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NYPD's Dermot Shea in Puerto Rico for conference on Hispanic issues

NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea, Mayor Bill

NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea, Mayor Bill de Blasio's choice to be the department's 44th commissioner, at a Monday news conference after his appointment was announced.   Credit: Craig Ruttle

NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea, whose appointment as the next police commissioner sparked some criticism because he got the job over a minority, traveled to Puerto Rico this week for a conference focused on the needs of New York State Hispanics, a department spokeswoman said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio's choice to replace outgoing Commissioner James O'Neill, Shea, 50, flew to Puerto Rico late Wednesday to meet and greet various Hispanic politicians and advocates at the SOMOS conference in San Juan, the spokeswoman added. 

An official with SOMOS, an Albany-based nonprofit holding the conference, said Thursday it remained unclear if Shea would formally address attendees at the five-day event that began Wednesday. Shea didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.

The police commissioner-designate's attendance at the SOMOS conference comes after some black and Hispanic politicians took de Blasio to task for quickly choosing Shea, the son of Irish immigrants, instead of a minority candidate, after the mayor first learned Oct. 30 that O'Neill intended to step down.

O'Neill, 62, the NYPD's 43rd commissioner when he started the job in September 2016, announced his resignation Monday, effective at the end of the month. 

Critics such as City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Queens) said de Blasio missed an opportunity to pick someone who reflected the NYPD’s racial and ethnic diversity.

The underlying issue of race was apparent Wednesday at a Manhattan news conference on city crime trends attended by among others, de Blasio, O'Neill, Shea and First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker, the highest-ranking black member of the NYPD.

Asked by a reporter for his reaction to being passed over a second time for the NYPD's top job, Tucker admitted he was disappointed.

 “What do you think?,” Tucker asked the reporter in response to the question. “Of course. At the same time, you know it is the mayor’s call … so I will leave it there.”

Tucker said he only learned from de Blasio on Sunday night that Shea would be named the department's 44th commissioner the next day. Tucker vied for the post in 2016 before de Blasio named O'Neill to replace William Bratton as commissioner. Tucker said he was never offered the position before the mayor appointed Shea. He gave no indication of his future plans.

During the news conference, de Blasio lauded Tucker's performance in revamping NYPD officer training. The department was loaded with talent, de Blasio said, and had worked as a team to push crime down to historic low levels.

“There is a lot of talent, someone is going to have the commissioner’s job, there is a whole lot of talent, we depend on all of that talent,” said de Blasio, who is also attending the SOMOS conference. “My job, on behalf of the people, is to align the different players where I think they can contribute the best. We have diverse leadership. It needs to get more diverse and it will get more diverse.”

Shea's appointment is expected to prompt some realignment of the NYPD top positions, including filling Shea's job as chief of detectives.

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