NYPD Commissioner William Bratton indicated he will settle on his new pick for first deputy commissioner by Tuesday as he rushes to replace his first choice, Phillip Banks, who suddenly declined the job last week and retired.
In a news conference Monday, Bratton put on his best face as he tried to move past the sudden controversy, which erupted when chief of department Banks, the highest-ranking uniformed black officer in the NYPD, unexpectedly did an about-face after first accepting the second-highest-ranking job in the department.
The news conference followed the elevation of James O'Neill to chief of department -- Banks' old job -- and the promotion of Chief Carlos M. Gomez, of Cuban ancestry, to replace O'Neill as chief of patrol. Chief James Secreto, who is of black and Italian heritage, replaced Gomez as housing police chief.
Chief Gerald Nelson, commander of Brooklyn North, is said by law enforcement sources to be in the running for first deputy commissioner.
Bratton indicated that Banks wanted to have control over O'Neill's job, a position that has for about two decades has been a direct report to the commissioner. Bratton signaled that Banks' bid for such control was unacceptable for now.
"At this point in time in the history of the department, I think it is critical that I stay more involved in the operation of the department," said Bratton, alluding to questions of police misconduct and strained minority relations.
Sunday, Banks put out a statement saying that his prospective promotion to first deputy commissioner would have taken him away from "the police work and operations that I loved so much." Banks said the gap between what he and Bratton wanted was too wide to bridge. Banks was unavailable for comment Monday.
Bratton said he was prepared to give Banks expanded authority over relations with minority communities, in addition to traditional oversight on legal, policy and disciplinary matters.
Banks' retirement set off a flurry of stories about how Mayor Bill de Blasio and first lady Chirlane McCray castigated Bratton for the loss of a seasoned black officer. But Sunday, de Blasio and his wife trashed those reports as fabrications.
Some city politicians Monday voiced concern that Banks, as well as Rafael Pineiro, the highest ranking Hispanic deputy commissioner, who retired Friday, left the NYPD.
One current NYPD official said Banks' experience was more rooted in community affairs, where he was once a chief, as opposed to operations. In fact, it was O'Neill, his successor as chief of department, who played a major role in crafting the summer initiative that is credited with quelling some of the rising gun violence in the city, said the official, who didn't want to be named.
"He inspires the men," another NYPD official said about O'Neill.
With Emily Ngo