By Dan Rivoli
In Christopher McCormack’s 21 years in the police department, he has spent time on the streets of Washington Heights and East Harlem. He most recently led a squad of more than 150 rookies at Patrol Borough Manhattan North, targeting high-crime spots north of 59th Street. In his native Bronx, McCormack was a homicide detective and a sergeant at a downtown precinct. Now, he is taking the helm at the 20th Precinct, covering the Upper West Side from West 59th to 86th streets, between Central Park and the Hudson River.
Though he has investigated narcotics and murder cases earlier in his career, McCormack, a captain, will now focus on reaching out to a community that demands a high quality of life.
“Community relations are the most important thing,” McCormack said. “I want to hear good, positive things about the neighborhood and quality of life crimes.”
But to crack down on these minor offenses, McCormack said he needs the community’s help.
“We need to have the public involved in crime fighting,” he said.
At precinct council meetings, he will be hearing more complaints about bicyclists riding on the sidewalk and unattended laptops disappearing, rather than corner drug dealing or mugging hot spots.
“He strikes me as a real go-getter and somebody that was probably expecting a much higher-crime precinct, but he’ll bring his expectation to our quality of life situation here,” said Sam Katz, head of the 20th Precinct Community Council, who has met with the new commanding officer. “When people come and complain, it’s, ‘You’re not enforcing enough, not giving out enough summonses.’”
But crime does happen on the Upper West Side.
In December 2009, a triple homicide over drugs occurred at 492 Amsterdam Ave. between West 83rd and 84th streets. There are also numerous bank robberies, sexual assaults and muggings every once in a while. McCormack says he has the experience to tackle more serious crimes.
“I have an investigative background,” he said. “When things are going bad, I reach back to that.”
The commanding officer will also be responsible for the precinct’s major destinations, such as Central Park, the Museum of Natural History and Lincoln Center.
“We have high-profile facilities,” Katz said. “People are put here [in charge of the 20th Precinct] because they’re really accomplished.”
McCormack is taking over from Deputy Inspector Keith Spadaro, who headed the precinct for four years. Spadaro became executive officer of the communications division after Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced a shake-up of the NYPD that shifted 40 people to new posts, the Daily News reported May 2.
The promotion is only one major change in McCormack’s life. He is moving with his wife and daughter to Westchester County after living in the Bronx for 37 years. Now, 21 years since he joined the police academy, the 41-year-old commanding officer is looking to start a master’s program in police management at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.
“I have a lot of street experience,” McCormack said. “Learning management in this administrative spot will help me be an all-around effective leader here.”