“I’m happy with my decision,” outgoing NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks told the AmNews. Banks had wanted to retire from the NYPD for some time, so initial news of his promotion surprised many. This week, though, he said, “It’s the best decision for the Police Department for me to retire.”
Word is that just three days after accepting a “promotion” to first deputy commissioner, Banks sifted through the hyperbole and resigned, determining that the new position was, in fact, a powerless demotion.
Rarely do you see a semi-united front in terms of opinion across the diverse New York City political spectrum regarding an issue with the NYPD. But here it is, from politicos to grassroots activists, people are upset with the sudden departure of Banks.
He accepted the job, pending a discussion pertaining to the details of the position, believed to be the restoration of some of the power that would make it effective in terms of policy and on-the-ground interaction. He changed his mind when the offer was presented as mostly ceremonial, even though Bratton allegedly had initially agreed to expand the role.
Although a “blindsided” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wasn’t happy with Banks’ decision to step down, he accepted it.
De Blasio said in a statement, “We were disappointed to hear of Chief Philip Banks’ personal decision to step down. We were enthusiastic about the leadership and energy he would have brought to the position of first deputy commissioner.”
The AmNews attempted to contact a spokesperson for the NYPD for a response, but requests were not granted by press time.
It’s bad enough, say activists such as A.T. Mitchel of Man Up Inc.! and Daniel Goodine of Men Elevating Leadership, that the Black community has lost a member of the NYPD who they could make aware of the real issues going on in the inner city, with the purpose of improving conditions and relations between the two beleaguered sides, but, say politicians such as Assemblyman Karim Camara, NAACP President Hazel Dukes, Assemblyman-elect Charles Barron and City Council Member Jumaane Williams, there may be a loss of traction with issues such as “broken windows,” stop-and-frisk, police misconduct and efforts to ensure more police accountability.
The reaction to Banks’ sudden resignation was visceral. Members of the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus and members of the Progressive Caucus, along with a host of elected officials and advocacy groups, have called on de Blasio and his administration to “ensure that the needs of Black and Brown communities in New York City are not overlooked.”
Monday, surrounded by fellow elected officials and activists, Williams, who is deputy leader and co-chair of the Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, and Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, chair of the council’s Committee on Public Safety, held a press conference denouncing the turmoil at One Police Plaza.
Williams said, “Throughout Chief Banks’ tenure, his leadership has played a critical role in helping to navigate difficult relationships between NYPD and communities of color as we attempted to deal with chronic issues in policing. Whether it be the abuses of stop, question and frisk, the misapplication of the broken windows theory or local issues, Chief Banks has deftly held the line for the department while having a responsive ear to all communities. Additionally, having Chief Banks involved in addressing the issues surrounding the death of Eric Garner really helped New York City avoid the racial tensions that occurred during the past two decades.
“The administration must fully admit that there is a systemic issue within the NYPD that revolves around race and class in this city. Whether it is the misapplication of the broken windows theory, marijuana arrests, the death of Eric Garner or these resignations, the administration must own what is happening and take concrete immediate steps to address this now.”
Banks’ resigned almost two months after First Deputy Police Commissioner Rafael Pineiro, the highest-ranking Latino, left the NYPD.
“Let’s not forget that Commissioner Bratton is a racist who supports the killing and brutalizing of Black people in Los Angeles, Boston and New York,” charged Barron. “And Mayor de Blasio, the blood that Bratton and his police are spilling in New York City is on your hands. You should never have brought him here in the first place. Having said that, this recent fiasco regarding Chief Banks is just another indication of de Blasio and Bratton trying to put a Black face on their policies of stop-and-frisk, and ‘broken windows,’ and police abusive and use of deadly force in the Black community.
“And I give Chief Banks credit for not drinking the de Blasio and Bratton’s Kool-Aid, and we still say Bratton must go and take his ‘broken windows’ with him.”
As Bratton named as his new first deputy commissioner, Black career cop and civil servant Benjamin Tucker, Wednesday, there are those who are hoping that when the dust settles, Banks may yet emerge as the actual police commissioner. It is a position that many activists lobbied for Banks at the beginning of the year, when de Blasio was seeking a replacement for the outgoing Ray Kelly.
Although Banks told the AmNews, “It wasn’t a possibility,” he also said that still officially being with the Police Department, “I can’t really say anything.” Other people questioned why Tucker would take the position.
Banks told the Amsterdam News that he is about to be “happily retired,”and is not looking to walk backwards. The paper pressed that there are those in the community who feel that he still has effective work to do and should not close the door completely. He laughed and said he was certain that he would not be returning.
Banks said, “I am at peace with my decision and ready to begin the next chapter. I have every confidence that Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton will continue to build a department which every New Yorker can be proud of. While I will no longer be part of that worthy mission, I believe we should all support them.”
Sounding like a polished politician, Banks told the AmNews,“It was a pleasure to work for New York City. I have enjoyed this gift of working for the citizens of the city.”
He forwarded the following statement: “The Police Department offered me opportunities that I could have never imagined when I joined the force 28 years ago. In turn, I did everything I could to serve my fellow New Yorkers, as did the thousands of officers with whom I had the privilege to serve. I will always be grateful to the department and proud of the work we did.
“I believe it is the right—frankly, the responsibility—of the commissioner to select whomever he wants to help lead the department and assign responsibilities as he sees fit. In this case, while serving as first deputy commissioner would have been an honor, I felt that the position would take me away from where I could make the greatest contribution: the police work and operations that I love so much. While Commissioner Bratton and I both made good-faith efforts to bridge that gap, we were not successful. For that reason, I informed the commissioner that I could not serve in that role and he graciously accepted my decision.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson told the AmNews,“Chief Banks literally put his life on the line for the people of New York during his outstanding career in public service. He represents the absolute best in law enforcement, and I wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
After Bratton announced Tucker as the new first deputy commissioner, Williams and Gibson declared, “We would like to congratulate NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Training Benjamin Tucker for his appointment to first deputy commissioner, and congratulate all those who have been promoted in the department within the past few days. It is obvious that no one can replace Chief Banks, and his departure is a huge loss to NYPD and the entire city. Still, our noted concerns are less about one person and more about having an atmosphere that allows for a tangible culture shift within the NYPD.
“Mr. Tucker brings a wealth of knowledge to the position. At the same time, it is our hope that he believes in and has the authority to help lead the department toward the cultural systemic shift that is needed. We know that there is a systemic issue within the department that revolves around race and class in this city, and we need leadership within the department to deal with tensions that have plagued the NYPD and communities of color for decades.
“It is our hope that Deputy Commissioner
Tucker hits the ground running by developing and strengthening relationships throughout the city and taking immediate steps to address systemic issues before we lose any progress that has been made thus far.”