Former NYPD Chief Rodney Harrison Makes History As Suffolk County’s First Black Police Commissioner

BRENTWOOD, NY — Rodney Harrison traveled 60 miles east from One Police Plaza in downtown Manhattan to make history as the first Black police commissioner of Suffolk County. Suffolk’s first black Police Commissioner said he is looking forward to implementing the county’s police reform plan with his all-star team as he officially took over the department’s helm on Tuesday at a swearing-in ceremony at the police academy, located at 502 Wicks Road in Brentwood.

Harrison announced on Thanksgiving he would be leaving the NYPD at the end of December. A native of Jamaica, Harrison joined the force in 1991 and broke barriers in the department over his three decades, becoming the first black chief of detectives.

Born and raised in New York City, Harrison grew up in Rochdale Village in Jamaica, Queens, where, at the urging of his father, he came to view a career in law enforcement as an opportunity to create positive change for residents across New York City. 

Making history is nothing new to Harrison. He was named chief of department in February 2021. He’s the third African American in that post. Harrison is the only person in the history of the NYPD to rise from the rank of cadet to Chief of Department. Former NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea named him chief of patrol in January 2018, and Harrison became the NYPD’s first Black chief of detectives in December 2019.

Darrin Green, President of Black In Law Enforcement of America (BLEA) Long Island Chapter is encouraged by the appointment of Harrison as Suffolk’s first Black Police Commissioner.

“It’s Good to have a fresh perspective on law enforcement from a true professional that comes with proactive new approach to policing,” Green shared with Black Westchester. “As president of BLEA Long Island Chapter I look forward to assisting and working with Commissioner Harrison to help bridge the gap between police and the community and restoring faith in law enforcement.’

Harrison will have his hands full attempting to reform a department that’s been struggling to recruit minorities and long history of being criticized for corruption and abuse. Suffolk County residents’ priority list includes solving the aforementioned Gilgo Beach murders and addressing the alleged police brutality cases.

“Police not to be this gang of blue anymore, for police to be seen as protectors and servers, for us to invest in our community,” said Shanequa Levin of the Long Island Black Alliance.

Harrison said his to-do list agenda includes, “accountability, transparency, quality of life, public safety, the opioid epidemic.”

“Misconduct and corruption is unacceptable, and it will not be allowed under my tenure,” shared Harrison who has served in the Internal Affairs Bureau.

Harrison said he believes in transparency and taking ownership whether it’s good or bad, and listening, noting that he intends to hear residents’ concerns if he wishes to be successful. He went on to credit both the uniformed and civilian members of the department for their work to “protect the county.”

“I will work with you,” he said. “I will support you for the many challenges you face as you serve this great county. The most important thing to me is that you sign out at the end of your tour and that you go home to your family.”

County Executive Steve Bellone said that Harrison’s extensive experience will allow him to bring a different perspective to the department and tackle some of the greatest challenges, as well as opportunities. He noted that it’s important to have leaders in place with integrity and who are innovative and collaborative, which is “Harrison to a ‘T’.”