As several hundred officers dressed in blues and white gloves chanted "Espo," NYPD Chief of Department Joseph Esposito bid farewell and departed 1 Police Plaza after more than 40 years of service.
Esposito was hugged and patted on the back before he drove off waving to the crowd, which shouted "Good luck, Joe."
Born and reared in Brooklyn, Esposito, 63, retired at the department's mandatory age. He had moved up the NYPD ranks from Brooklyn neighborhood precincts.
In 2000 he was sworn in as a four-star chief -- the department's highest uniformed rank. He also was assistant chief, commanding all uniformed, detective, housing police and narcotics operations in Brooklyn North.
Esposito headed Brooklyn's 66th and 83rd precincts, and the 34th Precinct in Washington Heights. He was awarded the department's Combat Cross, Medal of Valor and the Medal for Exceptional Merit.
"I love that man. When he was a sergeant at the 66 [precinct], he helped the youth, the elderly," said Doris Ortiz, former district manager of Community Board 14 in Williamsburg, who attended Esposito's farewell. "When he became commander he was always a police officer -- a guiding light in the community."
Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, who met Esposito while serving as pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, said the officer "didn't let his position interfere with his job to protect and listen to the community. He represented all the ethnic and religious groups." Gigantiello is now vicar for development in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.
NYPD Det. Steven McDonald of Malverne, who was left a quadriplegic after being shot in the line of duty in 1986, said Esposito marched with him and his family in the recent Fifth Avenue St. Patrick's Day Parade. "The chief is an inspiration. He is a hardworking, honest, dedicated police officer. This job came first. He gave everything to this city," McDonald said.
Wednesday afternoon Commissioner Ray Kelly announced the appointment of Philip Banks III, 50, as the new chief of department. The 26-year NYPD veteran, who is now chief of community affairs, will be formally installed at a ceremony Thursday at police headquarters.
"Phil Banks has proven himself time and again to be as outstanding a field commander, adept in managing police personnel and operations," Kelly said, adding that Banks is a consummate builder of community relations and noted the new chief's new-immigrant outreach and crime prevention programs.