NYPD Commish Walks the Beat on Final Day of Duty

NYPD Commish Walks the Beat on Final Day of Duty

By Stephen Owsinski

On his final day of duty after three decades as a New York City cop, retiring NYPD police Commissioner Dermot Shea opted to walk the beat alongside many veteran and some brand-new cops working the Times Square revelry on New Year’s Eve.

One may categorize such a final official act as a certifiably branded cop’s cop nugget. I’ll shake hands on that notion, too.

Talk about working your way up the ladder—no easy feat regarding the nation’s largest municipal law enforcement agency, one which employs a combined 55,000 members entailing both sworn and support personnel responsible for five boroughs (counties). To this factor we add the challenges posed by the bizarre doomed-to-fail defund-the-police caper hatched by desperate politicos smarming their way through life.

For a police commish leading a behemoth law-and-order demographic, that’s quite a lot to contend with, especially considering daily living in the Big Apple is rife with twists and turns on the regular, and a population as diverse as life in the seas.

“The city never sleeps” mantra is wholly accurate. I’ve lived it for almost 30 years; Police Commissioner Shea has worked it for 30.

Starting out as a police cadet in 1990, Commissioner Shea cemented a storied police career and, across varied high-ranking roles he held, became known as an architect behind many constructions of NYPD policies and strategies.

Although some law enforcement officers make a change here and there, perhaps relocating from a smaller department to a larger one offering higher salary or ample opportunities to climb the ladder like Shea did, it remains that most cops work for the same agency throughout the span of their police career.

To walk the beat one last time seals a solid cop’s career.

Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss?  

As Commissioner Shea hands in his police credentials and firearm and all city-owned property, his successor from Nassau County PD, where she spent 25 years policing, not too far from the metropolis and its 36,000 or so certified guardians of public safety, is pinned with her police commissioner badge and job-related accoutrements.

In comparison, Nassau County (one of two counties comprising what is widely known as Long Island, NY) is nowhere near the rate of NYC’s criminal activity and police response in a humongous jurisdiction known for its unbelievable bustle.

Although the newly hired NYPD police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, the agency’s 45th PC, is not from within NYPD ranks, she is from nearby and likely has a bead on what has been transpiring in Gotham.

Before conferring her with the top cop post at the NYPD, Sewell served as Chief of Detectives, overseeing roughly 350 law enforcement officers; that pales in comparison to the robust roles of all NYPD employees. As for overall leadership capabilities, we wait, we watch.

For anyone, I surmise, presiding over a super-sized agency and all its moving parts will have its inherent challenges and inevitable strides and pitfalls. Policing isn’t easy, certainly not nowadays.

Commissioner Sewell transitioning from overseeing 350 or so cops at a suburban department, taking the helm of a mega police entity with always-churning gears, the newest blue blood leading from her office at One Police Plaza has ample work ahead. Hopefully, politico plateaus above her allow a police leader to do her job without prickly politics and bureaucracy handcuffing at every turn.

(Photo courtesy of the NYPD.)    

As with any new leader, who he or she works with has plenty to do with getting the job done. In that context, a new PC hired from outside the NYPD will heavily rely on other veteran NYPD brass to situate, find her bearings, connect the dots, hone her helm, and formally usher in a new era. One of those who will impart pertinent Ps and Qs is NYPD Chief of Department Kenneth Corey.

Along with Shea and other NYPD notables, Chief Corey was also boots on the ground, seen in the following photo taken amid Times Square NYE festivities.

(Police union President Pat lynch and NYPD Chief of Department Kenneth Corey. Photo courtesy of the NYC Police Benevolent Association.)

The Other New Boss

Police leadership changing hands at the country’s behemoth cop shop coincides with Gotham’s overall power hub situated in City Hall, as outgoing travesty-of-a-mayor Bill de Blasio dethrones and newly-elected Mayor Eric Adams, a former NYPD police captain, unpacks his bags for a stint in the big show.

Given his former police experience in the city over which he now presides, it seems reasonable to expect duly deserved welfare for police rank-and-file, if even incremental revisitation to when law enforcement was respected and a competent catalyst for significant change.

Not many would have even remotely imagined a NYC mayor being sworn-in at the epicenter of the Big Apple, in Times Square, where many years ago it was globally known as a cesspool of elbow-to-elbow peep shows, a plein air pharmacy of illegal narcotics dispensations, a mecca for prostitutes, a mugger’s mainstay, a locale for furtive fugitives to slither, and an array of unsavoriness which kept NYPD cops scrambling.

