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Phil Banks picked as NYC Mayor Adams’ top public safety deputy despite checkered NYPD history

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 1/7/2022 Chris Sommerfeldt

Scandal-scarred former NYPD chief Phil Banks announced Friday that he has been picked as Mayor Adams’ top public safety deputy after weeks of speculation that his checkered history in the department would derail his appointment.

Banks, who abruptly retired from his NYPD chief of department post in 2014 while under federal investigation, announced his appointment as deputy mayor of public safety in a Daily News op-ed, in which he defended himself against accusations that he participated in a corruption scheme that produced indictments against several top city and police officials.

“The central theme of the reports about my involvement in the corruption scheme was that I was party to it; that I traded favors as a senior NYPD official for some form of compensation. That is 100% false,” Banks wrote.

Adams, who served under Banks as a police officer and has counted him as a close friend for years, did not immediately return a request for comment via a spokesman.

Banks has advised Adams’ transition team on public safety issues for months, working out of the NYPD’s downtown Manhattan headquarters and helping interview candidates for top positions in the department, including newly-minted Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell.

As deputy mayor of public safety, Banks is expected to play a major role in executing some of Adams’ policing priorities, like reinstating a controversial plainclothes anti-crime unit of the NYPD. He’s also likely to serve as Adams’ eyes and ears inside the department.

Phil Banks (left) and New York City Mayor Eric Adams (right) © Provided by New York Daily News Phil Banks (left) and New York City Mayor Eric Adams (right)

Phil Banks (left) and New York City Mayor Eric Adams (right)

Banks’ appointment came a day after The News reported exclusively that he got to personally give the boot to Joseph Reznick, the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau chief who once helped federal prosecutors investigate him.


Video: One-On-One With Incoming NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell (CBS New York)

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Though the feds never formally charged him with a crime, Banks pleaded the Fifth to avoid having to testify in court after being named an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a sweeping public corruption probe that resulted in prison stints for ex-jails union boss Norman Seabrook and several top police officials, including ex-deputy chief Michael Harrington.

The probe, conducted by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, had numerous components, and at one point zeroed in on allegations that Banks was linked to an illegal liquor distribution ring and earned money from rental incomes that were listed in the names of family members, according to police sources.

The most explosive aspect of the probe, however, involved Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg, a couple of crooked businessmen convicted of bribing NYPD and city officials.

Rechnitz testified at trial that he and his partner lavished Banks with gifts and bought him a prostitute during a trip they took to the Dominican Republic with Seabrook — accusations Banks vehemently denies.

Still, in Friday’s op-ed, Banks apologized for ever associating with Rechnitz and Reichberg while maintaining he “never did anything in my official capacity” for them.

“There was a question of why I invested my money with Rechnitz. The answer to that is simple: At the time, I believed he was a legitimate businessman,” Banks wrote, referring to hundreds of thousands of dollars that he placed with the crooked businessman.

“Despite the fact that I never broke the law, nor did I ever betray the public trust by abusing my authority as an NYPD official, I do also want to offer an apology to the people of New York. My interaction with Rechnitz and Reichberg was a mistake. These two men were attempting to corrupt public officials — and I now regret the time I spent with them.”

He added, “I realize now that even the appearance of our friendship was damaging to my profession. I hope that from here on, I can serve the people of New York excellently to prove my commitment to them.”

In addition to bribing cops, Rechnitz and Reichberg donated handsomely to former Mayor de Blasio’s various political causes — apparently in exchange for favors from his administration. But, like Banks, de Blasio was never formally charged with a crime.

Despite Banks’ dubious record, some NYPD officials offered him a warm welcome back to the public safety profession.

“We stand with Mayor Adams as we work together to reclaim our city’s streets for our citizens,” said NYPD Det. Paul DiGiacomo, president of the Detective Endowment Association. “Phil Banks knows what must be done.”

With Thomas Tracy

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