John Timoney (police officer)

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For the Irish politician, see John Timoney (Irish politician).
John F. Timoney
Born 1948 (age 65–66)
Dublin, Ireland
Relatives Noreen (wife)
Christine (daughter)
Seán (son)
Police career
Years of service Camden County, NJ PD: 2011 - Miami PD: 2003-2010
Philadelphia PD: 1998-2002
New York PD: 1967-1996
Rank Present - Police Consultant
2003 - Chief of Police
1998 - Commissioner
1995 - First Deputy Commissioner
1994 - Chief of Department
1992 - Deputy Chief
1990 - Inspector
1988 - Deputy Inspector
1985 - Captain
1983 - Lieutenant
1980 - Sergeant
1969 - Police Officer
1967 - Police Trainee
Other work Law enforcement and security consultant

John F. Timoney (born c. 1948) is a law enforcement executive who served as Chief of the Miami Police Department (from 2003–2010). He was previously Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department (from 1998–2002), and also held a variety of positions with the New York Police Department (from 1967–1996), including its Chief of Department (senior sworn/uniformed position) and First Deputy Commissioner (#2 position). He currently works for the Ministry of the Interior of Bahrain as a police consultant. Timoney has drawn international attention for his handling of mass protests, drawing both praise and controversy.

Early life[edit]

Born Seán Timoney in 1948, Dublin, Ireland, he was brought up on Winetavern Street in The Liberties area of Dublin city, and attended St. Audoen's National School on Cook Street.[1]

In 1961, his family emigrated to New York City, settling in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Northern Manhattan. His father Ciarán passed away in 1966, while John and his younger brother (also named Ciarán) were still attending Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx.[2] In 1967, a month after Timoney's high school graduation, his mother and sister Marie returned to Ireland, while the two brothers remained, sharing an apartment and both working to support themselves. That summer, after scoring a 76 on the civil-service exam (75 was required to pass), Timoney joined the New York Police Department as a police trainee.[3]


New York City[edit]

Since he was not yet 21, Timoney spent his first 18 months at NYPD assigned to clerical duties in the 17th Precinct, before starting a six-month training program at the police academy in February 1969. He was finally sworn-in as a full-fledged police officer in July 1969, and assigned to the 44th Precinct, in the same Bronx neighborhood as his high school.[4]

During 8 years as a patrol officer in the 44th Precinct, Timoney also earned his bachelor's and master's degrees - from John Jay College and Fordham University respectively, both in American History. For some time, he considered becoming a high school history teacher, but ultimately decided otherwise. In June 1977, the NYPD transferred him to the Narcotics Division of the Organized Crime Control Bureau. Although formally based in the Bronx, the nature of this assignment allowed Timoney to follow cases throughout the city, working on a relatively entrepreneurial basis to penetrate complex drug organizations, assemble cases, and coordinate operations with various patrol precincts, detective squads, and specialized units.[5]

Timoney took the NYPD Sergeant's exam twice, in 1973 and 1978. However, the department was going through a period of overall force reduction. That atmosphere, combined with his relatively brief tenure on the force, lack of veteran's preference points, and middling scores, all converged to delay his promotion until 1980. Once a newly minted sergeant, Timoney was assigned to the 32nd Precinct in Central Harlem.[6]

In 1981, Timoney was awarded an NYPD scholarship to pursue a second master's degree (with paid one-year leave of absence), in urban planning at Hunter College. In his 2010 biography, Timoney describes this as a turning point in his career, bringing him into contact with several influential academics (including Donna Shalala) and the entire field of public policy. Although he initially returned to duty as a sergeant in Harlem's 25th Precinct, only four months later he was reassigned as a research analyst for NYPD Chief of Operations Patrick Murphy, working on the review, revision, and dissemination of operational policies and procedures. During this time, Timoney worked particularly on the issues of high-speed police chases and police use of deadly force. When Murphy was promoted to first deputy commissioner in 1984 by incoming Commissioner Ben Ward, Timoney continued to work for the new Chief of Operations, Robert J. Johnson, Jr.[7]

