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OpinionColumnistsLeonard Levitt

NYPD Confidential: Who is running the NYPD?

Mayor de Blasio hosting a roundtable on police-community

Mayor de Blasio hosting a roundtable on police-community relations with Reverend Al Sharpton and Commissioner Bill Bratton on Thursday, July 31, 2014. Photo Credit: Agaton Strom

Anyone who has followed the recent tumultuous events at the NYPD might be justified to wonder who's running the department. Is it Commissioner Bill Bratton, Mayor Bill de Blasio, first lady Chirlane McCray or the Rev. Al Sharpton?

The latest trouble began with the retirement of Chief of Department Phil Banks, the NYPD's highest-ranking African-American officer. He personified the community policing de Blasio vowed during his campaign.

Banks said his promotion to first deputy limited his authority. His retirement came after Bratton forced out the NYPD's highest-ranking Hispanic officer, Rafael Piñeiro.

Banks' abrupt resignation led to articles in the New York Post claiming de Blasio had criticized Bratton for "blindsiding" him and that McCray had said to de Blasio about Bratton, "I told you we couldn't trust him."

Bratton chose Benjamin Tucker, the deputy commissioner of training and an African-American, to replace Banks. The Post reported last week de Blasio told Bratton to "keep looking" for someone other than Tucker.

De Blasio publicly acknowledged that after Bratton told him about Tucker, he phoned Sharpton and ran Tucker's name by him. The mayor added that Sharpton is the nation's most prominent civil rights leader, but he ignored that Sharpton is a polarizing figure in NYC and the NYPD.

We also know Sharpton's former spokeswoman, Rachel Noerdlinger, is McCray's chief of staff. We know she violated city rules by failing to disclose that she lives with a convicted murderer and drug-dealer who posted anti-police rants and racked up hundreds of dollars in parking fines while driving her to and from work.

No big deal, de Blasio said of the lapses.

Bratton's supporters said that he had successfully maneuvered his way through this racial thicket. They said he had someone make a call to the White House -- where Tucker had worked -- and that the White House then called de Blasio to say Tucker was legit.

"We won," said a Bratton supporter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely about the hire. "Bratton got rid of Banks, who he felt was an impediment to his running the department."

Bratton said that despite calls for his resignation, "I'm not going anywhere. For those trying to push me out the door, you'd better start pushing harder."


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