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Law & the Courts

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill Expected to Resign

New York Police Department Commissioner James P. O’Neill at a news conference at Police headquarter in New York City, August 19, 2019. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill is expected to resign Monday, according to the New York Times.

O’Neill, 62, led the largest police force in the U.S. for three years. He is expected to be replaced by NYPD chief of detectives Dermot Shea, according to CNN.

O’Neill was widely criticized by rank-and-file officers and their union organizers for firing a police officer five years after he choked Eric Garner to death in an incident that galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement.

In July 2014, police supervisors sent Officer Daniel Pantaleo and his partner to arrest Garner, who they suspected of selling loose cigarettes in Staten Island. Pantaleo tackled Garner from behind, holding him down with other officers.

Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry at Black Lives Matter protests across the country.

O’Neill fired Pantaleo in August 2019 after NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado found Pantaleo guilty of using a chokehold, which is banned by the NYPD. However, Maldonado cleared Pantaleo of the allegation that he intentionally killed Garner.

An online campaign for Pantaleo raised over $170,000.

“We must move forward together as one city, determined to secure safety for all — safety for all New Yorkers and safety for every police officer working daily to protect all of us,” O’Neill said in a statement announcing the firing.

O’Neill presided over low levels of violent crime throughout the city, cementing a years-long trend and bringing murder rates to their lowest levels since the 1950’s.

During his tenure, the police made clear their displeasure with Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose failed presidential campaign earned the ire of the city’s largest police union.

“This campaign proved that it doesn’t really matter whether Mayor Bill de Blasio is speaking to empty rooms in Iowa or spinning his wheels in a Park Slope gym,” said head of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York Patrick J. Lynch. “What matters to New Yorkers is that he isn’t doing his job.”

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