The same week he was named New York City's next top cop by Mayor Bill de Blasio, incoming police commissioner Dermot Shea took a trip down to San Juan, where he met with members of the City Council and the state legislature on Friday.
"One-on-ones for the most part. Just really getting to know people," the current NYPD Chief of Detectives said about his time in Puerto Rico for the annual "Somos El Futuro" conference. "Passing them in the halls, testifying at City Council — I know a number of people, but it's a little different when you can really sit down and talk one-on-one. Good to open the dialogue."
Opening the dialogue is key at a time when some communities have felt targeted by the NYPD, as the city and state move to crack down on subway fare evasion, which led to an ugly video making the rounds last week:
Some lawmakers believe naming Shea as police commissioner and not a person of color was a missed opportunity.
"I think it sends a message to the community that we are not ready for that kind of diversity yet," Democratic Queens Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz said. "But I think, sadly, it sends a message to officers who, study after study and who anecdotally, are telling folks, 'We often feel like past captain — we're never going to get anywhere because we don't have the hook.'"
De Blasio passed over Ben Tucker for the job, who is African American.
"I think diversity is always a great thing, but police commissioner is the mayor's choice. It's usually one of the most important appointments," Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. "I'm sure the mayor had great reasons on why he picked Shea, but I do think diversity is great thing. It would have been great, but I'm sure the mayor made a choice that he's very confident in."
But others say what's done is done, and it's time to give Shea a chance to build bridges.
"I hope he can do just as great a job as Commissioner [James] O'Neil. I'm not sure how that transition happened and how he was chosen," Democratic Brooklyn Councilwoman Farah Louis said. "I am going to meet with him today to have a conversation about what this looks like for Flatbush and East Flatbush, and how he can be more helpful."
In January, cash bail for certain offenses will end in New York state. That was passed by the state legislature just this past year, and some have warned that it could lead to more dangerous streets. In addition, some state lawmakers want to decriminalize sex work, so the NYPD and its top brass will certainly have their work cut out for them, dealing with these changes.
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