The sudden resignation of the NYPD chief of department Philip Banks III last Friday sent shockwaves through the department and city government. First Lady Chirlane McCray was quoted in the New York Post saying, “I told you we can’t trust him!”—purportedly in reference to NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, who was appointed to his position over her first choice, Banks. As they watch the resignation of the second top-ranking NYPD official of color in as many months, New Yorkers are questioning Bill Bratton, the culture of his NYPD, and de Blasio’s handling of both.
Banks was to be promoted to first deputy commissioner, a role he felt was “a powerless position setting him up for failure,” the New York Post reported. He would have replaced Rafael Pineiro, who resigned (“under fire from Bratton,” according to the Post) in September, and officially left at the end of last month. Pineiro had been the highest-ranking Hispanic American in the NYPD.
Several elected New York City officials of color lambasted de Blasio’s handling of the NYPD and his mollifying public appearances with Bratton in the wake of McCray’s reported comments, which she and de Blasio have since contested. In a press conference on Monday, Democratic Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams stated, “When the top black and brown people resign from the NYPD, we’re worried that the atmosphere there is not yet right for the change we were hoping to see.” Several others stated that they believed what McCray had reportedly said about Bratton, and agreed with her.
Even if questioning Bratton’s appointment feels too little, almost a year too late, it’s worth considering how Bill de Blasio’s first year in office might have gone differently under a police commissioner of color, such as Philip Banks III. The de Blasio administration fulfilled the mayoral hopeful’s promise to end Stop-and-Frisk in his first year in office, but even in light of this, 2014 seems to have been the (or at least “a”) Year of Cops Getting Caught Doing Bad Stuff on Camera, for the NYPD as well as for police departments across the country.
In denying the Post story about her opinion of Bratton, McCray wrote on her personal Tumblr: “Too many city newsrooms do not reflect the population of NYC or the experiences of the majority of New Yorkers. […] We must demand newsrooms that are as diverse as the city they serve.” In the wake of Banks’s swift departure from the NYPD, many New Yorkers are demanding the same of the police force, that it be as diverse as the city it protects, at all levels of enforcement.
Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.