New York Daily News

November 5, 2014


NYPD picks former Obama appointee for first deputy following Philip Banks' retirement


Benjamin Tucker, 63, was picked by President Obama to head the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy in 2009. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton recruited him this year as deputy commissioner of police training. He began his career with the NYPD in 1969 and will now become the department's second in command.


Police Commissioner Bill Bratton (left) swears in new First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker.

Benjamin Tucker, 18 and fresh out of high school, took the police exam on a whim — and four decades later, he’s second in command at the NYPD.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced the appointment on Wednesday, capping a topsy-turvy stretch that began Friday when his first choice, Chief Philip Banks, abruptly quit after a disagreement over the powers of the job.

Tucker, 63, was sworn in as the city’s 43rd first deputy commissioner at 1 Police Plaza. And he cracked a smile, staring down at his shiny new shield.

“I love this department,” he said, with Diana, his wife of 45 years, standing by his side. “I kind of grew up in this department, and this department gave me opportunities that I never would have had as a kid from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.”

Now-retired NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks III (from l.) stands alongside Police Commissioner William Bratton, Mayor de Blasio and Benjamin Tucker, the deputy commissioner of training who will now be the department's first deputy.

“I said ‘What exam?’” Tucker recalled. “He said, ‘Police exam,’ and that’s how it happened. It was quite by accident, but it turned my life around.”

It certainly did.

Tucker, who is black, became a cop in 1969.

Insiders describe Tucker as the type of leader who listens to his subordinates before making decisions. Some were concerned that he lacked the community ties that Banks brought to the table.

Others say Chief Gerald Nelson, the patrol commander of Brooklyn North who sources say was a candidate, would have been a better choice because of his operational knowledge.

Philip Banks unexpectedly retired after being offered the first deputy spot.

Tucker left the NYPD in the 1980s to work for the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board and several other director positions with the Koch administration. He also worked with former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger. He ultimately retired from the force in 1991 and got a job with the Clinton administration. He was deputy director of COPS, an office created to hire 100,000 officers nationwide.

President Obama selected Tucker in 2009 to run the state and local affairs division within the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy before Bratton scooped him up to head the NYPD’s training initiatives earlier this year.

Mayor de Blasio, who was not present for the announcement, called Tucker an “intelligent, visionary leader.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has ignited criticism for his opinions — and some say interference — on how the NYPD is run, immediately weighed in on the appointment, and name-dropped the President.

“Today I met for an hour with President Obama ... about his plans for his fourth quarter. While entering the West Wing I talked by phone with Mayor Bill de Blasio about Commissioner Bratton appointing Benjamin Tucker,” he said in a statement.

Bratton and Mayor de Blasio refuted claims of a rift among NYPD brass following Banks' retirement.

“I have known Mr. Tucker ... but we have never worked closely together,” Sharpton continued, adding he hopes they can sit down to discuss his “concerns” about police reform.

Sharpton did not respond to requests for comment.

Banks’ departure ignited a firestorm of criticism about diversity in the NYPD’s upper echelon from politicians and minority police organizations.

As first deputy commissioner, Tucker will oversee the training bureau as well as all department disciplinary actions. The Fordham law school graduate will also work with the department’s legal bureau , Bratton said.

Assistant Commissioner of Training Robert Gonzalez is on the short list to replace Tucker, police sources said.

With Tina Moore