Dermot's First Weeks: Putting a Shine on Shinola

December 9, 2019

Newly appointed police commissioner Dermot Shea has taken command of the NYPD, but with the shadow of Mayor de Blasio draped over his shoulder.

After his appointment was announced, Shea had a well-publicized meeting with Al Sharpton, who is not exactly a department favorite. It was not immediately clear what Shea hoped to accomplish by meeting with the Rev.. Department spokesman Chief Thomas Conforti did not return a phone call seeking an explanation. But Sharpton is a favorite of de Blasio. Remember that City Hall news conference in the wake of the Eric Garner “chokehold” death when the mayor sat the Rev. on one side of him with then commissioner Bill Bratton on the other?

Shea also issued a round of promotions that saw Rodney Harrison, who is black, succeed Shea as Chief of Detectives, and Fausto Pichardo, who is Hispanic, succeed Harrison as Chief of Patrol.

These highly visible minority promotions, which were announced at a news conference with the mayor in attendance, were apparently to take the edge off de Blasio’s passing over for the second time First Deputy Ben Tucker, who is also black, for the top job. Whether Tucker stays in his current spot or retires remains to be seen.

Shea also settled a score by promoting Deputy Chief Martine Materasso to Assistant Chief of Counterterrorism. That means longtime Counterterrorism head James Waters will be forced to retire. Police sources say Waters made it uncomfortable for Dermot’s brother, Deputy Chief James Shea, who headed the NYPD part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, after Shea refused a possibly unlawful order to remove classified FBI documents from the Bureau’s New York headquarters.

Then there was the inexplicable. Chief Lori Pollock, the head of Crime Strategies, who gave monthly briefings to the media on the city’s continuing crime declines, was appointed Chief of Collaborative Policing. That job has been vacant for some time and no one can give a coherent explanation of what the job consists of. As the department’s news release put it, Pollock “will foster shared responsibility for public safety through productive partnerships with individuals, government agencies, and community-based organizations. In this position, she will play an important role in the Department’s new youth strategies efforts.”

Left unanswered is the future of Chief of Department Terence Monahan, who has been neither seen nor heard from since Shea’s appointment. Monahan took a tougher line over attacks on police than did former commissioner Jimmy O’Neill. Monahan was also O’Neill’s point man in promising Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo that he would receive his pension, a promise O’Neill reneged upon after a chat with de Blasio. He retired shortly after that.

Finally there are Shea’s repeated references, both at his inaugural and in department news releases, to de Blasio’s prized policy, Neighborhood Policing, which the mayor claims, with no evidence, is reducing crime. That speaks volumes of who is running the NYPD.