Chief who knelt with protesters retires in new NYPD shake-up

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Copyright The Associated Press 2020

FILE In this June 1, 202 file photo, Chief of Department of the New York City Police, Terence Monahan, kneels with activists as protesters paused while walking in New York. Monahan, who made headlines last year for kneeling with protesters while also being criticized for officers' forceful response, said Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, that he is retiring after nearly four decades with the department. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

NEW YORK – A New York City police commander who kneeled with protesters outraged by the death of George Floyd, but was also an architect of the department's forceful response to the demonstrations, said Thursday that he is retiring after nearly four decades on the force.

Chief of Department Terence Monahan, the NYPD’s highest-ranking uniformed leader, will become a senior adviser to Mayor Bill de Blasio, aiding in the city’s coronavirus recovery, the mayor said at a news conference announcing the move.

Between the pandemic and the protests, Monahan said, “this was the toughest year that I've ever spent in law enforcement.”

Rodney Harrison, the chief of the NYPD's detectives squad, is replacing Monahan as chief of department. He is the third Black person to hold the position. The department has not said who will succeed him as chief of detectives.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, noting Harrison's varied experience over a three-decade NYPD career, said he was "an easy choice” for the job, which involves running the department’s day-to-day operations.

Thursday's announcement is the latest in a series of shake-ups at the nation’s largest police department, which recently named a new top spokesperson and saw its chief of patrol officers quit in June after a short time on the job.

In promoting Harrison, the department has hewed to de Blasio’s pledge to diversify the department’s upper ranks, positions historically occupied by white, Irish-American men. Juanita Holmes, a Black woman, succeeded the patrol chief who quit last summer, and Jeffrey Maddrey, a Black man, is the Chief of Community Affairs.

Harrison has been a detective, went undercover investigating drug crimes and received the Police Combat Cross for valor in the line of duty. He also had the distinction of being the official in charge of monitoring wind speeds to decide if the big balloons were allowed to fly at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.