Shakeup at the top brings ‘fresh blood’ to 5-0

Capt. Emilio Melendez is the new leader of 50th Precinct

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There is a new top cop at the 50th Precinct.

Capt. Emilio Melendez, a nearly 30-year veteran of the New York Police Department, replaces Deputy Inspector Terence O’Toole, who is moving on to the Chief of Department’s office to serve as commanding officer of the investigation review section.

“I had a hint it was coming, but it was kind of quick,” O’Toole said. “That’s the way the police department operates.”

O’Toole’s new assignment took effect at the stroke of midnight the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Transfers are a daily fact of life for cops, O’Toole said, although commanding officers typically helm a precinct for two or three years before moving on. That makes the three-plus years O’Toole led the 5-0 “quite a long time,” at least in the world of the NYPD.

But the move wasn’t totally out of O’Toole’s control. He’d submitted a resume and personal statement to NYPD headquarters as part of an advancement and assignment process for officers ranked captain and above. He received an offer quickly, and it was less than a week before O’Toole said yes. But then he still wasn’t sure when the transfer would actually happen.

Then it happened.

 

Not over ‘til it’s over

“We in the police department don’t say things until we see it on paper,” O’Toole said. “There’s a lot of rumors. But this is the final decision.”

It’s not quite a promotion — yet. “But it’s expected to be,” the deputy inspector said, adding the former commanding officer he’s replacing was an inspector.

As commanding officer of the investigation review section under Chief of Department Terence Monahan — third in command after the commissioner and first deputy commissioner — O’Toole will handle an array of tasks related to internal investigations and complaints. Not to mention parade permits, overseeing patrol officers, summonses administration, and making sure all department vehicles are accounted for.

“It’s nothing criminal-level,” O’Toole said. “It’s a lot of clerical- and administrative-type work. It’s definitely different.”

But it’s actually more responsibility, including representing the chief’s department at various meetings, while making sure the police department is operating properly, O’Toole said. “It’s not just a file clerk job.”

As for saying goodbye to the 5-0, O’Toole says he’s “very ambivalent.”

“I would’ve loved to stay here for the remainder of my time in the police department,” O’Toole said. “But I understand that’s not the way the police department works. Fresh blood is needed every so often.”

 

A new leader

Melendez, meanwhile, stepped into his new role Thanksgiving Eve. He’s served as an executive officer for the last 12 years in the 42nd, 44th and 46th precincts, areas that include Grand Concourse, Fordham and University Heights.

“Those three commands are obviously a lot busier than the 5-0, due to demographics and their population,” Melendez said. “Those areas have definitely exposed me to a leadership role, leading more cops, more personnel and more NYPD assets.”

Despite having racked up years of experience in higher-crime, more heavily policed precincts, the captain foresees no speed bumps transitioning into leading the notably less violent 50th.

“I look forward to the challenge,” Melendez said. “I will be more focused on community and on the police officers. It’s a blessing for the community not to be exposed to a lot of crime.”

That also allows Melendez to focus more on prevention while homing in on quality-of-life issues like parking enforcement and noise complaints — “those minor concerns, which can turn into major concerns down the road.”

But he also looks forward to more one-on-one engagement with his officers, and moving up to commanding officer, which he expressed in his own personal statement to the Chief of Department’s office.

Yet, it wasn’t just his desire to lead — or his experience doing so in other precincts — that got Melendez the job. It also was more than three decades of military service, including a recent deployment in the Middle East.

“It is a privilege to command,” said Melendez, who joined the military at 17, serving in the U.S. Air Force, most recently as a security forces officer. “Like anything else, the transition is easy. Once you’re a commander in another capacity, you kind of understand what you’re getting into.”

His military training also included professional and educational components.

“The overriding theme is leadership,” Melendez added.

Executive officer — Melendez’s position before he became commanding officer — is second in command to a precinct.

“Basically, you do the same duties as the commanding officer when he or she is not there,” Melendez said. “The executive officer has a lot of responsibilities that the commanding officer does not have, which is in fact delegated to the executive officer.”

Now he’ll be the one delegating.

“What I believe in is always leading from the front,” Melendez said. “Making the hard decisions that no one else can make. Officers need to look at somebody who is not going to waver in the decision-making process. I consider myself that individual.”

 

Not the only changes

The 5-0 isn’t the only precinct to see a commanding officer switch of late. In fact, the 52nd Precinct announced a new leader Nov. 15, just a month after the previous commanding officer hinted change was afoot, according to the Norwood News. There, Deputy Inspector Thomas Alps, previously of the 49th Precinct, succeeded Inspector Peter Fiorillo, who’d been commanding officer a little more than two years.

“It’s kind of a little bit of moving around every once in a while,” O’Toole said. “People have different abilities. As a manager, looking at this from the holistic point of view, you want people with the best abilities in the best jobs. Sometimes it doesn’t fit, sometimes it does.”

O’Toole believes he’s leaving the 50th on a good note.

“I think I did a good job here,” the deputy inspector said. “Crime is down by about 5 percent. It’s been down just about every year. We’ve been doing a lot to improve the community,” from installing more security cameras to better traffic control.

“Some problems are very hard to solve and other problems are easy to solve, but we try to solve as many as we can. I think (Melendez) understands that the community is very vocal and very involved, and they want us to do our best. And I think he’ll maintain that.”