By Harry Keaney
New York Police Department’s top Irish officers are on the move, with some being promoted and others marching out the door.
The latest to head for the exit is Chief of Patrol John Scanlon. Last week, when newly appointed Commissioner Bernard Kerik decided to move him to the less prestigious position as chief of the transit bureau, Scanlon, who’s 60, decided to retire. His last day will be Oct. 5.
On Monday, Kerik said his changes are part of a larger plan to create an incentive system by which the most active officers will be rewarded for hard work. However, Kerik discounted suggestions that his decision to move Scanlon to the transit bureau was linked to the department’s handling of the attacks in Central Park in June after the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
"Jack Scanlon is a great guy," Kerik said, and was replaced simply to make way for another officer, Chief William Morange, whom Kerik wanted in his leadership team.
Said Scanlon himself: "My whole career has been on patrol, with the men and women in uniform, and I decided to retire as their chief of patrol. Rather than retire from another bureau, I wanted to retire as chief of patrol."
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Scanlon added that there was "no sour grapes" in his decision. "I had a great career," he told the Echo Monday.
As chief of patrol, Scanlon was the man in overall charge of the city’s massive police operation for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade for the last two years. Indeed, during his 35 years in the NYPD, he has worked or marched in almost all the St. Patrick’s Day Parades.
"All New York responds to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade," he said in an interview with the Echo just before the 1999 parade, for which he blew the starting whistle. "I’d defy anyone to have a better feeling than to be on Fifth Avenue marching behind the skirl of the pipes. You could march to the North Pole behind them."
Scanlon, a Bronx native whose father came from Roscommon and mother from Mayo, follows Patrick Kelleher, who, as first deputy commissioner, had been the city’s top Irish cop in recent times. Kelleher left the NYPD last month to take a job with international financial behemoth Merrill Lynch as its chief of worldwide security. Kelleher had the position once occupied by Dublin-born John Timoney, who is now commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department.
Not since Ray Kelly was commissioner from 1992 to 1994 has an Irish American held the top NYPD job. Kelly, whose ancestors came from Roscommon in the late 1800s, is now head of the U.S. Customs Service.
Also retiring from the NYPD is Martin O’Boyle, deputy commissioner in charge of the organized crime control bureau.
O’Boyle, who joined the NYPD in 1961, had direct supervisory authority over the narcotics, vice, auto crime, organized crime and gang investigations divisions. Working with federal and state counterparts, he successfully managed numerous narcotics, money laundering and organized crime investigations, including organized criminal activity on Wall Street, as well as in the private carting and construction industries, and the garment center.
Despite these departures, the Irish still remain an important presence in the police department. In the wake of Commissioner Howard Safir’s resignation last month, Joseph Dunne was among those mentioned as Safir’s possible successor. Instead, Mayor Rudy Giuliani appointed Kerik to the top job, but Dunne was promoted to first deputy commissioner, the second highest ranking position in the force.
Also last week, Deputy Chief Patrick Timlin, a native of Scotland who was commander of detectives in Queens, was appointed to replace Joanne Jaffe as assistant chief in the Bronx.
In Queens earlier this year, detectives working under Timlin drew praise when they quickly solved the mass murder of workers in a Wendy’s restaurant in Flushing. Timlin’s skills will now be put to use in the Bronx, where the rate of killings has increased by more than 50 percent in the last year.