Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison speaks at a news...

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison speaks at a news conference in early October. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison is resigning after a two-year stint as Suffolk’s top cop, a tenure that included the arrest of a suspect in the long-unsolved Gilgo Beach killings and the implementation of a departmentwide body camera program.

Harrison, in a department email message Thursday night, said he would tender his resignation to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone Friday.

Harrison’s announcement of his departure comes as a consequential election for a new county executive is scheduled next Tuesday. Bellone is term-limited and whoever wins the election will be tasked with selecting a new police commissioner.

Reached by telephone late Thursday night, Harrison told Newsday he tendered his resignation before the election to give the new county executive the freedom to select his own commissioner. He said he has no immediate plans for the future, other than spending time with his family, but said he would work in policing again.

“This is not my last stop regarding law enforcement,” said Harrison.

Harrison initially said Friday would be his last official day with the department. But Friday morning he told Newsday he will stay on until some time in December, adding he did not yet know who will be acting police commissioner.

The top cop said while the Gilgo Beach investigation presented huge challenges, it was also one of the most personally rewarding moments in his law enforcement career when investigators were able to make an arrest.

“It was a challenge, but I will say this: Just being able to bring the law enforcement people together to get to that point to identifying our subject was a major accomplishment for me in law enforcement, being able to bring comfort to the families … Sometimes my predecessors got a bad rap for not getting the job done. I thought that was very unfair because a lot of good work was done before I got there," Harrison said. "We were just able to take it over the finish line.”

In his email to the department, Harrison said, “Serving as the Suffolk County Police commissioner for the last two years was not only a privilege but one of the greatest highlights of my law enforcement career and that is because of you."

He added: “I thank County Executive Bellone for this opportunity as it has been an honor serving the people of Suffolk County.” 

Bellone, in a statement Thursday night, praised Harrison, saying his legacy would be one of professionalism, integrity and progress.

"Commissioner Harrison’s achievements are innumerable, including the continued implementation of our historic police reform plan, significant investments in officer safety and tackling quality-of-life issues," Bellone said. "But the most significant in his tenure is the arrest of an alleged serial killer in connection to the Gilgo Beach Homicide Investigation."

Harrison, 54, the first Black police commissioner in Suffolk County, was selected by Bellone, a Democrat, after a nationwide search. Previously, Harrison was the chief of department at the NYPD.

“I’m humbled being the first African American police commissioner, but I also feel I am deserving of it,” Harrison told Newsday last year.

In December 2021, the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved the appointment of Harrison, a 30-year NYPD veteran. Harrison, the fifth police commissioner to oversee the long-stalled Gilgo Beach killings investigation, vowed to make the murder investigation a top priority, touring the beach where some of the bodies were found at the beginning of his tenure.

Harrison in February 2022 announced the creation of a multiagency task force aimed at solving the killings, which ultimately led to a huge break in the case. Harrison publicly released a video of one of the Gilgo victims leaving a Long Island hotel before her disappearance. He also released the transcripts of 911 calls Shannan Gilbert — a woman who went missing in May 2010 and sparked the police search along the Ocean Parkway — made the night she was last seen alive.

Thirteen years after the first remains were found near Gilgo Beach, Suffolk police arrested suspected Gilgo Beach killer Rex A. Heuermann on July 13.

Harrison, the first person in NYPD history to rise from cadet to chief of department, succeeded former Suffolk Commissioner Geraldine Hart, who resigned to head security at Hofstra University.

Former NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea named Harrison chief of patrol in January 2018, and Harrison became the NYPD’s first Black chief of detectives in December 2019.

In Suffolk, Harrison also helped implement the police department’s 1,000-page plan developed earlier by the Suffolk County Police Reform and Reinvention Task Force, which will require most officers to wear body cameras, provide civilian oversight of misconduct complaints and bolster the response to individuals suffering from mental health crises.

Suffolk had previously been one of the largest police departments in the country that had not widely equipped officers with body cameras.

Noel DiGerolamo, president of the Suffolk Police Benevolent Association, the department’s largest labor union, said: “We are thankful for the commissioner’s service to the Suffolk County Police Department and the residents and wish him the best in all of his future endeavors. It has been a pleasure working with him in my current capacity and I’m happy to see he is going to be spending time with his family and moving in a direction that is in his best interest.”

Suffolk District Attorney Ray Tierney wished Harrison well.

"Commissioner Rodney Harrison made history in Suffolk County as the first black police commissioner, improving police and community relations," Tierney said in a written statement. " I am forever grateful for his commitment to partnership with my office over the past two years to keep Suffolk County safe."

With Anthony M. DeStefano

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison is resigning after a two-year stint as Suffolk’s top cop, a tenure that included the arrest of a suspect in the long-unsolved Gilgo Beach killings and the implementation of a departmentwide body camera program.

