New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill is retiring, two senior law enforcement officials confirmed to The Daily Beast. “I am leaving because I have another opportunity,” O’Neill said during a Monday afternoon press conference. “It’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.” The police chief told Mayor Bill de Blasio that he was resigning on Saturday. The current chief of detectives, Dermot Shea, has been named as O’Neill’s replacement. De Blasio called Shea one of the “best prepared” police commissioners he has ever seen. “He will always tell you what he’s thinking. He will always demand more,” he said.
Known as a cop’s cop, O’Neill replaced Bill Bratton as commissioner in 2016, on the heals of a surge in anti-police sentiment brought on by the successive deaths of black men at the hands of police officers across the country. In August, O’Neill made the decision to fire NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, five years after he killed Eric Garner, a black man allegedly selling “loose” cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner. Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” were caught on video and became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. O’Neill’s decision to fire Pantaleo was criticized by Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch.