New NYPD Chief of Department sworn in, plans to focus on community relations

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New NYPD Chief of Department Rodney Harrison was sworn in Tuesday following the retirement of former Chief Terence Monahan.

Rodney Harrison told Eyewitness News' Derick Waller that the change in leadership is not symbolic. He says he's got some plans.

"The most important thing for me, Derick, is how do I protect you," Harrison said. "How do I protect your family?"

Harrison says he's starting his new job by getting back to the basics, tackling a spike in crime during a year that saw high unemployment due to the pandemic and a spike in racial tensions.

"Neighborhood policing, I was part of that whole change of how we're going to work with the community and, like I stated before, in 2020, we had some struggles with relationships," Harrison said. "That's going to be extremely important for 2021."

Only Eyewitness News was in the room as Harrison was sworn in as the NYPD's highest ranking uniformed officer -- previously serving as chief of detectives and chief of patrol.

The 29-year veteran was joined by his family which spans four generations, including his three adult daughters and his wife, a retired lieutenant whom he met in the police academy three decades ago.

"We were very young, and we pretty much grew up together on the job," Harrison's wife Laprena said. "We studied for all the exams together. I think it's a dream come true. I'm just super proud of Rodney."

His eldest daughter Amber says her father's biggest goal with the police department is to "give back to the community."

It's a community Harrison grew up in Jamaica, Queens. He's hoping that connection pays dividends in rebuilding relationships.

"And that connectivity that I can build, be it the color of my skin or based on my ability to talk to people, it's going to be very important going to 2021," Harrison said.

And while this change is effective immediately, Chief Harrison says first thing's first as he wants to spend time with his family, including his daughter who traveled all the way from Wake Forest University for that swearing in.

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