The 43rd NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill joined the Transit Police in 1983, which merged with the NYPD in 1995, and since then he has held almost every rank in the department to eventually become commissioner.
O’Neill was born and raised in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, to two first-generation Irish Americans. His mother’s parents emigrated from County Longford, and his father’s parents were from County Monaghan. He attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in government as well as a master’s degree in public administration.
He was promoted to sergeant in the Transit Police in 1987, and then to lieutenant. Two years after the departments merged he became captain, then deputy inspector in 2003, and deputy chief in 2005. In 2014 he was promoted to chief of patrol and later that year to chief of department, the highest-ranked uniformed position in the NYPD. He has been NYPD commissioner since September 2016.
As chief of patrol, O’Neill developed Neighborhood Policing, a comprehensive crime-fighting strategy based on improved communication and collaboration between police officers and community members. The theory is that if the sectors are drawn according to natural neighborhoods instead of arbitrarily, and the same police officers work in the same sectors each day, residents of a neighborhood will develop relationships with the officers and policing in New York City will be much more cohesive.
As chief of department he expanded the program and ensured it had sufficient funding for it to be successful. It worked – the philosophy is extremely successful. Crime in New York City is down to 1950s levels.
O’Neill continues to increase trust and transparency in the NYPD through both internal reform and state legislation.
He has two sons: Danny, who works for an insurance company, and Christopher, who works in video production at the office of the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Information.
“I’m proud of my Irish heritage,” says O’Neill, “and I’m proud of being American, also. It’s all helped me be who I am.”