Ethnic politics has erupted front and center in the city's criminal justice landscape. Just ask Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Or Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.
A group of Hispanic officers recently accused Bratton of dissing Latinos in general and in particular former First Deputy Commissioner Rafael Piñeiro. Last month, Bratton forced Piñeiro, the department's highest-ranking Hispanic officer, to retire.
The criticism, by the National Latino Officers Association, stemmed from what the group called a "media blackout" of the department's Hispanic heritage celebration last week at 1 Police Plaza.
"The Commissioner's actions," said a news release from NLOA executive chairman and retired sergeant Anthony Miranda, "eliminated any public or community recognition for the growing Hispanic law enforcement community."
Although Bratton "spoke of a 'commitment to diversity' " at the event, Miranda said "it was a pledge only heard by those present. Hispanic officers wonder whether his words were just for the event or was he truly committed because in the past he made similar statements about the longevity of . . . Piñeiro and six months later Piñeiro was forced to retire."
Despite lobbying efforts by NLOA and other Hispanic groups in the department, Bratton has given no hint whether he will appoint another Hispanic officer to succeed Piñeiro or whether that job would go to Chief of Department Phil Banks, the NYPD's highest-ranking African-American officer.
Meanwhile in Brooklyn, Thompson announced at a separate Hispanic Heritage Month celebration last week that he would appoint Eric Gonzalez as his office's first Latino chief assistant district attorney. Gonzalez, who has been with the office since 1995 under former District Attorney Joe Hynes, has served as Thompson's counsel since his election in November.
But what of Thompson's current chief assistant, Mark Feldman, a veteran state and federal prosecutor, who is white and Jewish and whom Thompson appointed chief assistant after his election?
"This has nothing to do with race," Thompson spokeswoman Lupe Todd said of Gonzalez's appointment. "And no, Mark didn't do anything bad to the DA, none of that."
She said Thompson "was very open and honest when he announced that Mark had walked in the door with him as DA and helped him with the transition."
Feldman, she added, will become the senior executive assistant district attorney for crime strategies and investigations, reporting to Gonzalez. She later corrected that to say that Feldman would report to Thompson.
Feldman did not respond to an email seeking comment.