College Remembers Top Cop John Timoney (BA ’74)

College Remembers Top Cop John Timoney (BA ’74)

College Remembers Top Cop John Timoney (BA ’74)

John F. Timoney, a John Jay alumnus whose distinguished career with the New York City Police Department led to appointments as head of the police forces in Philadelphia and Miami, died Aug. 16 at age 68.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, Timoney immigrated to the United States with his family in 1961. He was sworn in as a New York City police officer in 1969, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in American history from John Jay in 1974.

Timoney’s rise through the ranks of the NYPD led to appointments as Chief of Department, the highest uniformed rank, and First Deputy Commissioner, the department’s number-two position. After being passed over for appointment as Commissioner by then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Timoney took his progressive, visionary approach to law enforcement to Philadelphia, where he served as Police Commissioner from 1998 to 2001. He also served as Police Chief of Miami from 2003 to 2010, taking over a department with a reputation for police shootings of civilians. During Timoney’s first 20 months in office, not a single Miami officer fired a shot, enhancing Timoney’s reputation for progressive and effective police leadership.

John Jay President Jeremy Travis mourned the distinguished alumnus’s passing, noting: “John Timoney was a giant in law enforcement. He was a singularly impressive individual and leader.”

A common perception of Timoney as a quintessential Irish-American New York police officer, brogue and all, would be tempered by his passion for higher education, which led him to earn two master’s degrees in addition to his John Jay baccalaureate. He was a beneficiary and vocal proponent of the Law Enforcement Education Program, which he said “educated an entire profession and literally packed the halls of John Jay College and other institutions.” As Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner, he launched an ambitious scholarship-funded education program that prompted more than 1,000 officers to enroll in college.

He spoke of John Jay with particular affection, saying, “I’ve got a fondness in my heart for this place because this is where it all began.”

Distinguished Professor of History and Women’s Studies Blanche Wiesen Cook, one of Timoney’s professors at John Jay, recalled their special relationship. “He was a friend, and so important to John Jay and our legacy,” said Cook. “We stayed in touch long after his graduation in 1974. Over the years, there were walks in the park to discuss history and political events.”

In February 2007, Timoney was the featured speaker in the Patrick V. Murphy Lecture Series at John Jay, where he presented a talk on “Police Leadership: Lessons Learned Along the Way.” In May 2010, Timoney was interviewed by Associate Professor Jeffrey Kroessler of the Lloyd Sealy Library as part of the “Justice in New York: An Oral History” project. A transcript of the wide-ranging interview is available in the Library’s Special Collections.

That same year, his memoir, Beat Cop to Top Cop: A Tale of Three Cities, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.