Friday, October 31, 2014


(AP photo)


(Originally published Oct. 31)

(Friday, October 31, 2014 Pearl St., NYC)  New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was dealt quite a body blow at 8:30 this morning.  The Chief of Department, Philip Banks III submitted his letter of resignation.  Banks is the third highest ranking official (the top position in uniform) in his current position and had just earlier this week been promoted to Deputy Commissioner.  Originally Banks agreed to accept the promotion but his mind had changed by today.  Citing long talks with his family and hours of private contemplation, as well as viewing the promotion as more of a desk job than his current position, he made his surprising decision and that was that.  Bratton who was reportedly “shocked” when Chief Banks handed him his letter of resignation, hastily arranged a private meeting with Mayor de Blasio, Banks and himself.  Apparently, no matter what line they were feeding him in the hopes he would reconsider, he was just not having any of it.  He had made his decision and that was that.

When word of Chief Banks resignation hit the Precincts, newsrooms and streets, there was a great deal of speculation, rumor and innuendo regarding the back story of this latest development in what is increasingly becoming a more fractured relationship between NYPD Commish Bratton and Mayor de Blasio.  Many among NYPD MOS and close observers claim that the atmosphere in One Police Plaza (1PP) at the highest levels among the Brass is rapidly devolving into a quagmire of a sort; a muddy slosh pit where de Blasio and Bratton will ultimately square off.  This town just isn’t big enough for both of them, a lesson one would think Bratton had learned during his successful tenure as Commissioner in the first term of Giuliani’s Administration.  Rudy simply could not abide by the notion that Bratton was receiving all the credit for the monumental reductions in crime.  Giuliani was unwilling and, perhaps, constitutionally unable to share the tough “law and order” spotlight with anyone.


Mayor de Blasio is a proud Liberal Democrat and won his Office by capturing the votes of a broad coalition comprised of racial and ethnic “minorities” which is simply a code phrase for Black and Hispanic voters.  After 20 years of the winning brand of NYC styled “Republican”, Giuliani and “Independent”, Bloomberg, Mayors who rescued NYC from the depths of urban blight and decay in all its sordid manifestations and making it the “Safest Big City” in the world, the masses were clamoring once again for a true “Liberal”, a candidate that would support their issues, advocate for their causes and represent their needs.  Bill de Blasio emerged late in the campaign and captured the coveted Office of Mayor of NYC. 

But de Blasio’s victory came at a cost, a debt that he is being called upon to pay off now that he resides in Gracie Mansion.  He is learning the hard way the enormous gulf between campaign rhetoric and practical governance.  A mere 10 months into his Administration and already the realities of the Office are threatening to overwhelm him.  He is finding that it is far more difficult and perilous to apply influence to the NYPD then he thought as a candidate.  His hand-picked NYPD Commissioner, Bill Bratton, seems to have inexplicably hitched his fortunes and failures to an untested Mayor determined to, even if only cosmetically, make changes in the Department that would appease the Black and Hispanic communities.  It is one thing to have a diverse Police force; quite another to have diversity implemented in the hierarchy of the largest Police Department in the country based predominately on race.


Much of Mayor de Blasio’s campaign was based on promoting ideas and making promises to the Black and Hispanic communities.  That is just a simple fact.  He was particularly strident in his criticism of the NYPD especially of what had become a controversial issue known as “Stop and Frisk”.  He took the position that yes; this practice was disproportionally applied to Black and Hispanic young men and had no real impact on crime reduction.  The actual policy was called “Stop, Question and Frisk” (SQF) and its shortened version was a derisive label applied by its opponents.  There are competing statistics regarding the efficacy of SQF but the reality of its success was tangible.  But by the time the Mayoral campaign hit full stride it was a hot button issue in the Black and Hispanic bloc of voters and de Blasio preyed on their enthusiastic disdain for SQF; he sided with the opponents and vowed to defang the NYPD and “abolish” the practice entirely.  This was a central plank in his campaign platform that was generally aimed at appeasing the “long disenfranchised” minorities in NYC. 

And then there is the matter of Mrs. De Blasio, Chirlane McCray.  McCray a former political speechwriter married de Blasio in 1994.  She is African American and proving to be a force to be reckoned with as her husband’s closest and most trusted advisor.  By news accounts she has been far more involved in the nuts and bolts of the machinations of City Hall and a vocal proponent of increasing the racial makeup of City agencies from FDNY to NYPD and beyond.

