Photo credit: Associated Press, Terence Monahan kneels with protesters
By Serran Soledad
On February 25, New York City Police Department’s highest-ranking uniformed leader, Chief of Department Terence Monahan, announced his retirement from the force. Monahan, who made headlines in 2020 for kneeling with protesters during the May Uprisings, will take on a cushy job as Senior Adviser for Recovery and Safety Planning under mayor Bill de Blasio.
While many police and reactionaries criticized Monahan for his kneeling public relations stunt, the opportunist display of ‘support’ for the movement for Black lives was just a distraction from his role as the leading figure who oversaw NYPD’s brutal repression of protesters.
Last October, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit accusing Monahan, as well as de Blasio and Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea, of using excessive force against protesters and arresting legal observers during a mass arrest. Monahan’s name also appeared in a separate investigation by the city’s Department of Investigation, citing NYPD’s unlawful tactics when dealing with protesters.
Monahan has a history of overseeing excessive force and brutality against protesters dating back to 2004, when he personally oversaw the unlawful mass arrests of protesters during the Republican National Convention and was later criticized by a Civilian Complaint Review Board.
Monahan is not straying far from his former role as he transitions from the city’s top cop to a city hall bureaucrat—he is still an agent of the reactionary state and his only priority is to ensure the preservation of the current system, albeit in a different capacity.
Monahan’s replacement, current Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison, who is Black, is part of a wider changing of the guard, with the department carrying out de Blasio’s public relations effort following the uprisings to ‘diversify’ NYPD’s historically white leadership. De Blasio has said that Harrison will be tasked with strengthening the city’s neighborhood policing strategy and “deepening ties” between communities and the police.
The issue of police violence, however, is not resolved by any change in leadership, racial diversity initiatives, or deceitful ‘community policing’ programs. The primary role of police remains—to serve the ruling class as protectors of private property, brutalizing mainly Black and working-class communities along the way.
The empty initiatives and theatrical displays of the representatives of the ruling class like de Blasio and Monahan and are nothing more than a strategic response to the fury of protesters who crowded the streets and set ablaze NYPD vehicles nearly one year ago. They are calculated but ultimately futile attempts to discourage similar uprisings from re-igniting as the murder of Black people at the hands of police continues.
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