Rafael Pineiro’s appointment: Chess move or conundrum?

If anyone in New York City understands why Bill Bratton reappointed Rafael Pineiro First Deputy Police Commissioner, let him come forward and explain it to NYPD Confidential.

None of Bratton’s closest aides offered an explanation that made any sense to this reporter.

Deputy Mayoral Press Secretary Wiley Norvell did not respond to a telephone call and email,asking whether City Hall played a role in Bratton’s choice.

Pineiro, First Deputy Commissioner since 2010 and the NYPD’s top Hispanic police official, inserted himself into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s police commissioner search late last year by flying to Puerto Rico, where he met with de Blasio.

Until then, Bratton and Chief of Department Phil Banks, the department’s highest-ranking black officer, had been considered the leading aspirants to succeed Ray Kelly.

Pineiro was backed by the two rival groups of Hispanic officers — most prominently, the Latino Officers Association — whose founder and national chairman, retired NYPD sergeant Anthony Miranda, appears to share the same critical view of the department as de Blasio.

For over a decade, the LOA has won numerous lawsuits in federal court against the department, hitting the jackpot in 2004 with a $26.8 million discrimination settlement, based on the discipline and promotion practices of former mayor Rudy Giuliani and his police commissioner, Howard Safir. According to LOA president Lt. Rob Gonzalez, the department paid out $17 million.

[In separate lawsuits, Miranda won $96,000; the girlfriend-beating former state senator Hiram Monserrate won $107,973.] 

On the LOA website, Pineiro says of the job of police commissioner: “I have all the credentials.” In interviews, he has citied those credentials as his graduating at the top of his class from the Police Academy in 1970, his 44 years with the department and his law degree and a master’s degree in management.

Yet, in the convoluted world of the NYPD, Pineiro has not had a lick of responsibility or accountability in the past 18 years.

Proud and courtly, he felt slighted when, in 1994 — Bratton’s first year of his first tour as police commissioner — Bratton appointed Mike Julian over him to the three-star position of Chief of Personnel.

Instead, Bratton promoted Pineiro to the two-star position of Bronx Borough Commander, where he ran afoul of then Chief of Patrol Louis Anemone, who blamed him when a 60,000-person Pink Floyd concert at Yankee Stadium turned into a riot. [See NYPD Confidential, June 27, 1994.]

He also ran afoul of Giuliani, who felt Pineiro was too close to his Democratic rival, Bronx Borough president Fernando Ferrer, with whom Pineiro dealt in his role as the Bronx’s lead cop.

In 1996, Safir, who succeeded Bratton, flopped Pineiro to headquarters, burying him in the Criminal Justice Bureau, where he spent the next six years. [See NYPD Confidential Feb. 19 and July 4, 1996].

There, Pineiro had no command role, reporting to the three-star former Chief of Detectives Charles Reuther, who’d also been dumped there.

In 2002 when Kelly returned as police commissioner, he promoted Pineiro to Chief of the Personnel Bureau.

Pinerio’s predecessor in that job, James Lawrence, and his successor, Thomas Dale, both went on to head the Nassau County police department. Pineiro went nowhere, remaining at the NYPD. The Personnel Bureau is now headed by a civilian.

Then, in 2010, with the retirement of George Grasso, Kelly appointed Pineiro First Deputy Commissioner.

While in theory the First Deputy is the second-most important position in the department, the job is largely symbolic. It is ill-defined, with powers as wide or as narrow as each police commissioner determines.

Under Kelly, all NYPD positions were defined narrowly — none more so than the First Deputy. Kelly removed its primary function — the department’s internal disciplinary process — by creating a civilian position that reported to Kelly, bypassing the First Dep.

Pineiro remained until Bratton’s appointment, which, judging from his facial expression at Bratton’s swearing in last month at Police Plaza did not please him. Seated on the dais, he looked as though he’d swallowed a lemon.

Rumors surfaced that Pineiro was being considered to head an agency outside the police department, but that Pineiro wasn’t interested.

Bratton was therefore faced with the choice: fire him or embrace him.

Attempts to reach Pineiro over the weekend were unsuccessful.

Said Ferrer: “Ralph’s a PD guy. He never wanted to go anywhere else. And Bratton is no dope. He’s learned from his first term as commissioner. Keeping him [Pineiro] tells me Bratton has grown. There’s no percentage in spilling Ralph’s blood.”

Pineiro’s appearance with Bratton at the Citizen’s Crime Commission breakfast last Friday marked his first appearance at that group that this reporter can remember.

Police sources said Pineiro was with Bratton at the Hispanic Society of police officers last Wednesday when Bratton announced his reappointment as First Dep.

Such closeness might reflect Bratton’s twist on the old saw: “Keep your friends close and those whose loyalty you are unsure of closer.”

Bratton is nothing if not skillful in exercising power. He marginalized his initial First Deputy, whom he did not know well, when he was new to the job in 1994.

When in 1995, he promoted his Chief of Department John Timoney — whom he had come to know well — to First Deputy, he gave him the widest of powers.

Such closeness might also indicate that the two will be joined at the hip of “diversity.”

Asked last week by this reporter how to interpret Pinerio’s appointment, Bratton answered: “In Spanish.”