will be uprooted. We must do that now, and I’m asking everyone to join me in doing it.
But I want to remind everyone that closer connectivity will never mean the NYPD is soft on crime. There is the adage, “Don’t mistake our kindness for weakness.” Let me be unequivocal: There is – and always will be – zero tolerance for any sort of violence against our police officers.
A few weeks ago, graffiti was scrawled on a police car in Brooklyn. It consisted of several swastikas alongside a derogatory reference to the NYPD. This incident should serve as a reminder to us all: Hate is hate, and it should be denounced wherever and whenever it surfaces.
An attack on a single officer is an attack on society, and it should and must be denounced by all New Yorkers – especially those in leadership positions.
It’s as simple as this: Every person we serve deserves respect. And every cop must be respected, too, IF they are to do their very dangerous jobs correctly. This will always be a two-way street.
Approaching 2020, with every New Yorker entitled to safety, I believe we stand on the threshold of taking our nation’s safest big city, and making it a city in which every neighborhood is as important as every other, where every child can grow up free of the threat of crime.
It is now our obligation to achieve through the partnerships I’ve discussed – through a new level of public support, and public action – our common mission of public safety. That is how we will strengthen those bonds where they already exist, and bridge the divide where they do not.
In the coming days, you will see our leadership team and our vision for the next couple of years come into even-sharper focus. I can tell you that the NYPD has made vast improvements in recent years to better-reflect the city we serve. And we will keep making dramatic progress by investing in those working hard to climb the ranks.
We are also going to invest heavily in our city’s young people by deepening the opportunities for kids – especially teenagers.
Soon, we will make an announcement about a new directive regarding our overall youth strategies. These efforts will focus, specifically, on guiding kids along the right path, ensuring they avoid ever stumbling down the wrong path.
It is time to think about how we can equip and enable our police to help young people steer clear of a first act of criminal behavior.
But, again, we want – indeed, we require – the help of other partners, neighborhood groups, and everyone else we serve. As a police department, we are not afraid to take the lead on this, but it’s imperative that our efforts are supported, citywide. This all ties into our Neighborhood Policing philosophy, of course, and it translates into effective crime-fighting.
We’re at the point where this can all become reality. A totally-safe city – a notion unthinkable just 25 years ago – is now within sight. How we get there is the next level of Neighborhood Policing.
As your Police Commissioner, everything I have described is at the heart of what we do. To be trusted with protecting people is a solemn and sacred responsibility. And, at the same time, it’s an absolute privilege.
We vow to serve everyone, to always be there for them. And we promise to do – especially for those who need our help the most – what nobody else can do. And, importantly, we will prove that when the public and the police work together, we can make positive, lasting change. That change begins when people are safe, and it is sustained when they feel safe, too.
I am confident that New York will continue to be a city that leads this country – a city that embraces its similarities and its differences. A city that is – and, for many years to come, will be – a shining example in the United States of America of exactly how policing should look.
Thank you very much.
The entire ceremony could be viewed below.