Timoney took the captain's exam in January 1985, was promoted in the summer of that year, and assigned as the executive officer of the 48th Precinct. He did not get along with the commanding officer there, but fortunately a quick transfer opportunity brought him to the 14th Precinct (Midtown South). There he handled several high-profile issues, including a focus on cleaning up quality-of-life crimes in Bryant Park and overseeing security for the 40th anniversary United Nations General Assembly. After ten months as 14th Precinct Executive Officer, he was made Commanding Officer of the 5th Precinct (Chinatown, Little Italy & Lower East Side), which was considered an assignment for high-potential NYPD leaders. In September 1987, Timoney was transferred again - this time to police headquarters, as Commanding Officer of the Chief of Department's Office (under Deputy Chief Tom Walsh).[8]

In 1994 he became the youngest person in NYPD history to be named Chief of Department (the top ranking uniformed/sworn officer, essentially the #3 in command, similar to a large corporate COO). He ultimately served as Commissioner Bill Bratton's First Deputy Commissioner, making him the #2 man in the force. In 1996, Bill Bratton left the department due to conflicts with mayor Rudy Giuliani. Timoney criticized Bratton's replacement, Howard Safir, as a "lightweight," and retired later the same year, having served for a total of 28 years. Afterwards he worked as a consultant to local police forces and various government programs.[citation needed]


In March 1998, Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell appointed Timoney as Philadelphia Police commissioner. Timoney served through the end of 2001. His career marked a turnaround in Philadelphia's increasing homicide rate, but was not without controversy. Critics challenged his handling of protests during the 2000 Republican National Convention, particularly his use of undercover agents to infiltrate protest groups.[9]

After leaving the Philadelphia police, Timoney returned to consulting and worked for a security firm in New York. He also served as a security adviser for the 2002 World Economic Forum in New York.


Timoney did not stay in the private sector for long. He was a candidate for LAPD chief, but was edged out by his former boss Bill Bratton. Instead, Timoney replaced Raul Martinez as the Miami Chief of Police. Timoney took office on January 2, 2003, inheriting a department with a reputation for shooting civilians. During his first 20 months as Chief of Police, in contrast, not a single officer of the Miami police force fired a shot, winning Timoney a reputation as "one of the most progressive and effective police chiefs in the country".[10]

Miami was particularly eager to put Timoney in place because of the upcoming Free Trade Area of the Americas summit. Timoney organized a group of 2,500 police officers from various local, state, and federal jurisdictions to manage the protests. His controversial tactics included extensive use of "pepper spray, rubber bullets, bean bag rounds, Tasers, electrified shields and batons", and observers recorded several instances of police firing "less-lethal" bullets at non-violent demonstrators.[11] At one point, Timoney was reported to have personally cursed a demonstrator, yelling, "Fuck you! You're bad!"[12] A documentary on the protests, The Miami Model, interviewed several people who stated that they were urged to commit crimes during the protests by police agents.[11] Though the ACLU protested these perceived abuses, ultimately filing seven lawsuits, its executive director also praised Timoney for changing the culture of the Miami PD, stating that Timoney "was probably one of the most professional, competent and experienced police chiefs the city of Miami ever had".[11]

In August 2007, Timoney became embroiled in a controversy over his use of a Lexus SUV, which an area dealer allowed him to drive without cost, using a Florida dealer plate, for approximately one year.[13]

Immediately upon the swearing-in of Mayor Tomas Regalado in November 2009, Timoney dispatched his resignation letter, effective January 2010.


In December 2011, Timoney was hired by the Ministry of the Interior of Bahrain. The appointment came during the pro-democracy Bahraini uprising, leading to speculation from The New York Times that he had been hired to teach his "Miami model" of protest dispersal, involving "heavy use of concussion grenades, pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and baton charges".[9] Timoney stated in an interview with NPR's Robert Siegel that protests in Bahrain were banned and forcibly dispersed due to traffic concerns created by narrow streets, which made safe protest anywhere in the capital of Manama impossible.[14][15] This explanation was echoed the following day by the Ministry of the Interior's official Twitter feed.[11] The Guardian reported widespread criticism of Timoney's "reliance" on tear gas, noting three deaths that occurred among the protesters since he had joined the Ministry; its headline described Timoney as "notorious". However, the story also noted his supporters' argument that his "record for turning failing police departments around" made him ideal to control the perceived excesses of Bahraini security forces.[11]

