A new NYPD scandal arrives right on time

Police are searching for a hit-and-run driver who killed a 45-year-old man in Astoria, Queens on April 6, 2016.
Police are searching for a hit-and-run driver who killed a 45-year-old man in Astoria, Queens on April 6, 2016. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Not since the darkest days of the 1970s — when the Knapp Commission investigated corruption in the NYPD, and when Police Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy fired his executive staff — has the department experienced a week like last week.

Three chiefs and a deputy inspector were transferred, two had their guns and badges taken, and a Harlem restaurant owner linked to one of the chiefs was indicted by the feds in a corruption scandal now veering toward City Hall.

The media have focused on former Chief of Department Philip Banks, who retired in late 2014. Once considered Commissioner Bill Bratton’s heir apparent, Banks has a relationship with Norman Seabrook, the president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association and the alleged target of a federal investigation. Questions have been raised about Banks’ relationship with developer Jona Rechnitz and fellow Brooklyn businessman Jeremy Reichberg. Both have donated to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

News reports have cited a private trip Banks took with Rechnitz to Israel in 2014, where Banks held a news conference and appeared in uniform at the Wailing Wall. Police sources say Banks, who paid for his plane ticket and stayed at Rechnitz’s home, was briefed by an Intelligence Division analyst before the trip. He met with some mayors, and the former head of the Mossad, Israel’s equivalent of the CIA.

Department spokesman Steve Davis did not return a call seeking comment on whether the meetings were sanctioned by the NYPD.

The transfers come amid a federal-city probe into possible illegal payments and gifts to police officials by the Brooklyn businessmen.

The NYPD is second to none with its history of corruption. Scandals appear every 20 or so years and this one seems right on time. Nearly 25 years ago, the Mollen Commission on corruption found that a third of the night shift of the 30th Precinct in West Harlem engaged in drug dealing. Twenty years before that, the Knapp Commission found that corruption ran through the NYPD all the way up to the commissioner’s office.

As for Banks and the transferred brass, there is no direct indication as yet that any of them committed a crime. Still, as their names keep appearing negatively in the news, the officers may not have much time left as police officers.