While candidate de Blasio was lagging far behind the crowded field of primary contenders in the mayoral race, he shamelessly paraded his biracial family out in front of his campaign.  Even the least cynical among us saw this as a crass political charade but, it proved to be the difference.  Once his family joined him on the stump he vaulted far ahead of the other contenders.  Since becoming Mayor in January McCray has proven to be a political force of her own with staff and controversial Chief of Staff, Rachel Noerdlinger, a close associate of the bellicose agitator Al Sharpton.  The Reverend Sharpton has been granted unprecedented access to the Mayor in a high profile manner that has many New Yorker’s angry and concerned given Sharpton’s ugly past as a self-appointed “Black activist”.   Recently it has been revealed that Noerdlinger lied to investigators conducting a routine background check prior to her assuming her position as McCray’s Chief of Staff.  She failed to mention that she lives with a convicted murderer, Hassaun McFarlan. 


So, in a way, a day like this was merely just a matter of time.  It was inevitable.  Try as one might, a square peg cannot be fitted into a round hole.  An organization such as the proud NYPD is steeped in tradition and not easily changed.  While today’s Department is vastly different than it was during Bratton’s first go round as NYPD Commish, institutionally it is resistant to the vagaries of politicians and politics and, that is how it should be.  The internecine battles in City Hall are little noticed by the rank and file but when there is a political shadow hovering over 1 Police Plaza every MOS takes note.  They are all too cognizant of how decisions made for political expedience can impact the way they conduct themselves on the streets and could in fact result in one of them being gravely injured or killed.

The fact that the Mayor’s wife appears to be a driving force in City Hall and obviously wears the pants in that family should also not be a surprise.  Besides granting one of her closest associates, Al Sharpton unfettered access to City Hall, she has long and loudly opined about who should be in the top slots in the NYPD based solely on race.  Actually, as has been reported, she advocated strongly for Philip Banks III to be Police Commissioner rather than Bratton. 


Policing and politics do not mix; they exist at the polar opposites of virtually every social and civil issue.  The NYPD is particularly wary of political interference because in the past they have seen the disastrous effects of that unholy wedding between the two before.  The NYPD is a “quasi-military” force with a well-defined, unambiguous chain of command.  As an urban Police Department they are empowered to literally “enforce the law”, particularly the State and City laws, statutes, ordinances and to assist with other federal agencies when required.  Their mission is a direct descendant of the American Constitution and their oath to “uphold” the law could not be clearer. Virtually everything they do is the line of duty is rooted in our criminal justice system and in accordance with Constitutional rights of those suspected of or arrested for a crime.

Politics, by comparison, is dirty and muddy and usually totally devoid of truth.  Politicians have come to routinely live as though they are somehow “above the law” and, in some instances that surely appeared to be true.  Politicans delve into areas they have little or no practical knowledge in or experience with and it is that power to intrude, at least as it has often played out here with former Mayor’s, that can make or break an administration.  The fact that de Blasio’s candidacy was so disrespectful of the NYPD and almost vitriolic; it was a foregone conclusion when the results came in on election night showing he would be the next Mayor of NYC that the NYPD would be in for a very rough ride.  Bratton, no doubt, took the job with any number of beefs, personal vendettas, scores to settle and a deep jealousy of the man who he replaced, Ray Kelly.  Bratton likely made some calculations of the risks and rewards of accepting the job and likely felt that de Blasio would leave him alone and not get involved with the upper echelons in 1PP.   He is learning these days that his calculus was skewed, his points of reference no longer reliable or even relevant.

The Bill and Bill show announced this afternoon in a show of feigned harmony that next Wednesday the replacement for the job that was to be Banks would be filled.  There still remain at least two empty desks on the 14th floor of 1PP and it is very likely that Bill and Chirlane will be burning the midnight oil in search of candidates they see as politically correct and politically expedient as they work to please the minority communities. 

So much for “Blind Justice”, the metaphor we’ve used for decades to define our system of jurisprudence as being totally objective, unbiased and otherwise impartial.  It is within that one simple phrase that the gapping divide between politicians and Police Officers differ. 


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