The WINS Interview: Outgoing NYPD Commissioner O'Neill on stop-and-frisk, policing the subway, new bail laws

Juliet Papa
November 19, 2019 - 2:14 pm

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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- Departing NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill has defended the use of stop, question and frisk, calling it "a constitutionally-tested tool that police have to use."

In an interview with 1010 WINS's Juliet Papa, O'Neill did not address the merit of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's recent apology for the stop and frisk policy that police employed during his time as mayor. O'Neill called the apology a "good step" for the mayor, saying "I think he did a lot for this city. And that’s what was in his heart and he felt it necessary to do."

When asked about the stop, question and frisk policy still used by the police, O'Neill said that it's necessary to keep citizens and cops safe. "It’s something that we still employ. It helps us get weapons off the street, it helps keep the city safe, but it has to be used correctly, and obviously it has to be used constitutionally."

He also addressed ongoing controversy over increased policing on New York City's subways, defending the focus on fare evasion enforcement.

"You have to control the entrance to the subway," O'Neill said. "This way, people feel safe when they’re on the subway. Because it’s a different environment than walking down the street. There’s nowhere to go; you’re in a subway car. So we have to make sure we do our best to make people feel safe, not only be safe, but feel safe."

He also addressed criminal justice reforms that will eliminate cash bail for most misdemeanor and nonviolent arrests, which go into place in January.

"I think everybody in New York is going to be paying attention, and if they see that crime rate start to rise, even incrementally, no one’s gonna put up with it, and I think the elected officials are gonna pay attention to it too. So, come January 1st, if things aren’t looking too good, I’m sure people will be able to pivot and make sure that the whole system can keep people safe, and be fair."

O'Neill's last day as commissioner is Nov. 29. Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea will then assume the position.