The NYPD announced last Thursday that Chief of Department Rodney Harrison is retiring at the end of the year.
A native of Jamaica, Queens, Harrison started in the NYPD in 1991 as a cadet before being sworn in as a police officer in 1992 at age 23. During his early years as an officer while working undercover, he was shot by a drug dealer and received the Departmental Combat Cross. Harrison worked his way up the ranks to chief of patrol in 2018 before being promoted to chief of detectives in 2019: becoming the first African American to hold the title.
In March, he was promoted to chief of department, the third African American to hold the position. Harrison oversaw CompStat, directed and coordinated recovery efforts after last year’s protests, and coordinated with community leaders to improve relationships while the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak continued to impact residents of this city.
“Rodney has been not only a trusted advisor, and friend, but exactly the kind of innovative leader our city and our department has needed in these challenging times,” said Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. “He has performed in every rank—from patrol officer, to undercover officer displaying tremendous valor, to chief of department—with knowledge, skill, integrity, and a great passion for our continuing mission to always protect life and property and to build lasting relationships with those we serve. We will miss him, but we wish him well.”
In an interview with the AmNews, Harrison said the change in the city’s administration with Mayor-elect Eric Adams coming in prompted his retirement, which will happen on Dec. 30.
“They’re gonna look to bring in people that they’re comfortable with, and that’s something that is very understanding for myself, as well as my family,” Harrison said. “I’ve done all I could do for the police department and for the city, as well as for the new administration that is coming in, so it’s time for me to step down and let other people take the helm.”
Harrison is the only member of the NYPD who has risen from the rank of cadet to chief of department. As the chief of detectives, Harrison directed the investigations of crimes during one of the most violent years in the city’s history. He said during his 30 years on the force, the department has prioritized how it works with the community.
“I’ve seen everything from how we do neighborhood policing and customer service and how we’re doing a better job on recruitment,” he said. “There’s so many layers that we’ve done better, and not just about the city, but mainly in the communities of color, which I’m so proud of.”
Leaving the department in the aftermath of the George Floyd police killing and continued calls to defund the police, Harrison said the incident forced the NYPD to again examine its own practices and do better.
“We need to do a little bit better regarding how we are going to not only just protect the city but serve the city as well,” he said. “We’ve got to have the community’s trust and I think we’re doing a hell of a job doing that with a lot of the things that we put in place.”
Upon news of Harrison’s retirement, rumors began to swirl about whether or not he was being considered to serve as the next NYPD commissioner. He says the rumor isn’t true but he has received other offers.
“I have received a couple phone calls for some security positions but nothing I’ve committed myself to,” he said. “The most important thing is right now. I’m heading down to North Carolina to be with my daughter who plays at Wake Forest University, which is paramount to me. I’m going to spend some time down there. We’ll see what pops up. If somebody is looking to have me lead their police department and it’s something conducive, maybe I’ll take advantage of the opportunity, but it has to be something that works out for me and my family.”
When it’s all said and done, Harrison said he wants to spend his retirement being around family. His wife is a retired NYPD lieutenant and their two other daughters were recently sworn in as NYPD officers.
“The family comes first. I, unfortunately, have lost a lot of family time because of the positions that I have sworn to do within the NYPD. It’s time to make sure I spend quality time with my family. My two daughters are now police officers so I want to make sure I mentor them through their journey,” he said.
Reflecting on his 30 years in the NYPD, Harrison said he wants to leave a legacy of a passion for protecting the NYPD and the relationships he’s built in every borough of the city.
“I’ve made a lot of connections and been through some very difficult times but I think I want to believe I did that right,” he said. “I’m just a very lucky individual. I’ve been blessed. I’ve been mentored by some great people in the police department and I’m just excited for the incoming administration. I know they’re going to do it right and they’re going to make a safe city. I’m looking forward to some of the changes that are coming ahead.”