New York – Dermot Shea, the son of Irish immigrants who rose to become the NYPD’s second in command, took over the top job at a ceremony Monday morning at One Police Plaza.
Shea, the chief of detectives, was sworn in by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who appointed him last month to replace the retiring Commissioner James O’Neill. A 28-year police veteran, Shea was one of the architects of New York’s approach to policing which aims at lowering tensions with minority communities.
Shea thanked his immediate predecessors, O’Neill and Bill Bratton, for instilling in him the belief that “law enforcement is so much more than a job. It’s a vocation. A vocation that calls many of society’s best people to service.”
He thanked his parents and five siblings, all of whom were present, for teaching him values such as “sacrifice, love, faith, decency, treating all people as you would your own family.”
“Policing is about more than public safety, it’s about service,” Shea said. “It’s about, as the mayor said, providing hope to those sometimes that have no hope; it’s about protecting those who cannot protect themselves. It’s about changing lives. So this is my message to police officers — never forget for one second, not one second, the impact that you have on others’ lives. It’s not always easy to measure but I guarantee to you it is happening.”
Shea, whose hiring de Blasio made clear was predicated on his ability to change policing into a gentler force, spoke about the “significant challenges” that are on the horizon.
“Members of every community in every neighborhood should feel they are understood by their police and know that they are being treated fairly,” he said. “And that’s how people come to view their police through a lens of trust. We do have a common adversary after all — those who commit crime and violence. Let me be clear for a second — I don’t want to see one more child killed, I don’t want to see one more young person shot. I don’t want to see one more completely avoidable funeral. At the same time I don’t want to see one more kid wander onto the road of getting arrested if we can do something better to keep him or her out of that situation.”
Shea also discussed the rising hate crimes, the vast majority of which were targeted at Jews. He did not mention anti-Semitism but condemned hate graffiti “as a reminder to everyone sitting here and watching. Hate is hate and it should be denounced wherever and whenever it appears. Period.”
Photo by: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office