Former police commissioners embracing broken windows theory, all supported and financed by a law-and-order mayor at the time, set out to scrape and sanitize the aforementioned Times Square scourge. The mayoral administration justly partnering with law enforcement metaphorically bulldozed the scene, catalyzing an odyssey of unprecedented change for the better, for all, effectively implementing community policing initiatives still parlaying today…

Due to pandemic re-excitements and sensitivities, Mr. Adams downplayed his inaugural gig for a spell. Instead, he opted for a swearing-in ceremony among the bosom of Times Square, amid all the revelry and fanfare, before the citizens he serves and the cops who ensure the opportunity is untainted by miscreant revolution.

It seems this made history. Nowhere in the annals of NYPD lore is it mentioned that the outgoing police commissioner waves goodbye as the incoming mayor extends hellos and lays his hand on a Bible, all from the same confetti-covered asphalt knotted by New Year’s Eve celebrants, congregated under the brilliant lights of renowned Times Square.

Pretty interesting realms, from which teamwork on the ground may derive notions of better working relationships between the police cadre and politicos at Gracie Mansion, where Hizzoner resides and renders decisions. One need only retro the gross irresponsibility of Mr. de Blasio…to at least feel that the gatekeepers safeguarding citizens have a much better chance at doing so with the likes of a pro-police elected figurehead.

Amid the streamers and fireworks and one-off kazoo-sounding horns activated by merrymakers, was Pat Lynch, president of the New York City Police Benevolent Association, a seemingly tireless police union boss unwaveringly defending the frontline troops against anti-cop bashing while also touting an abundance of great police work—not an easy feat to accomplish in a largely liberal stronghold such as NYC.

Even though he is a former cop, Mr. Adams brands with the same political party D as his predecessor, so we shall wait and see how this unfolds, whether for good of cops and citizens…or same ole big city tangles, with more of the typical throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater rigor.

A decent initiative would entail Adams denouncing the defund-the-police shenanigans and slamming the  door on the damned thing. After all, it was a hateful, dour concoction brewed by a certain brand of politician, all of whom are associated with a D credential:

“These mayors couldn’t resist the temptation no matter how impractical and unnecessary the idea was,” showing their true colors by “politicizing and villainizing the entire law enforcement profession and in the process their own departments. The mayors acted like they were invincible, yet the unforeseen problem lurking in the distance two years later for them and the Democratic party is that from the very beginning, they were dead wrong on this issue—wrong on the popularity and practicality of defunding police and not enforcing the law in a civilized society and wrong on the eventual political repercussions that they would face as citizens and visitors became fearful and disgusted at what these cities had come to resemble—third world countries.”

That passage was excerpted from an op-ed authored by former U.S. Secret Service agent Charles Marino. How NYC Mayor Adams views the idiocy of defunding or abolishing the police remains to be realized.

Between cohorts within the NYPD frameworks, many are reserving judgment. Some, though, feel the new mayor is nothing new or good for cops. I side with the former, deliberating and analyzing Mr. Adams, scrutinizing how he’ll wield enormous power over so very many in an iconic arena often serving as a model for other sovereign governments. Indeed, what to do and what not to do often manifests with sensational publicity in the Big Apple, results on display, construed as either good or bad.

For example, it was Commissioner Shea who took responsibility for the decision to disband certain police units. Other law enforcement agencies may have taken note and plotted new courses based on hard experience of others more commonly in the spotlight. In the brief footage you are about to view, one nugget portraying a top cop candidly coming to terms with wrong decisions is a solid lesson for others to glean:

Those same dissolved police cadres will be re-activated. Mr. Adams publicly stated his intention to ebb back to one among many proven ways cops ensnare criminals right where they stand, offending and re-offending by the hour, plucked by special teams thwarting crime.

Before and after his mayoral candidacy was secured, Adams pledged: “I made it clear on the campaign trail: I’m going to put in place not the Anti-Crime Unit, I’m going to put in place a plainclothes gun unit.”

Political winds of change are badly needed in NYC. While standing in the heart of Times Square, shoulder-to-shoulder with a minted metropolis mayor, with whom his role as presiding police union figurehead defaults to many dealings and debates on behalf of rank-and-file police officers, PBA union Prez Lynch conveyed his musings of positivity and a new dawn:

“We’ve got a new mayor, a new police commissioner, a new department, that we could take this city back, make it better and hopefully healthy for everyone.”