Timoney has justified the use of tear gas by Bahraini police as a non-lethal method of crowd dispersal, saying that its use is justified in the face of a rise in violent attacks on policemen. "Police have been using tear gas to create distance between them and gangs of rioters that have been on a very steady basis, day after day, assaulting police officers with Molotov cocktails and also with bricks, nails and other things," he stated, while pointing out that he has "seen police using great restraint after tremendous provocation night after night."[16][17] While admitting that tear gas had its problems, he claimed that it is "a more desirable weapon than, for example, using live rounds to defend yourself."[16] He also emphasised that tear gas is not lethal, saying that the authorities “have thousands of police officers out there on a daily basis. They are smelling and touching that gas themselves. We've had nobody come in with poison or respiratory problems."[16] A senior member of Bahrain's parliament praised Timoney for "changing a lot in the culture of the Ministry of Interior" and contributing to Bahrain’s security reform.[16]

Another Guardian journalist, Matthew Cassel, reported that he himself had been tear-gassed, shot with rubber bullets, and chased by police who sought to confiscate his equipment while covering the Miami protests; he argued that Timoney's hiring demonstrated that the ruling Al Khalifa family was "more concerned with maintaining absolute power as they continue to lose further legitimacy, rather than implementing any real reforms to move past the country's political crisis".[18] The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights also expressed its "concern" about the hiring, noting "Timoney’s past human rights violations".[19]


Timoney has been married to his wife, Noreen, since 1971. Although once a director of finance and administration at ABC in New York, when her husband's career blossomed, she became an independent business consultant, in order to devote more time to managing home and family.[20] She currently serves as president of the Miami Women's Club.

John and Noreen have two adult children, Christine and Seán.

Timoney is an avid runner, who has competed in at least 14 marathons.



  1. ^ Paul Davies (28 August 2000). "Through Irish Eyes Cousin Remembers Timoney's Dublin Days". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
  2. ^ Cullen (1995), pp. 35-36
  3. ^ Timoney (2010), p. 9-10
  4. ^ Timoney (2010), p. 10-19
  5. ^ Timoney (2010), p. 44-54
  6. ^ Timoney (2010), p. 55-56
  7. ^ Timoney (2010), p. 57-68
  8. ^ Timoney (2010), p. 73-110
  9. ^ a b Robert Mackey (1 December 2011). "An Activist Stands Her Ground in Bahrain". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
  10. ^ Elsa Walsh (5 March 2007). "Miami Blue". The New Yorker. Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c d e "John Timoney: the notorious police chief sent to reform forces in Bahrain". The Guardian. 16 February 2012. Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
  12. ^ Tamara Lush (20 September 2007). "John Timoney, America's Worst Cop". Miami New Times. Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
  13. ^ Nelson, Gary, "Exclusive: Miami's Top Cop Drives A Freebie SUV", CBS4 News, 20 August 2007
  14. ^ Robert Mackey (13 February 2012). "A Year of Protest in Bahrain Ends as It Began, in Clouds of Tear Gas". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
  15. ^ Robert Siegel (18 January 2012). "Timoney Discusses New Job Training Bahraini Police". NPR. Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
  16. ^ a b c d Phillip Walter Wellman (17 February 2012). "Bahrainis Complain of Government Tear Gas Attacks on Neighborhoods". Voice of America. Retrieved 27 March 2012. 
  17. ^ Andrew Hammond (20 March 2012). "Bahrain says significant progress made on reforms". Reuters. Retrieved 27 March 2012. 
  18. ^ Matthew Cassel (3 December 2011). "Even Bahrain's use of 'Miami model' policing will not stop the uprising". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
  19. ^ "Bahrain: Human Rights Group Expresses Concern Over Appointment". Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. 3 December 2011. Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
  20. ^ Walsh (2007), p. 48

External links[edit]

Police appointments
Preceded by
Raul Martinez
Chief of Miami Police Department
Succeeded by
Miguel A. Exposito
Preceded by
Richard Neal
Commissioner of Philadelphia Police Department
Succeeded by
Sylvester Johnson