Black-Latino Power Struggle Within NYPD?

Latinos make up the largest minority group in the NYPD. (Photo by Marlene Peralta via El Diario)

Latinos make up the largest minority group in the NYPD. (Photo by Marlene Peralta via El Diario)

The news that the NYPD’s First Deputy Commissioner Rafael Piñeiro, 65, will retire at the end of October at the request of Commissioner Bill Bratton has left many Hispanics within the department upset and worried. Piñeiro is the highest-ranked Latino in the NYPD and the second in charge after Bratton.

According to several officers who agreed to speak with El Diario anonymously, there is a general opinion that Piñeiro’s exit is due to pressure from the African-American community to increase the number of black officers in the department in the wake of  Eric Garner’s death.

There are rumors that current Chief of Department Philip Banks III, who is in charge of supervising patrols, will replace Piñeiro. Some of the Hispanic officers complained that black officers are the only ones being considered for promotions. “Right now, the power is in the hands of the African Americans, and they are prepping Banks for that post,” said a source.

Another source said: “Asking Piñeiro to step down during Hispanic Heritage Month is insensitive and disrespectful to the Latino community and to our almost 10,000 Latino police officers.”

With Piñeiro’s retirement, the highest-ranked Latino within the NYPD will be Cuban-American Carlos Gómez, chief of housing, who oversees security in all NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) buildings. Still, many are concerned that the presence of Latinos is significantly diminished.

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Only two weeks ago, Bronx Council Member and Chair of the Committee on Public Safety Vanessa Gibson (D) confirmed that several police officers have been lobbying for more diversity in high-rank positions. Of the 18 deputy commissioners, there is only one Latina: Puerto Rican Rosemarie Maldonado is in charge of processing disciplinary measures. A similar situation can be seen among the 11 bureau chiefs, where Gómez is the only Hispanic.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is said to be concerned about this lack of diversity, and added that she has spoken with the mayor about the topic. “Let’s wait and see what this administration will do about this. We must continue to put pressure on them,” said the speaker. “The Bloomberg administration did not attend to these issues, and this is why we now have this problem.”

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The NYPD denies any discrimination against Latinos, and cites the promotions of Robert S. Martínez to executive director of the Support Services Bureau in 2010, and Inspector Frank Vega and Capt. Roberto Ríos as proof.

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Edward Rodríguez, president of the New York Dominican Officers Organization, regretted Piñeiro’s departure. “We are losing a greatly competent deputy commissioner who understands diversity and the need for Hispanic representation.”

Dennis González, president of the NYPD Hispanic Society, sent out a press release saying: “We are saddened to hear that [Deputy] Commissioner Piñeiro is leaving […] after dedicating 45 years to service.” He has also said that, during the last election, his organization moved in to ask the new mayor to choose Piñeiro as NYPD commissioner. “We considered that he was qualified for the job.”

Several Latino council members, such as Ydanis Rodríguez (D-Manhattan), Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx) and Carlos Menchaca and Antonio Reynoso from Brooklyn, said that they will be watching for the evolution of diversity within the police department.  In fact, both Menchaca and Reynoso have asked that Piñeiro be replaced with another Latino.

“[Deputy] Commissioner Piñeiro’s resignation is worrisome, especially after the contentious summer we have experienced between the police and the Latino community,” said Menchaca. “His presence in that agency was fundamental to guarantee cultural sensitivity.”

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