(Photo courtesy of the NYC Police Benevolent Association.)

“A new day, a new year, a new era. Welcome, Mayor Adams,” the PBA website posted. (That post garnered 3000-plus views on one social media site, with zero comments rendered at the time of this writing.)

Mayor Adams, though, verbalized some of his mindset: “Our problems have been normalized for generations, while New York’s government struggled to match the energy and innovation of New Yorkers. That changes today.”

Like we said, we shall see…

Among all this, Commissioner Shea will continue his running routine—literally marathoning the streets of New York, not in the least bit inclined to running politically (for now).

Like many NYPD police commissioners before him have done, I eagerly await the first book authored by Mr. Shea, especially interested in his revelations regarding the monster defund-the-police tirade and how it impacted his agency’s operational capacity and the psyche of police personnel.

Alluded to above, the NYPD portrays trends in law enforcement, with a bevy of police entities across the country replicating ideology and style and function, carefully embracing the strain of cultural sensitivities without necessarily forfeiting the crime-fighting hub and its heartbeat. When the anti-police charade got louder and more obnoxious and outrageously inferno’d, we witnessed examples of cops acting noticeably ambivalent, theoretically overly reserved in taking lawful actions in the face of criminal activity. Examples of this continue to evolve; one of the latest transpired on December 8, 2021:

Fearful of being sued or fired or, worse, indicted for matters otherwise known as doing the job according to textbook specs and constitutional brackets, publicized episodes of cops dubiously restraining themselves (and not the badly behaved actors) when even statutes supported their responses… telegraphed the effects of ill-conceived anti-cop rhetoric and, conversely, ostensible refrain of LEOs handling volatile matters.

Fair to say that every cop is receptive to reforms and increased professionalism—contrarily, any cop who opposes potentially virtuous principles of progress betrays wrinkles in the police applicant screening process, namely the psychological component which digs deep, designed to vet would-be cops and exclude those whose personal constitutions may bunk heads with reasoned minds and contemporary policing modalities.

Frankly, in all of this, between the new NYPD police commissioner and the Big Apple’s former-cop-turned-mayor Adams…I’d prefer to see and hear resemblance to PBA union leader Pat Lynch. Getting back to the basics, capitalizing on law-and-order sentiment, instituting policies and procedures for the good of all and not just bending to whims of activists who need tonsillectomies and pacification, deserves righteous consideration for cops and the citizenry.

As retiring police Commissioner Shea graciously offered his successor, “It’s going to be incredibly challenging, and it’s going to be so rewarding at the same time. Trust your gut. Do the right thing. Take care of our city. Take care of our police department.”

All eyes are on the new commish, who was also sworn in as we all welcomed 2022.

Commissioner Sewell posted a statement: “As we begin the next chapter in policing, we’re calling on all New Yorkers to help us drive crime out [of] every community. Our path to success means working together – and with fresh eyes & bold ideas, we will become the blueprint for effective and fair public safety. We start today.”

As a final note, I imagine a man of 30 years in law enforcement, seeing evolutionary phases in policing in America, chronologically morphed since his own inception into life as a big-city cop, swallowed hard with pride when he recently got to swear-in gobs and gobs of NYPD cadets, graduating an academy class one day and welcoming 600 or so more brave-ups to still-warm seats vacated by the previous contingent of brave-hearts.

Mr. Shea didn’t necessarily play a role in who gets to be his replacement. He also didn’t keynote who he thinks is the primo mayor over all mayors (often exhibiting tentative tolerance of a deplorable example who loaded a U-Haul a few days ago).

Honorably, Shea had the distinction to introduce young souls to the culture of cops and the pertinence of doing the job professionally, consistently, perseveringly. After all, he set the ideal example…right down to walking a beat in the heart of NYC, amid fanfare, din, a populace clinging to whatever liberties they have left since Covid challenged constitutional freedoms and dictated new ways of living.

Final words from Mr. Shea embody his devotion to policing and his respect for those who walk the beats: “Over the last 30 years, it has been an absolute honor to work alongside the brave men & women of the NYPD, as we served the people of this great city.

“As I sign off as your PC, I thank them all for their extraordinary work in the most difficult of times.”

He likely wrote that from the PC’s office in One Police Plaza, but he definitely talked the talk and walked the walk with cops working Times Square on New Year’s Eve 2021.