De Blasio forced out four White NYPD chiefs as part of diversity push, court docs allege

Amended discrimination complaint alleges de Blasio put politics ahead of law and well being of NYPD civil servants

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Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, alongside his wife, allegedly orchestrated the ouster of four White members of the NYPD’s top brass, including the department’s pioneering first three-star chief, as part of his administration’s diversity push, according to an amended complaint filed Friday. 

New emails cited as part of the ongoing discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of former Chief of Community Affairs Joanne Jaffe in the Southern District of New York provide details into how de Blasio and former First Lady Chirlane McCray influenced NYPD personnel decisions as early as 2017, years before the 2020 death of George Floyd prompted protests and anti-police riots.  

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (R) speaks to New York Police Department Chief of Department James O'Neill (L) as they attend a news briefing regarding Times Square Security on New Year's Eve on December 29, 2015.      

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (R) speaks to New York Police Department Chief of Department James O'Neill (L) as they attend a news briefing regarding Times Square Security on New Year's Eve on December 29, 2015.       (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

According to the amended complaint, obtained by N.Y. Daily News, de Blasio wrote in emails to then-Commissioner James O’Neill that he was concerned that the retirement of Chief of Department Carlos Gomez, who is of Cuban descent, in 2017 would "only exacerbate the demographic tensions" in the city. 

Jaffe, along with Chief of Citywide Operations Thomas Purtell, Chief of Personnel Diane Pizzuti and Chief of Transit Joseph Fox were all ordered to file for retirement in January 2018 as part of the de Blasio administration’s efforts to get more people of color into high-ranking NYPD positions. 

New York Police Department Bureau Chief Joanne Jaffe (C) sings hymns with members of Grandmothers LOV (Love over Violence), a group that works with the New York Police Department Community Affairs to end violence, after paying their respects at a memorial where two New York Police Department police officers who were shot and killed on December 23, 2014. 

New York Police Department Bureau Chief Joanne Jaffe (C) sings hymns with members of Grandmothers LOV (Love over Violence), a group that works with the New York Police Department Community Affairs to end violence, after paying their respects at a memorial where two New York Police Department police officers who were shot and killed on December 23, 2014.  ((Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images))

The new emails demonstrate "a cynical public relations move that put de Blasio’s political interests ahead of the law and the well-being of dedicated NYPD civil servants," the complaint says. 

The complaint says de Blasio and his wife personally interviewed Jaffe’s replacement months before she realized she was being pushed out. Emails show de Blasio insisted the press release announcing Nilda Hofmann would take the job as Chief of Campus Security include her maiden name, Irizarry, to stress her Latino heritage, even though she had not used it since getting married over two decades prior. 

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and wife Chirlane McCray attend a midnight mass St Patrick's Cathedral in the Manhattan borough of New York, December 25, 2014.             

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and wife Chirlane McCray attend a midnight mass St Patrick's Cathedral in the Manhattan borough of New York, December 25, 2014.              (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri      (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY RELIGION POLITICS))

McCray also allegedly pushed for then-Deputy Chief Rodney Harrison to succeed Gomez because he is Black, but O’Neill named Terence Monahan as the new Chief of the Department, and Harrison then filled Monahan’s prior role as Chief of Patrol. 

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"What they did was unethical," Fox told N.Y. Daily News on Friday. "The mayor was increasingly tinkering in personnel decisions later in his eight years. It got so you could not promote deputy inspectors without checking with City Hall. But there was no explanation, no footnote, no press release that said why we needed to do this."