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Philip Banks III
From unindicted co-conspirator in a federal corruption case to Mayor Adams’s deputy mayor for public safety in less than a decade.
- Founder, CitySafe Partnership LLC
- Chief of Department, NYPD
- Chief of Community Affairs, NYPD
- Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, New York City
In 2014, Phil Banks’s ascent through the ranks of the NYPD was nearing its apex: He had been made chief of department, the senior-most uniformed position in the NYPD, and it seemed entirely possible that he could be running the biggest police department in the country in short order. Instead, that October, Banks precipitously resigned from the force, shortly before it was revealed that he was an unindicted co-conspirator in the one of the biggest—and weirdest—bribery scandals to rock City government in a generation. He was never charged with a crime, and he denied allegations of wrongdoing in an op-ed in the Daily News.
But as it turns out, that case and Banks’ resignation didn’t spell the end of his ambitions of running the NYPD. After Eric Adams won election in 2021, he decided Banks was the guy to be his deputy mayor for Public Safety. Banks isn’t in uniform anymore—now he’s shaping his former department from City Hall.
The scandal that preceded the end of Banks’s uniformed career began with an investigation of deposits into his bank account but eventually shifted to focus on two businessmen, Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg, who plied Banks and others with gifts, including cigars, fancy meals, overseas trips, and a ring that once belonged to Muhammed Ali. (Rechnitz pleaded guilty and became a cooperating witness in the resulting federal case. Reichberg was convicted on conspiracy and bribery charges.)
Banks did not report any of these gifts as he was required to at the time, nor did he disclose income from rental properties he owns. A spokesperson for the Adams administration said last year these omissions were honest mistakes.
Among the gifts Rechnitz and Reichberg showered on Banks was a trip to Israel in 2014, memorialized in a photo album that was later introduced as evidence in the corruption trial. The album shows Banks visiting the Wailing Wall, perusing souvenir stores, getting a personal combat tutorial from men in military fatigues, flexing and smearing himself with mud in the Dead Sea, eating ice cream, smoking cigars, and posing in the cockpit of an F-16. A video taken in a restaurant during the trip shows Banks apparently dozing at the dinner table.
Banks was subpoenaed to testify in one of the trials that arose from the indictments, but he filed paperwork declaring that if called, he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to be compelled to incriminate himself. Publicly, he stayed mum about the entire scandal for years, until Adams was about to restore him to a high position of public trust. Then he wrote a defense in the Daily News, claiming that any allegations he was involved in favor-trading are “100 percent false,” and that he “never did anything in my official capacity for Rechnitz or Reichberg.”
Not everyone agreed: For one thing, Rechnitz testified that he and Reichberg wanted to see another cop they were also cozy with move up the ranks. They asked Banks to promote him and get him a better posting. In 2014, not only was the cop promoted,, but Banks let Rechnitz and Reichberg be the ones to tell the cop about his promotion, Rechnitz testified. “Phil allowed us to tell him the good news, and he said: ‘I took care of your boy,’” he said
Rechnitz and Reichberg were also raining gifts on other officers (including Banks’s right hand man, Chief Michael Harrington, who ended up pleading guilty to, among other things, dispatching a police helicopter to do a flyby over a boat where Reichberg was having a party). According to federal prosecutors’ evidence, they flew some of their favored cops to Las Vegas on a plane staffed by a sex worker dressed as a flight attendant. Banks wasn’t on that plane, but the Times reported that he was on two trips to the Dominican Republic paid for by Rechnitz and Reichberg, where Rechnitz told investigators he did pay for a sex worker for Banks (Banks denies this).
After leaving the NYPD, Banks spent the next eight years working in the private sector and, according to disclosure forms reviewed by Bloomberg, tripling his net worth. He founded a security consulting firm, PB3 solutions, and in 2015 he bought a security company, Overwatch Services, from another former cop, Dwayne Montgomery, who in 2023 would go on to be charged in a straw donor scheme to sluice money into Adams’s mayoral campaign. That case remains open. Overwatch also does business as City Safe Partners.
Banks didn’t disclose any relationship to City Safe on his conflict of interest forms when he joined the Adams administration, but he continued to list himself as employed by City Safe on a copy of his resume updated after joining, according to the New York Post. Both City Hall and City Safe denied that he was still involved in the company. Through a subcontract, the MTA hired City Safe rent-a-cops to beef up a security presence in the subways last year.
After Adams was elected, he leaned on Banks to take stock of the NYPD and help him devise a plan to run it. Banks is also part of a densely woven network of actual family at the top of the Adams administration. His brother, David, runs the city’s schools. David’s domestic partner and fiancée, Sheena Wright, is Adams’s first deputy mayor. Back in 2013, before David and Wright were domestic partners, Wright and her then-husband were arrested for fighting with each other. David alerted Phil, then the NYPD chief of community affairs, After Phil looked into it, the arrest was voided, the CITY reported, and Wright walked free—at least until Wright was arrested a second time the same day for fighting with her husband’s mother.
One of Banks’s first acts upon becoming deputy mayor was to call up Joseph Reznick, the head of the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau, which had cooperated with the FBI in investigating him, and tell him he was being replaced.
Banks kept a low public profile during the first year of Adams’s mayoralty, rarely appearing at press conferences and working out of a secret office away from City Hall in the nearby Verizon Building. But behind the scenes, his influence was considerable. According to officials interviewed by the New York Daily News, he interviewed candidates for police commissioner, a process that ended in the selection of Keechant Sewell. Sewell may have had the title, but Banks acted like a shadow commissioner, one source told the Times, bigfooting her at every opportunity, meeting with NYPD brass without her, according to documents obtained by The City. When Jeffrey Maddrey was promoted to Chief of Department, the New York Post reported, it was not because he was Sewell’s choice. This year, Banks began holding regular public safety briefings himself, further upstaging Sewell. After Sewell was told that she couldn’t make even minor promotions in her police department without City Hall sign-off, as the former chief of department told the Times, she resigned.
- Eric Adams’ friends and family with plush city jobs | City & State New York
- Why NYC Mayor Adams Trusted Advisor Phil Banks Stays Behind the Scenes | Bloomberg
- How Eric Adams’ Inner Circle Stayed Tight Through Past Arrest and Divorce Mess | THE CITY
- Where Is Phil Banks? | NY Magazine
- My call to protect and serve NYC: Philip Banks, Eric Adams’ newly appointed deputy mayor for public safety, defends himself | NY Daily News
- Accused of Corruption, Former N.Y.P.D. Chief Pleads Guilty to Lesser Charge | The New York Times
- Bribery Case Casts a Shadow Over Eric Adams’s Public Safety Chief | The New York Times
Last updated: 12/18/2023
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