NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea promoted Juanita Holmes to NYPD chief of patrol on Thursday, making her the first woman to hold the position. She is already the highest-ranking Black woman on the force.
It was part of a series of hierarchy shifts Shea announced Thursday. Holmes' promotion takes effect Friday. The move comes after the NYPD's former Chief of Patrol, Fausto Pichardo, abruptly retired from the department earlier this month.
Holmes started with the NYPD in 1987 as an officer and was promoted 7 times up to her retirement in 2018, before coming back to the NYPD in 2019. She previously commanded the NYPD's School Safety Division, Domestic Violence Division Unit, Office of the Deputy Commissioner of Training, Borough Commander of Queens North (the first African American woman to serve in this position), Police Service Area 2 and the 81 Precinct.
"I think she is the complete package," NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said. "I couldn't be more proud to be here with her and the Holmes family...You hear about blue families and police families, but then you have the Holmes family, it's kind of like the Brady Bunch, it's on a completely different level."
Holmes further touched upon how she comes from a family of officers. She has 16 immediate family members who are also part of the NYPD.
"The NYPD is my family literally...I have 16 immediate family members that serve with me in this department and proud to do so. I also have my NYPD family, which is my inherited family," Holmes said. "I like to thank each and every one of them because I wouldn't be here if it weren't for so many of them who shared my vision...we have some of the finest women and men in this department."
The city’s largest police union, the PBA, offered their support saying, “Chief Holmes’ entire family embodies the NYPD’s proudest traditions” and “police officers desperately need competent leaders like Chief Holmes who can effectively push back against the politicians, empower us to do our job and help us to stop this city’s backward slide.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio went on to thank Holmes and her family for their dedication and commitment to the city.
"The commitment of you and your family members to the city and the NYPD, I've never seen an example so extraordinary," de Blasio said.
During his announcement Thursday, Shea also revealed additional changes to the NYPD hierchy. Edward Delatorre, who joined the NYPD in 1979 and was most recently Chief of Transit, has been named the NYPD's new Chief of Labor Relations. Kim Royster, who most recently was the executive officer of the Community Affairs Bureau, was named Chief of Transportation. Assistant Chief Kathleen O'Reilly was named Chief of Transit. Philip Rivera, who most recently served as executive officer of patrol Borough Manhattan North was named Chief of Patrol Borough Manhattan North. Olufunmilola Obe, who previously served as executive officer of the 19, 25 and 34 precincts, as well as commanding officer of the 28 Precinct, has been promoted to Chief of School Safety Division.
Holmes' new role comes after an abrupt exit from her predecessor, due to micromanagement and undermining from the mayor's office, three senior officials previously told NBC New York -- accusations the mayor called "not accurate."
Pichardo commanded protests throughout Borough Park the week before his Oct. 13 surprising retirement announcement, at one point working 36 hours straight, officials said. Mayor Bill de Blasio called him at home, and when Pichardo didn't answer after working the long shift, the mayor demanded he come to City Hall the following day, according to the officials.
During that meeting, officials said that de Blasio gave Pichardo a tongue-lashing for not answering his calls and texts. Communications of that manner are unusual, as the mayor typically speaks directly with the police commissioner or the chief of department.
Two days after that meeting, de Blasio unleashed a barrage of texts to Pichardo demanding details about a house party in the Bronx, according to sources. Frustrated by the situation and communication outside the chain of command, Pichardo filed for retirement Tuesday, senior officials told NBC New York.
After submitting his retirement papers on Oct. 13, Pichardo met with de Blasio at City Hall, where the mayor urged with him to reconsider and remain on the job, sources said.
“This one is a gut punch because it’s a huge hole to fill, he’s such a well-rounded individual, he’s a loss to the city," Shea said in a NY1 interview after the news broke, adding that he himself didn't know until the day Pichardo announced his retirement plans and was taken by surprise. "I tried and failed to talk him out of it. Hopefully, you know, maybe he'll reconsider."
Shea didn't speculate as to the reasons behind the sudden retirement, only saying "I'm sure it's complicated situation. It's been a tough year for a lot of people."
Pichardo, a 20-year veteran of the department, was named to the position back in December 2019. The 43-year-old was the first Dominican-American to be named to the high-ranking position, which oversaw more than 20,000 of the NYPD's uniformed and patrol officers.
“Since I came on the job in 1999, I wake up each day working to make the streets of New York City safer for police officers and the people we take the sacred oath and are sworn to serve," Pichardo said upon being named Chief of Patrol 11 months ago, a position he described as a "dream job."
Pichardo had been the NYPD's highest-ranking Hispanic officer, and becomes the second three-star police chief of Latino descent to resign under de Blasio (Carlos Gomez, a Cuban immigrant, retired in 2017 after 37 years with the department). Pichardo had filled the position that Rodney Harrison vacated after being named Chief of Detectives. Pichardo previously served under Harrison as executive officer in the patrol bureau.
Shea credited Pichardo with help "bringing Neighborhood Policing to fruition" at the time of his appointment. Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins said in a tweet that Pichardo "was an asset to the NYPD." He went on to criticize de Blasio, saying that the mayor "does not and has never valued the talent that exist in the NYPD."
The retirement, which takes effect 30 days from his Oct. 13 announcement, comes amid a months-long surge in violent crime throughout the city.
During his daily coronavirus press briefing Oct. 14, de Blasio said that Pichardo "has done a fantastic job and I've felt that throughout and I've said it many times." However, he described Pichardo's departure as a personal and family-based decision.
"I want him to obviously have the opportunity to speak for himself, but I will only say, I spoke to him last night several times, I spoke to him this morning, I'm very clear from those conversations this was a personal decision based on personal and family factors," de Blasio went on to say. "He's a very devoted family man. This was something he felt it was important to do for his own family. We have rarely disagreed in these months working closely together in very very tough times. He is someone I hold in high regard. We all tried to see if there was a way to convince him to try and stay but it was a personal decision."
De Blasio called the accusations that he was meddling with the chain of command "not accurate" and part of a "rumor mill."
"I have a close working relationship with a lot of the key leaders of the police department. We've been working shoulder-to-shoulder through so much," de Blasio said. "We've all talked constantly and this was true way before the pandemic, going back years [...]this was obviously something that was a personal decision and a family decision."
The day following his retirement announcement, Pichardo took to Twitter to address his retirement by thanking members of the NYPD and New Yorkers.