NYPD chief’s promotion has a backstory

This is a file photo of an NYPD squad car. Photo Credit: Newsday File

Promotion is not without controversy.

This is a file photo of an NYPD squad car.
This is a file photo of an NYPD squad car. Photo Credit: iStock

Deputy Chief Kim Royster was promoted to assistant chief, making her the highest-ranking black woman in NYPD history.

But her promotion is not without controversy and underscores how ethnic and racial sensitivities affect department policy. It follows allegations that as head of the NYPD’s public information office — or DCPI — she forced the transfer of a subordinate, Deputy Insp. Fausto Pichardo.

With some fanfare, he was assigned to DCPI as a liaison to the city’s Hispanic media — becoming the highest-ranking Hispanic officer ever assigned to the office. Ten months later, Pichardo asked to be transferred.

So what was the NYPD supposed to do after the allegations against Royster that she forced out Pichardo became public? Take no action and face accusations that the NYPD favors black officers over Hispanics? Or demote Royster for what might well be nothing more than a conflict with a subordinate, and face accusations that the NYPD favors Hispanic officers over blacks?

Complicating matters is that Royster was one of the department’s few black chiefs, and she is politically connected. It was she whom City Hall called to inquire about releasing Bishop Orlando Findlayter, a political supporter of Mayor Bill de Blasio who had been arrested in 2014 on outstanding warrants. Many at Police Plaza regard her as untouchable.

So the NYPD transferred Royster to the personnel bureau. But a position was created for her: coordinator of the stepped-up efforts to recruit more black officers. Black officers are about 15 percent of the force while Hispanic officers make up nearly 30 percent.

The department quietly replaced Pichardo with Insp. Eric Pagan, who is Hispanic. His was also no ordinary transfer. He was the former commander of the 23rd Precinct, and recently had been assigned to Patrol Borough Manhattan. Asked how long he had been at the borough before his transfer to DCPI, Pagan said, “Two or three days.”

“So, you’re Pichardo’s Hispanic successor,” I said to him last week.

“Am I?” he answered.

Pichardo, meanwhile, was transferred to the 43rd Precinct in the Bronx. Although department officials indicated that he, too, would soon be promoted, he was not part of yesterday’s promotion ceremonies. For now, he remains a deputy inspector.

Len Levitt