NEW YORK (AP) — New York City Mayor Eric Adams is naming a former high-ranking police official whose phone was once wiretapped in a federal corruption investigation as his deputy mayor for public safety, reviving a position not seen in the Big Apple since the early 1990s.
Former NYPD Chief of Department Phillip Banks confirmed his selection, which had been widely anticipated since Adams’ election, in a guest essay Friday in the New York Daily News.
The mayor’s office sent out an official announcement hours after Banks’ essay appeared, but did not respond to questions from The Associated Press regarding his selection.
“I need a partner in government who understands what it takes to keep New Yorkers safe. Phil Banks is that person, and I am grateful for his continued public service in this new role to help our administration deliver the safety we need and the justice we deserve,” Adams said in a statement released by his office.
Banks, a top adviser to Adams, has been helping to reshape the police department for the new mayor’s administration, taking a leading role in the search that led to the appointment of Keechant Sewell as the city’s first female police commissioner.
Adams, a former police captain, has given outsize attention to his old department in his first week on the job, accompanying Sewell to events and addressing officers one morning at roll call.
Typically, the police commissioner reports directly to the mayor and has final say on hiring and disciplinary issues. It was not immediately clear how that might change with Banks also taking on a public safety leadership role.
Adams previously selected Banks’ brother David Banks to serve as the city’s schools chancellor.
The New York Post reported last month that former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best lost out on the commissioner’s job after raising concerns that she would have to report to a deputy mayor for public safety, weakening the authority and power of the commissioner.
Philip Banks abruptly quit the police department in 2014 after then-Commissioner William Bratton announced his promotion to First Deputy Commissioner. It was later revealed he was an unindicted co-conspirator in a police bribery scheme.
Court papers showed federal investigators obtained approval for a wiretap on Banks’ cellphone the day before he resigned amid questions about $300,000 that wound up in bank accounts belonging to him and his wife.
Banks denied any wrongdoing but apologized for what he said was a mistake in interacting with two men who went to prison for their involvement in the bribery scheme.
Banks said he had invested his money with one of the men, a fundraiser for former Mayor Bill de Blasio, because he had believed he was a legitimate businessman.
“I never broke the law, nor did I ever betray the public trust by abusing my authority as an NYPD official,” Banks wrote in his guest essay.
“The central theme of the reports about my involvement in the corruption scheme was that I was party to it; that I traded favors as a senior NYPD official for some form of compensation. That is 100% false,” Banks wrote.
He also denied that he left the NYPD to avoid a departmental disciplinary trial on the investigation, calling the suggestion “completely false.”
Banks joined the police department in 1986 and worked as the commanding officer of a Manhattan patrol borough and several precincts before being named chief of department in March 2013.
“It is an odd thing to watch and listen to your name get dragged through the mud,” Banks wrote.
Associated Press writer Michelle L. Price contributed to this report.