NYPD Commissioner William Bratton Wednesday tapped Benjamin B. Tucker, his top aide in charge of training, to fill the job of first deputy commissioner, the second-highest job in the department.
Tucker is the 43rd person in the history of the NYPD to hold the job. The civilian position became a flashpoint for controversy last week when Philip Banks -- Bratton's first choice -- abruptly turned it down and retired, sparking criticism about Bratton's leadership.
Banks left after he wasn't given direct control over the chief of department position, his old job, something Bratton wanted to keep as his own direct report, police officials said. Bratton was criticized by some politicians for allowing the top black uniformed officer to bolt.
In announcing the appointment of Tucker, also African-American, Bratton made clear that he was looking for his new top deputy, who is a lawyer and has worked at the Civilian Complaint Review Board, to hit the ground running on a number of key areas. Tucker also previously worked in the Clinton and Obama administrations, as well as for Mayor Edward I. Koch.
"He has an intimate understanding of crime, drug abuse, youth and the law," Bratton said at a police headquarters news conference. "These areas make up the essential challenges facing the New York City Police Department."
Bratton noted that Tucker has been in charge of major changes in police training, notably in the area of use of force. Until a replacement is selected, Tucker will stay involved in his current job as deputy commissioner of training and supervise the police academy, Bratton said.
Tucker, 63, was an NYPD officer for more than 20 years. He was born and raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, a fact he referenced in his remarks after he was sworn in with his wife, Diana, at his side.
"This is really like a dream come true," said Tucker, glancing down at his new shield. "I love this department . . . I kind of grew up in this department and this department gave me opportunities I probably would never have as a kid growing up in Bedford-Stuyvesant."
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn), an NYPD critic, said in a statement that Banks' exit left a hole in the department and Tucker lacked "meaningful community-based experience."
City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem) applauded the appointment.
In a statement, Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch saluted Tucker's appointment and wished him luck.
Bratton also moved to squelch gossip that the furor over Banks made his job tenuous under Mayor Bill de Blasio.
"I am not going anywhere, I am here, I like it," Bratton said. "In terms of those who are trying to push me out of the job, you better start pushing harder."
With Emily Ngo and John Riley