New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill says he won’t resign despite pressure from the Police Benevolent Association union stemming partly from the firing of an officer involved in a 2014 fatal arrest.
“This is not something that you walk away from,” he told press on Friday in response to questions about whether he planned to step down.
Earlier this week, the PBA unanimously approved resolutions of no confidence in both O’Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The union’s 27-member delegate assembly released the resolutions on Wednesday, calling for O’Neill’s resignation and asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to remove de Blasio from office. Both resolutions cite the recent firing of Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was involved in the fatal arrest of Eric Garner in 2014, in part as a cause for the union’s demands.
One resolution says O’Neill “yielded to inappropriate pressure from anti-police advocates and elected officials, as well as unlawful interference from Mayor Bill de Blasio, to render unjustified findings and penalties” on Pantaleo.
On Friday, O’Neill said he stands by his decision to fire Pantaleo.
“There were some alternatives that were discussed, but in the end I made the decision,” he said, adding that he doesn’t agree with PBA president Pat Lynch, but he respects him.
The PBA resolution also accuses O’Neill of failing to address an “acute mental health crisis” among the NYPD, which has lost nine members to suicide so far this year, among other things. O’Neill was a police officer for 34 years prior to becoming commissioner in 2016.
PBA spokesman Albert O’Leary told CNN this is not the first time the union has issued a resolution of no confidence. He said the last one was against former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly in 2004.
According to a statement from Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Phillip Walzak, O’Neill’s “heart and soul are with the NYPD, and he is honored to lead this Department that continues to drive crime to historically low levels.” The statement adds that the NYPD “stands with its cops and the brave work that they do.”
The resolution calling for de Blasio’s removal from office accuses the mayor of engaging in “a sustained effort to deceive the public regarding crime and enforcement” in the city. It says Pantaleo’s “unjustified termination” has destroyed the morale of NYPD members and asks Cuomo to remove de Blasio from office.
In a statement, Freddi Goldstein, a spokeswoman for the mayor, called the move “another attempt by the PBA to divide our city and we won’t stand for it.” Goldstein also said that “under this mayor and Police Commissioner, our officers and the communities they serve are closer than ever and the city is the safest it’s ever been. That isn’t changing.”
Pantaleo was found guilty in a disciplinary trial earlier this month of using a chokehold on Garner, the New York man whose final words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The departmental administrative judge officially recommended Pantaleo be fired, and O’Neill announced his termination last week.