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'Son of working-class Irish immigrants' chosen as new NYPD police chief

Dermot Shea will replace James O’Neill, another Irish-American.

Outgoing NYPD chief James O'Neill (left) and his successor Dermot Shea.
Outgoing NYPD chief James O'Neill (left) and his successor Dermot Shea.
Image: Richard Drew/PA Images

AN IRISH-AMERICAN has been selected as the NYPD’s police commissioner for the third time in a row. 

Dermot Shea, a son of two Irish immigrants, was announced on Monday as the new head of the United States’ largest police force. 

Shea (50) is replacing another Irish-American, James O’Neill, who has held the post for three years. 

The New York Times reports that Shea is: “a son of working-class Irish immigrants who grew up in a cramped apartment in Sunnyside, Queens”. 

The NYPD said in a profile of its new chief that he lives in Manhattan with his wife Serena and that they have: “three children, Jackie, Lauren and Richie, as well as grandson, Aidan, and a dog named Miley”. 

He began his career with the NYPD as a patrol policeman in the Bronx. 

“Shea began his service as a police officer in 1991, a year New York City faced more than 2,000 murders,” the NYPD said.

He rose up the ranks to serve as precinct commander of the 44th and 50th precincts in the Bronx where he oversaw a dramatic reduction in gun violence.

Shea then rose to prominence at police headquarters as the department’s statistical guru and last year overhauled the division that handled the sexual misconduct investigation of Harvey Weinstein.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Shea is “one of the best-prepared incoming police commissioners this city has ever seen” and knows the department and the city “inside and out.”

The choice of another white police commissioner has been questioned in some quarters in an increasingly diverse police force. 

Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton has called for an immediate meeting with Shea to discuss how policing policies affect people of colour.

Patrick Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, said he wants to work with Shea to “combat the current anti-police atmosphere and make positive changes that will improve the lives of our police officers and every New Yorker we protect.”

Tina Luongo, of the Legal Aid Society, said in a statement that de Blasio should have embraced transparency and solicited input from city residents before picking a new police commissioner.

In Shea’s tenure as chief of detectives, the police department has expanded its database of alleged gang members — often black and Hispanic men and women — and codified expansive DNA collection practices, Luongo said.

Her organisation provides legal services for people who cannot afford lawyers.

- With reporting by Associated Press

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Rónán Duffy

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