Philip Banks III, the highest-ranking black member of the NYPD, quit his job Friday as chief of department just days before a major promotion was to take effect.
Banks, a 28-year veteran of the NYPD, told Commissioner William Bratton about his decision just minutes before they were slated to have a regularly scheduled 9 a.m. weekly meeting at City Hall with Mayor Bill de Blasio, Bratton told reporters.
"It is with great regret that I'm going to accept that resignation," Bratton said at City Hall. "I think the world of Chief Banks. He's been a very able, capable and loyal partner to me over these last 10 months."
Some city officials expressed dismay at the possible impact of Banks' departure on diversity in high ranks of the NYPD.
Several incidents in recent months, including the death of an unarmed man, Eric Garner, who was put in a chokehold by police, revived frictions that marked relations with black and Latino communities under former Commissioner Ray Kelly.
A statement by de Blasio said he was "disappointed" that Banks chose to leave. City Council members Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn) and Vanessa L. Gibson (D-Bronx) said in a joint statement that they were "extremely disturbed" at the loss of an NYPD leader who had shown "a responsive ear to all communities."
The resignation of Banks, 50, came days after it was announced that he was going to be moved from his current job as the highest uniformed member and appointed to first deputy commissioner, a $205,000-a-year civilian post and the second-highest-ranking job in the 35,000-member NYPD.
Bratton and de Blasio were blindsided by Banks' decision, which Bratton said was made after Banks had talked with his family in recent days.
"This caught everybody off guard," said a member of Bratton's inner circle. It remained unclear late Friday what precipitated Banks' decision or whether he had another job offer. Banks' only explanation came in a tweet that "due to professional reasons I have decided to retire."
Bratton said Banks had accepted the first deputy commissioner job last Monday.
A former official under Kelly said Banks may have believed he was being kicked upstairs to a job that had little operational authority and power. Banks was also seen as an independent-minded leader and was viewed warily by some in Bratton's inner circle, said the former official, who didn't want to be named.
"I think they were looking to isolate him because he was his own man," the ex-official said.
But Bratton denied that the new job was a dead end for Banks, saying he was considering giving the position more authority over some of the 18 supervisors now reporting directly to the commissioner. De Blasio said as he left City Hall Friday night the post was going to be "very important going forward."
"Under Kelly, the position of first deputy had no legs," explained a current NYPD official. "If nothing [else], it is definitely a precursor to being police commissioner," the official said.