Terence Monahan, the NYPD’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, is retiring after nearly four decades on the force. At a press conference today, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Monahan will become a senior advisor for the city helping implement its recovery and safety planning in the post-COVID 19 era. Chief Rodney Harrison, who rose to become the NYPD’s first Black Chief of Detectives in 2019, will be taking over his post. Harrison now becomes the NYPD’s third ever Black Chief of Department, and will be responsible for the management of around 40,000 civilian and law enforcement members of the department.

At the press conference, Monahan said that leaving the NYPD was “probably one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made in my entire life,” but expressed excitement about moving into the new area. “There’s nothing I want more than to see New York like it was just two years ago,” said Monahan, referring to the pre-COVID city and noting that he was especially excited to get restaurants and Broadway shows back up and running.

Monahan, 60, was born and raised in the Bronx, and came from a law enforcement family. His grandfather worked in the 41st Precinct, which was also his first assignment in the early 1980s. Throughout his career, he steadily climbed up through the department to the highest echelons and in 2016 became Chief of Patrol, the department’s largest bureau, before being picked for the top job.

One of Monahan’s career focuses was on developing the NYPD’s Neighborhood Policing model. He was also considered by the NYPD to be an expert in crowd control and the management of large gatherings and major events. But as New York’s highest-ranking uniformed chief, reform activists frequently criticized him for helping direct the department’s protest policing strategies, which sometimes involved violent dispersals, mass kettling, and arrests of protesters and activists.

Harrison thanked his predecessor for his role in helping the department implement neighborhood policing initiatives. “That philosophy is absolutely what this city needs,” he said. “We cannot keep this city safe unless we have that partnership with the people that we’re here to serve.” He added that his experiences as a young man, enduring unprofessional encounters with law enforcement and the scourge of street violence in Jamaica, Queens, informed his vision for policing today.

At the same time, Harrison also affirmed his commitment to the rank-and-file after last year’s summer of protests.

“For the men and women of this police department, I want to make this very clear. I’m going to support you. I’m going to make sure that we get through what was a very difficult time in 2020,” he said. “I can reassure everybody that’s listening to my voice that I have your back.”

“I may not be in this position right now if it wasn’t for protests, but there’s a very thin line between protesting and violent demonstrations,” he later added.

The sudden announcement came one week before Monahan was expected to appear before the Civilian Complaint Review Board as it investigates the NYPD’s response to Black Lives Matter protests this summer. According to the New York Post, which first reported on that slated interview, investigators were supposed to question Monahan specifically over civilian complaints and the department’s response to protests near the Barclays Center and in Mott Haven.

At the press conference, de Blasio confirmed that Monahan would still meet with the board. “We will respect whatever they decide,” the mayor said.

A CCRB spokesperson said in a statement that Monahan “intends to cooperate with our investigations. The CCRB expects to interview Chief Monahan and other senior personnel regardless of whether they are still actively employed with the NYPD or not.”

As Chief of Department, Monahan was one of the main architects of the NYPD response to the protests and, at the time, defended the department's violent dispersal tactics as a necessary response to “out of control” demonstrations last summer. Just days after taking a knee with protesters at Washington Square Park, Monahan was accused by the New York Attorney General’s Office of directing harsh responses to a protest in the Bronx on June 4th, which was condemned by Human Rights Watch and the NYPD’s own Department of Investigation.