As the top commander in the New York City Police Department, Chief of Department James O’Neill is a central figure in a nationwide push to alleviate tension between police departments and minority communities. O’Neill told a meeting of precinct leaders he wanted officers to get out of patrol cars and talk to residents instead of “rolling up on people,” a common shortcut that he says puts officers in more danger, reports the Wall Street Journal.
“This is important stuff. The world has changed and you have to accept that,” he told the more than 100 commanders in the room. “It’s gotta stop.” The following week, racially charged shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas thrust American policing into the global spotlight. O’Neill, a 58-year-old Brooklyn native, was tapped for his job 20 months ago because of what Police Commissioner William Bratton says is his ability to communicate effectively with both officers and citizens. Under a model being tested in more than 25 precincts, officers aren’t evaluated on the number of arrests they make, but on how they deal with eradicating crime conditions. Patrol officers are asked to set aside time in their shifts to develop relationships with people in their communities. The success of this approach will go a long way in determining who succeeds . O’Neill likely sits on a short list to be the next commissioner.