The resignation of Chief Philip Banks, the highest ranking African-American official, of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) is an unfortunate circumstance that should be troubling for Mayor Bill deBlasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, as it is for the entire City.
It is disgraceful that, in 2014, the NYPD now has no minority representation among its top echelon, which is dominated by white males. This failure rests squarely with the mayor and police commissioner!
Many believe that black and brown populations in New York City have historically been subjugated and policed by the NYPD as if were Ferguson, Missouri. This has shattered trust between these communities and the police and pushed the department’s credulity to its nadir.
Chief Banks worked tirelessly to build relationships, reestablish trust and create strong, vital ties between the community and Police department. His endeavors helped restore a measure credibility and confidence in the NYPD. We will be watching keenly to determine if Mr. Bratton, Chief Banks’ his replacement and the department in general will build on this effort.
There’s already cause for concern. Commissioner Bratton’s expressed commitments to a diverse force and improved relations with the African-American community have been hollow thus far. Much like his predecessor, Mr. Bratton has not fostered diversity in the department. He has not been predisposed to meeting with Caribbean-American leaders to discuss serious concerns about the NYPD.
A group of 34 Caribbean-American leaders, representing a myriad of communities, wrote the police commissioner months ago requesting a meeting but received no response. The people voted for change but are getting more of the same!
NYPD’s Patrol Boroughs and precincts command lack diversity as well. Patrol Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, and precincts within those boroughs have an appalling lack of diversity at the commanding and executive officer levels.
Almost one year after the mayor assumed office, the police department looks the same. Some argue that the NYPD more resembles an archaic and unacceptable apartheid structure, rather than contemporary New York City, with rich, vibrant ethnic and racial diversities.
This violates the covenant Mayor Bill de Blasio entered with minority communities, and desecrates the mandate which empowered his mayoralty. The African-American; including Caribbean, Hispanic and Asian communities in New York City overwhelming voted for candidate Bill deBlasio because of the progressive policies he espoused. He was elected with a specific mandate to affect change within NYPD. Without these essential reforms, his tenure would be nugatory.
Cosmetic changes at the regular patrol officer level are disingenuous and unacceptable. What is needed is genuine diversity from top to bottom of the NYPD. This responsibility clearly cannot be left alone to Commissioner Bratton. Mayor deBlasio owes it to his constituents to establish a diverse and transparent administration, not least among which is the all important Police department.
It would be of lasting shame for the mayor to come up short on implementing genuine police reforms and breaking with a distressing history of institutional racism within the NYPD, and of poor police-community relations, understanding and collaboration.
All of our elected officials should work to attain this objective and the citizenry should hold them to account.
Rickford Burke is the president, Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID)