Robert Wright for The New York Times Philip Banks III, who has been appointed the chief of the New York Police Department, said he wants to establish positive ties between the police and the city.
The first question was simple: What made you want to become a police officer?
The reply from Philip Banks III, the newly minted chief of the Police Department, was unexpected, if only for its own simplicity. “I don’t know. Not sure,” he said.
During a 30-minute interview at Police Headquarters on Friday, Chief Banks came off as a no-nonsense and self-assured leader.
“It’s a big seat. It’s a big chair,” Chief Banks said. “I’m 100 percent confident that I can handle the assignment.”
Over the next few days, the four-star chief will move his belongings from his street-level office inside the Community Affairs Bureau to his new office on the 13th Floor. Chief Banks, who will earn a $201,096 yearly salary, takes the helm as the force’s highest-ranking uniformed officer – top among roughly 34,500 peers – at a time when the Police Department has come under scrutiny for its aggressive use of the stop, question and frisk tactic.
As the father of three children – sons, 24 and 15, and a daughter, 20 – Chief Banks said he has talked to them about what to do if stopped by an officer.
“I tell them to always be very cautious about what you are doing out on a particular street, carry yourself like you were raised correctly,” he said. “They know specifically to listen to what the officer is telling them and to be very respectful.” None of his children have been stopped by the police, he added.
Chief Banks, 50, who lives in the St. Albans section of Queens, said a mutual respect between officers and residents is integral to fighting crime. In fact, when he served as a precinct commander in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, his officers were well aware of a “pet peeve”: failing to immediately address someone who had walked into the station house, he said.
“The one thing I’m most proud of is, when a person walked into a particular precinct, the amount of time and the amount of respect that they were shown,” Chief Banks said. “So we had a thing – everybody stop, and we are going to take five minutes to make sure that person feels as though they’re the most special person in the world.”
In his new role, Chief Banks said he would strive to empower people in the community and work with them to further reduce crime.
“You can’t be a crime fighter without being able to listen to people in the community,” he said.