Philip Banks III, a former NYPD chief who resigned amid controversy, will become the city’s new deputy mayor of public safety, a spokesman for the mayor’s office confirmed.
The deputy mayor of public safety will be tasked with coordinating public safety strategies and responses among all city agencies. The role is considered to be one of the most critical for the Eric Adams administration, which has pledged to focus on reducing crime as a way of helping the city’s economic recovery.
The appointment was revealed in a Daily News op-ed published Friday morning and written by Banks, who sought to address criticism over his alleged involvement in a 2014 corruption case. Although Banks was never charged with a crime, he was described by federal prosecutors as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a bribery scandal that extended to Mayor Bill de Blasio and several high-ranking police officials.
“I still want to serve,” Banks wrote. “But as I take on a new role as deputy mayor for public safety, I owe it to New Yorkers, and to our new Mayor Eric Adams, to answer some questions that have been raised about me.”
He added that it was “100% false” that he had ever traded favors as an NYPD official. Still, he apologized for his association with two of the de Blasio donors who were ultimately convicted, Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg. They were later found to have provided gifts and cash to high-ranking officials.
As the department's highest ranking uniformed member, Banks received between $250,000 and $500,000 from the real estate firm owned by Rechnitz, according to financial disclosure firms. Federal prosecutors said that Banks received a “luxury tour” of Israel with the fraudsters, along with expensive meals, sports tickets, and cash disguised as investments.
“These two men were attempting to corrupt public officials — and I now regret the time I spent with them,” Banks wrote in the op-ed. “I realize now that even the appearance of our friendship was damaging to my profession.”
Banks resigned abruptly in 2014, rejecting a promotion to first deputy commissioner, amid an FBI probe. In his Op-ed, Banks said that his decision to retire was unrelated to any federal investigation.
The 59-year-old has been described as playing a pivotal role behind-the-scenes advising the mayor on law enforcement issues. His brother, David Banks, is the newly appointed New York City schools chancellor. David Banks’s partner Sheena Wright is the Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives.
Adams has consistently voiced his support for Banks, calling him “an amazing law enforcement expert” who has had “a great career.”
Still, it was unclear whether his appointment was assured. The New York Times recently reported that some of Adams’s advisers were debating over whether to install Banks in another role because of concerns of his past.
Adams denied his team having any misgivings about having Banks in the role of deputy mayor.
Recently, former law enforcement officials told the Times that Banks’s checkered history might prevent him from obtaining FBI security clearance on issues pertaining to briefings on terrorist threats and other matters.
One NYPD officer, who requested anonymity to speak freely, told WNYC/Gothamist that Banks’s appointment undermined Adams’ vows to root out misconduct within the police department.
“If your plan is to change the ‘culture’ of the department, bringing an executive from the old culture seems moronic,” the officer said. “I know cops who have been disciplined for unwillingly associating with criminals. Where is Banks’ punishment?”
With violent and other serious crimes still above pre-pandemic levels in New York City, Adams has made policing a priority of his mayoralty.
In December, prior to his swearing in, Adams named Keechant Sewell as the NYPD commissioner. At the time, some policing experts questioned whether the former Nassau County police chief, would have full control of the department, given the possible role of Banks as public safety boss.
On Thursday, Adams joined Gov. Kathy Hochul at a press conference where the two announced a plan to address crime and homelessness in the subway station. The mayor said the city would deploy more police officers to walk through the subways.
“Omnipresence is the key,” Adams said.
A spokesperson for the mayor’s office, which has yet to release a press release, did not say when the new deputy mayor of public safety would start his job.