NEW YORK (WABC) -- Dermot Shea may have the toughest job in New York.
"No one could have predicted this year, with the pandemic, and then the murder of George Floyd," Shea said.
When he was sworn in as the city's 44th Police Commissioner, the economy was strong, crime was at an all-time low and tensions between the police and the city's minority communities were cooling off.
But the pandemic changed everything. The death of George Floyd sent tens of thousands into the streets. There were clashes with police, there was looting in the city for the first time in 50 years and violent crime skyrocketed.
"No one in this department is happy about what's happened this year with the doubling of violent crime and, you know, everything else that has resulted from this year," Shea said. "But we're going to get it back, we are."
In an Eyewitness News interview, Shea admitted the NYPD needs to retool.
During the interview, Shea promised to push crime down for a safer New York City in 2021.
"I just wonder how you're going to do it because the city is going to be broker than broke. The city's billions of dollars in debt. The tax base, in some measure, is moving out," Eyewitness News reporter N.J. Burkett asked.
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"You know all of those are true and all of those are forecasts but, you know, this city has been through extremely tough times before," Shea said. "I remember as a little kid in the '70s what the city looked like."
"I came on this job in the '90s, and I know how this city has turned around, I know we're not gonna let it go back," he said.
Shea is convinced the department can do more with less and that police-community relations are healing.
He's more concerned about the court system. And bail reform, which has hindered the NYPD's ability to keep violent gang members off the streets.
"I think that that is the, the area here, where there's an opportunity to find common ground," Shea said. "No one wants people shooting guns on streets. So let's start there and find, how do we fix it."
Despite the rise in violent crime, the Commissioner insists his basic policing strategy is effective.
"It is just a small amount of people, and it's driving crime. So we've got to get our arms around that piece of it," he said.
"We are not going to let this city, you know, turn backwards. We have obstacles right now, no doubt," Shea said. "There's some pockets of violence that we are struggling with right now. We'll get it under control."
But the Commissioner is counting on support from elected leaders-and prosecutors. Without that, 2021 in New York City could look a lot like 2020.
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