Ethnic politics mars NYPD

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered heightened security measures July 4th weekend.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered heightened security measures July 4th weekend.

The transfer of Deputy Insp. Fausto Pichardo to head a Bronx precinct 10 months after he was assigned to the NYPD’s public information office as a liaison to the city’s Hispanic media underscores that ethnic politics can be tricky — no less so than in the nation’s largest police department.

The transfer was significant enough to Hispanics that the Spanish-language daily El Diario noted it, as did the city’s highest-elected Hispanic official, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. A member of her staff called Commissioner Bill Bratton, but Mark-Viverito’s spokesman said she and Bratton did not speak about the matter.

“They never had a Hispanic at that level in DCPI before,” said a former top Hispanic officer about the high-visibility job at the office of the deputy commissioner of public information.

Pichardo’s Hispanic supporters attribute his transfer to DCPI Deputy Chief Kim Royster, who is black.

The official line is that Pichardo, who is of Dominican descent and now heads the 43rd Precinct, asked out of DCPI to have a better shot at becoming full inspector.

The unspoken reason, say cops close to Pichardo, is that he felt thwarted by Royster in his role as the Latino liaison. “No one will admit it,” said an officer, “but everyone knew Fausto was having issues with her. No one helped him because of her political connections.”

In the first of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s police-related missteps, he called Royster to arrange the release of a political supporter, Bishop Orlando Findlayter. The clergyman had been arrested on two outstanding warrants in 2014. Asked whether she precipitated the transfer, Royster wrote in an email: “I have no idea what you are talking about. Executive transfers and promotions happen all the time in this department.”

The contretemps appear to be part of below-the-radar tensions between Hispanic and black officers. The percentage of Hispanic officers has risen to nearly 30 percent, while the percentage of black officers has remained at about 15 percent. A complaint of Hispanic officers is that their numbers in the ranks above captain are far smaller than their numbers in the department.

“Had his and Royster’s positions been reversed,” a Hispanic officer close to Pichardo noted, “I can guarantee they would have transferred Fausto. Blacks get what they want in this department. Hispanics don’t.”