Harrison, in a department email message Thursday night, said he would tender his resignation to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone Friday.

Harrison’s announcement of his departure comes as a consequential election for a new county executive is scheduled next Tuesday. Bellone is term-limited and whoever wins the election will be tasked with selecting a new police commissioner.

Reached by telephone late Thursday night, Harrison told Newsday he tendered his resignation before the election to give the new county executive the freedom to select his own commissioner. He said he has no immediate plans for the future, other than spending time with his family, but said he would work in policing again.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison is resigning after a two-year stint as Suffolk’s top cop.
  • Harrison said he would tender his resignation to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone Friday.
  • Harrison, the first Black police commissioner in Suffolk County, was selected by Bellone, a Democrat, after a nationwide search. Previously, Harrison was the chief of department at the NYPD.

“This is not my last stop regarding law enforcement,” said Harrison.

Harrison initially said Friday would be his last official day with the department. But Friday morning he told Newsday he will stay on until some time in December, adding he did not yet know who will be acting police commissioner.

The top cop said while the Gilgo Beach investigation presented huge challenges, it was also one of the most personally rewarding moments in his law enforcement career when investigators were able to make an arrest.

“It was a challenge, but I will say this: Just being able to bring the law enforcement people together to get to that point to identifying our subject was a major accomplishment for me in law enforcement, being able to bring comfort to the families … Sometimes my predecessors got a bad rap for not getting the job done. I thought that was very unfair because a lot of good work was done before I got there," Harrison said. "We were just able to take it over the finish line.”

In his email to the department, Harrison said, “Serving as the Suffolk County Police commissioner for the last two years was not only a privilege but one of the greatest highlights of my law enforcement career and that is because of you."

He added: “I thank County Executive Bellone for this opportunity as it has been an honor serving the people of Suffolk County.” 

Bellone, in a statement Thursday night, praised Harrison, saying his legacy would be one of professionalism, integrity and progress.

"Commissioner Harrison’s achievements are innumerable, including the continued implementation of our historic police reform plan, significant investments in officer safety and tackling quality-of-life issues," Bellone said. "But the most significant in his tenure is the arrest of an alleged serial killer in connection to the Gilgo Beach Homicide Investigation."

Harrison, 54, the first Black police commissioner in Suffolk County, was selected by Bellone, a Democrat, after a nationwide search. Previously, Harrison was the chief of department at the NYPD.

“I’m humbled being the first African American police commissioner, but I also feel I am deserving of it,” Harrison told Newsday last year.

In December 2021, the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved the appointment of Harrison, a 30-year NYPD veteran. Harrison, the fifth police commissioner to oversee the long-stalled Gilgo Beach killings investigation, vowed to make the murder investigation a top priority, touring the beach where some of the bodies were found at the beginning of his tenure.

Harrison in February 2022 announced the creation of a multiagency task force aimed at solving the killings, which ultimately led to a huge break in the case. Harrison publicly released a video of one of the Gilgo victims leaving a Long Island hotel before her disappearance. He also released the transcripts of 911 calls Shannan Gilbert — a woman who went missing in May 2010 and sparked the police search along the Ocean Parkway — made the night she was last seen alive.

Thirteen years after the first remains were found near Gilgo Beach, Suffolk police arrested suspected Gilgo Beach killer Rex A. Heuermann on July 13.

Harrison, the first person in NYPD history to rise from cadet to chief of department, succeeded former Suffolk Commissioner Geraldine Hart, who resigned to head security at Hofstra University.

Former NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea named Harrison chief of patrol in January 2018, and Harrison became the NYPD’s first Black chief of detectives in December 2019.

In Suffolk, Harrison also helped implement the police department’s 1,000-page plan developed earlier by the Suffolk County Police Reform and Reinvention Task Force, which will require most officers to wear body cameras, provide civilian oversight of misconduct complaints and bolster the response to individuals suffering from mental health crises.

Suffolk had previously been one of the largest police departments in the country that had not widely equipped officers with body cameras.

Noel DiGerolamo, president of the Suffolk Police Benevolent Association, the department’s largest labor union, said: “We are thankful for the commissioner’s service to the Suffolk County Police Department and the residents and wish him the best in all of his future endeavors. It has been a pleasure working with him in my current capacity and I’m happy to see he is going to be spending time with his family and moving in a direction that is in his best interest.”

Suffolk District Attorney Ray Tierney wished Harrison well.

"Commissioner Rodney Harrison made history in Suffolk County as the first black police commissioner, improving police and community relations," Tierney said in a written statement. " I am forever grateful for his commitment to partnership with my office over the past two years to keep Suffolk County safe."

With Anthony M. DeStefano

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