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Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes is making history as the New York Police Department’s first Black woman named to the role. But with 33 years on the police force, the largest in the country, she’s no stranger to the city – and how to work with its many officials.
Holmes, who joined the force in 1987 at 23 years old, succeeds Chief Fausto Pichardo, who held the role for just shy of one year before retiring from the department last month. Pichardo never addressed reports that his departure was related to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s alleged tendency to micro-manage, and Holmes said Pichardo never discussed it with her. But the trailblazing patrol chief said she’s “never been intimidated” by pressure from others, and she doesn’t plan to start.
NYPD'S CHIEF OF PATROL FAUSTO PICHARDO RESIGNS OVER RIFT WITH DE BLASIO
“I've always had, first of all, a good relationship with anyone that I work for,” she told Fox News on Monday. “I haven't felt that, per se, and I don't know how he felt because we never discussed that … I'm always one to say, 'Here's how I feel based on my experience, based on … the fact that I have boots on the ground. I'm close to the men and women that are doing this work. Here's how I think we should be doing it.'”
NYPD Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes standing outside the 81st Precinct stationhouse in Brooklyn, N.Y. (NYPD)
Joining the NYPD while Mayor Edward Koch was in office, she has also worked under Mayors David Dinkins, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg and, now, Bill de Blasio. She’s also worked for the department during the tenures of just as many police commissioners, if not more.
“I've never been intimidated by that. I've been here a long time,” she continued. “If I feel that they have an opinion about something, and I have an opinion about it, hopefully, there's some common ground and we meet somewhere in the middle.”
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea announced Holmes’s promotion during an Oct. 29 press conference, flanked by de Blasio and other city leaders, saying he was “beyond proud and ecstatic for Juanita on a personal level, but also on a professional level.”
“I have a long history of friendship with Juanita. I’ve seen her work up close, I’ve seen her leadership skills. I can tell you that she has walked the walk, and she talks the talk,” Shea said. “She understands this city … I think she is the complete package.”
Holmes told Fox News on Monday she wanted to surprise her family members, so she didn’t tell them about the news before the announcement was made. Instead, she urged them to watch the press conference. Sixteen of her loved ones, including her son, are members of the police department, and she quipped that there are “probably more to come.”
Holmes was born in Brooklyn before moving at four years old to St. Albans, Queens. Her mother was a nurse, and her father worked for a phone company. She graduated from St. Joseph’s College with a degree in biology and admits she “was geared to go into the medical field” when her younger sister’s boyfriend was taking the civil service exam and encouraged her sister to do so.
“She decided to take the opportunity to become a police officer along with her boyfriend at that time, and they would come back and speak about the job,” she said. “It just seemed very interesting. No day was the same, and I think that's what really sparked my interest.”
NYPD Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes and her sister, NYPD Deputy Inspector Janice Holmes (NYPD)
Prior to her new assignment, Holmes served as chief of collaborative policing, in the Office of the Deputy Commissioner of Training, with the Domestic Violence Unit, at the head of the School Safety Division and in divisions in the Bronx and Queens. She was also the first Black woman to serve as Borough Commander after she was promoted to assistant chief, the department said. She has worked as a precinct commander and a police service area commander.
Holmes retired from the department in 2018 and moved to the private sector as global head of corporate security at BNY Mellon, but returned a year later.
She was thrust into her role, overseeing patrol forces during election night — and the protests and sporadic unrest that followed – just five days after her promotion was announced.
But she’s no stranger to covering demonstrations, and said nothing so far has caught her by surprise.
That said, Holmes noted she has “never seen anything like” the attacks on uniformed NYPD personnel that have been recently reported.
“I've seen where naturally we have opposing groups and were met with those challenges, but now you met with people actually … attacking, you know, taking attacks on uniformed members of the service. So that's something that's new that I've never seen,” she said. “I really attribute that to people coming in, these professional agitators, not the true demonstrators that come in and just want their voice heard.”
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When asked if she had a message for young girls, especially in communities of color, Holmes responded: “They can do it.”
“It is amazing to see young girls and hopefully,” she said, “I can be an example to them.”
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