NYPD Police Commissioner James O'Neill steps down

He presided over the nation's largest police department.

Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill makes an announcement at New York City Police Dept. headquarters, Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. After five years of investigations and protests, the New York City Police Department fired an officer involved in the 2014 c

The top cop overseeing the largest police force in the country is stepping down from his post and heading for the private sector, officials announced Monday.

New York City Police Department Commissioner James P. O’Neill announced Monday afternoon he would be resigning from his post. He presided over the largest police department in the nation – with roughly 36,000 uniformed officers and 19,000 civilian members – for just over three years.

"I came into this job with one mission and that was to fight crime and keep everybody safe," he said at a press conference announcing his departure. "And we did it and we continue to do it.”

O'Neill said he was leaving because another opportunity arose, though he did not discuss where he would be going. It was not immediately clear when his last day would be.

“New Yorkers need to know that this is not an easy job,” he said, he later added: "I love being a cop."

"Nobody gets drafted into the department. They join it to make a difference and to do good."

O’Neill succeeded Bill Bratton in September 2016 when he was appointed to the role by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. He started with the NYPD in 1983. Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea will take his place.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, left, and NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill, center, confer while U.S. Secret Service Special Agent David Beach, right, speaks during a press conference discussing plans for new security and traffic restrictions around Donald Trum

The top cop most recently made headlines for his controversial decision to follow a departmental judge's recommendation to fire embattled police officer Daniel Pantaleo for his involvement in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in July of 2014 on Staten Island. He acknowledged at the time that firing Pantaleo was not an easy decision to make, and admitted that if he were still an officer, “I’d probably be mad at me.”

He presided over the NYPD as it handled the Chelsea bombings in September 2016 and the Halloween terror attack in lower Manhattan in 2017, when eight people were killed and more than a dozen others injured.

He also led the department to a record-low crime rate and was one of the main figureheads behind the installation of the neighborhood policing movement, which was created under Bratton’s helm and assigns certain police officers to specific areas within their precincts to give the cops the opportunity to better connect with community members.

O’Neill’s announcement falls on the same day as the third anniversary of the line of duty death of Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo, who was killed during a shootout in the Bronx.