Chief-Leader
November 11, 2014


Bristling At Critics, Bratton Appoints Tucker First Deputy Commissioner

 

Took Heat Over Turndown by Banks

By MARK TOOR

The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang
THE NEW NUMBER 2: Police Commissioner William J. Bratton watches approvingly as Benjamin Tucker accepts his appointment as First Deputy Commissioner. Mr. Tucker, who had been Deputy Commissioner for Training, joined the NYPD as an 18-year-old Trainee. ‘This department gave me opportunities I would probably never have had as a kid from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn,’ he said.

    
The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang  

BETTER PUSH HARDER’: Police Commissioner William J. Bratton scoffs at news reports that the controversy preceding the appointment of Benjamin Tucker as First Deputy Commissioner had endangered his standing with Mayor de Blasio. ‘For those trying to push me out the door, you better start pushing harder,’ he said. ‘I like this job.’

 

Ending five days of media uproar after his Chief of Department turned down the job, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton on Nov. 5 appointed a seasoned NYPD veteran as his Number 2 man.

“It is my honor and pleasure to announce the promotion and appointment of Benjamin Tucker—Ben Tucker—to the position of the 43rd First Deputy Commissioner,” he said at a press conference attended by his three- and four-star chiefs and most of his Deputy Commissioners.

‘Grew Up in NYPD’

“I kind of grew up in this department,” said Mr. Tucker, whom Mr. Bratton had appointed Deputy Commissioner for Training at the beginning of his term. “And this department gave me opportunities I probably never would have had as a kid from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.”

Mr. Tucker, 63, joined the NYPD in 1969 as an 18-year-old Police Trainee. He retired as a Sergeant after 22 years. During much of his career he was on leave, working as Assistant Director of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, Deputy Assistant Director for Law Enforcement Services in the Mayor’s Office of Operations, Executive Director of the Commission on Human Rights and Chief of Operations for the Manhattan Borough President.

He later held jobs with the Federal Government, including the Office of Community Policing Services at the Justice Department under President Bill Clinton and the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Obama. He took a leave from a professorship at Pace University to work for Mayor Michael Bloomberg as Chief Executive for School Safety and Planning at the Department of Education.

    
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He holds a bachelor’s degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a law degree from Fordham.

PBA Approves

Officials of the police unions attended the press conference. “We salute the appointment of Benjamin Tucker as First Deputy Commissioner,” said Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. “He grew up in Brooklyn and has long been a part of the NYPD family. We wish him great success in the real challenges that lie ahead.”

The appointment of Mr. Tucker followed a period of embarrassment for Mr. Bratton and Mayor de Blasio when Chief of Department Philip Banks III decided to retire rather than accept a promotion to First Dep.

Mr. Banks, a 28-year NYPD veteran, was concerned that the First Deputy Commissioner post, which is civilian rather than uniformed, dealt primarily with administrative matters such as discipline rather than operational issues.

After initially accepting the job, he reportedly pushed Mr. Bratton to expand the duties—particularly by having the new four-star Chief of Department report directly to him rather than the Commissioner. That would have given him control of the subordinate three-star Chiefs as well. When Mr. Bratton balked, Mr. Banks decided to retire.

A Tabloid Frenzy

That move touched off a blaze of negative press coverage. The tabloids emphasized that the retirement of Mr. Banks, who is black, would leave the NYPD with no minorities in the top three positions. (Mr. Banks would have replaced Rafael Piñeiro, who is Latino and reportedly was forced out by Mr. Bratton.)

The New York Post claimed that the Mayor’s wife, Chirlane McCray, had railed at her husband, “I told you we can’t trust” Mr. Bratton. Husband and wife both denied she said anything like that. Mr. de Blasio also denied a report by the paper that he had reprimanded Mr. Bratton for allowing him to be “blindsided” and that he learned of Mr. Banks’s move from NY1. The pair appeared at a press conference Nov. 2 to underscore their loyalty to each other.

Critics of Mr. Bratton, Mr. de Blasio, the NYPD or all three took the opportunity to question whether the policing reforms the Mayor had promised when he was elected were really coming to pass. Some suggested that Mr. Bratton, who is white, had driven out both Mr. Piñeiro and Mr. Banks.

“When the top black and brown people resign from the NYPD, we’re worried that the atmosphere there is not yet right for the change we were hoping to see,” City Councilman Jumaane Williams, one of the leaders of the Council’s fight against Mr. Bloomberg’s aggressive stop-and-frisk policies, said two days before the appointment.

Mr. Bratton addressed some of the speculation and the coverage in his remarks.

‘Not Going Anywhere’

“This is the second-highest-ranking position in a 50,000-person police department, the largest in America, in the most important city in America, indeed one of the most important cities in the world,” Mr. Bratton said. “So the idea that somehow or other there’s a figurehead in there, it’s a [figment] of your imagination. I’m sorry, but the First Deputy Commissioner of the City of New York is at any time an extraordinarily powerful and impactful position.”

Mr. Bratton also had a message for his critics: “I’m not going anywhere. I’m here. I like it. In terms of trying to push me out the door, they’d better push harder, because I’m not going.”

He questioned why the news media wasted so much time on the dispute over Mr. Banks while not mentioning that August, September and October were “the best three months together for crime reduction since Compstat was created” by his team during his first stint as Commissioner in the mid-1990s.

When shootings were up in the spring and summer, there was constant coverage, he said, but now “shootings are trending down—there hasn’t been a peep.” The current 5-percent increase translates to “one more shooting incident per week in a city of 8.5 million,” he said.

And as far as transit goes, “you have a better chance of winning the lottery than you have of becoming a crime victim in the subway.”

Key Duties for Tucker

With a nod to Mr. Tucker’s experience as Deputy Commissioner for Training, Mr. Bratton said the Police Academy and other training efforts will move under him. In addition, he said, Mr. Tucker will be asked to speed up the disciplinary process, which Mr. Bratton said was running two or three years behind, and to participate in budget decisions.

He said Mr. Tucker has presided over “a revolutionary change in training,” creating a three-day in-service course for all officers

“I’ve never seen the First Deputy job as a figurehead position,” Mr. Tucker said. “I love this department,” he stated as he was sworn in with his wife of 45 years, Diana, at his side. “This is an amazing moment of time in my life.”