The NYPD announced a new chief of detectives on Friday — saying he is uniquely positioned to lead the department’s fight against escalating gun violence.
Assistant Chief James Essig, a 38-year veteran, will replace the outgoing top detective Rodney Harrison, who was promoted to chief of department in late February when his predecessor Terence Monahan retired to work with Mayor Bill de Blasio, the NYPD said.
“Chief Essig’s commitment to the public good, and his vision for fair, effective policing, has seen our city through to its historic crime reductions,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea wrote in a statement.
“His experience makes him uniquely suited to carry on the department’s work in fighting violent crime. I am proud to announce his promotion to Chief of Detectives.”
Essig, a career cop born and raised in Queens, has focused much of his career on suppressing gun violence, an issue the department has been grappling with over the last year as shootings skyrocketed 97 percent and murders shot up 44 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.
He got his start in Upper Manhattan as a patrol cop before serving stints in the Bronx, Brooklyn and his home borough.
Later, Essig was the commander of the 41st and 44th precincts in the Bronx and also commanded the Gun Violence Suppression Division and the Violence Reduction Task Force. There, Essig was an “early architect” of the city’s precision policing program, which aims to single out the primary drivers of violence.
“Throughout my career, my goal has always been to serve New Yorkers, to build ties between communities and their police and to prevent people from being victims of crime,” Essig said in a statement.
“My philosophy was – and remains – that if you are one of the few individuals who endanger our communities by carrying an illegal gun, firing one or using a gun to harm another person, you are our focus. Ascending to this important position as Chief of Detectives is a tremendous honor.”
As commander of the Violence Reduction Task Force, Essig guided an investigation that led to a 101-count indictment charging 15 members of a violent Brooklyn street gang with a homicide and a series of shootings in December 2014.
“The Chief’s work in that case reflected the NYPD’s intelligence-driven response to a rash of shootings and violence in the 67th and 69th precincts,” a news release states.
Records show Essig has seen four CCRB complaints, all for abuse of authority, between 2003 and 2007 related to property seizure, entry of a premises and stops. None of the complaints were substantiated and the chief was exonerated.