December 30, 2019
So what’s with Chief Terence Monahan? Has he been defenestrated? Is he a non-person, odd man out in the NYPD’s new administration under Commissioner Dermot Shea?
Under former Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill, Monahan was omnipresent. He held news conferences, took a hard line on the attacks on cops that O’Neill soft-pedaled. At O’Neill’s direction, he approached “chokehold” cop Daniel Pantaleo’s attorney Stu London and PBA president Pat Lynch with a promise that Pantaleo would receive his pension despite his departmental conviction that he caused the death of Eric Garner — a promise O’Neill reneged on after meeting with Mayor de Blasio.
But with the appointment of Shea, things seem different. Monahan has been seen around Police Plaza but has not been heard.
Rumors abound that there is bad blood, going back to their time in the Bronx. There’s also speculation that Monahan’s hardline stances — including his approach to Pantaleo — have upset City Hall.
Despite the power of the position — the Chief of Department is the NYPD’s highest ranking uniformed officer — the position can be precarious. Former Chief of Department Joe Dunne was passed over for commissioner for Bernie Kerik. He accepted being kicked upstairs, so to speak, to First Deputy, a civilian position with no power. “I’d stay in the NYPD as dog-catcher,” he famously said.
Phil Banks, on the other hand, retired rather than accept Bill Bratton’s appointing him First Deputy. Banks’s successor, Carlos Gomez, retired after objecting to being pressured by City Hall to appear at various Hispanic events.
As Louis Anemone, the former Chief of Department under Howard Safir put it, “No matter the position, your future and power are derivatives of the person whom you report to. When you have that person's trust and confidence and your performance brings him credit, things are great. When a new team arrives, changes can be expected to be made whether or not your own performance requires it. New Presidents, new governors, and new police commissioners usually need their own team.”
But wait! The situation at Police Plaza is apparently more complicated. Monahan says he “never had a problem with de Blasio. Jimmy [O’Neill] had contacts with City Hall. I am the uniformed voice of the department. I am the one who takes a hard line. Jimmy supported me in everything I said and did.”
And, rumors to the contrary, he says that he and Dermot are “good, good friends. He [Dermot] worked for me when I became chief in the Bronx. The Shea family — [Dermot and his brother James, who headed the NYPD portion of the Joint Terrorist Task Force and currently heads the Jersey City police] and I are friends forever.”
Why has he held back from speaking at news conferences? “The first month you have to step back. I am advising Rodney [Rodney Harrison, the newly appointed Chief of Detectives] and Fausto [Fausto Pichardo, the newly appointed Chief of Patrol] you have to let them stand out. They are in charge. It has to be obvious that they are.
“I am here to the end of this administration. Then I will be 61 years old.” Retirement is mandatory at age 63. “Then I will go and earn some money.”
A NOTE TO READERS. This marks the last NYPD Confidential column for a while. All good things come to an end and, after 20 years reporting on the NYPD for NY Newsday and online, it’s time to take a breather. During those 20 years, it has been my honor and privilege to write about the men and women of the NYPD.