NEW YORK (PIX11) — Mayor Eric Adams put down his gun and badge to enter the world of politics, but he’s remained one of the NYPD’s most vocal defenders, repeatedly slamming criticism of the department and calling for more praise of officers.
On Tuesday, in the wake of a massacre at a Texas elementary school that left 19 students dead, Adams implored people to support police and suggested billboards and newspaper ads. He said his focus is on gun violence.
“There are days that the commissioner and I feel as though we’re the only ones that are actually backing our police department,” Adams said at a Jewish Heritage Month event. “We feel as though we are alone. Everyone silently tells us ‘support the police.’ We cannot do this with a whisper.”
Adams’ first day as mayor was marked by bloodshed when an officer was shot in East Harlem. He also called 911 himself that day to report an assault he witnessed. As New Yorkers began 2022, Adams and NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell vowed to get guns off the streets and put a stop to the violence.
Since that day, the pair has rolled out a more aggressive form of policing. Neighborhood Safety Teams, similar to the disbanded and controversial plainclothes anti-crime unit, began patrols. The NYPD also launched a Quality-of-Life Enforcement Initiative. Some have criticized the initiatives as over-policing and a return to Giuliani-era broken windows policing.
Mayor Adams takes the criticism personally. When he was an officer, he was known for speaking out about police, but he’s said he would only critique specific bad policies, not the department as a whole. That’s not what he feels people are doing now.
“I feel like I’m in an alternate reality. We’re probably the only civilized country that sends their troops into battle and then criticizes them every day,” he said on May 11 while discussing the NYPD. “All we do is criticize them, that’s all we do. I don’t hear any good stories about the men and women who are protecting us from the bad people. No one’s talking about that. This is a major issue we are facing.”
Much of the movement toward reform in New York City came in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minnesota in 2020. After his death, New Yorkers and people across the country flooded the streets, demanding change and police accountability. Adams met with Floyd’s family on Tuesday, the day before the anniversary of Floyd’s death.
During protests, Adams said he was in a unique position to understand both police and those calling for change from law enforcement. As a teen, he was beaten by police officers. Adams joined the NYPD with reform in mind.
“During the day, when I was a cop, I would march against stop-and-frisk and in the evening I would put on my police uniform and go and police that same march,” he said at the time. “So I understand it.”
People were fed up after Floyd’s death, Mayor Adams said. But while calling for change, “they turned the ship too far in the wrong direction,” he said in an April interview on 60 Minutes.
“To the left,” he explained. “There is a middle ground. We only talk about, ‘How do we protect the rights of those who commit a crime?; How about start talking about, ‘How do we protect the rights of people who are doing the right thing?’”
Many of the reforms Adams disagrees with date back to before Floyd’s death. He’s said police got the wrong message for eight years — the entirety of former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s time leading the city.
“Listen, for eight years, we have told police, for the most part, not to carry out public safety. Don’t deal with jumping the turnstile. Don’t deal with people going to the store, [and] stealing. Open drugs displays in our city,” Adams said at the start of April. “That stopped. January 1st, that message is over, and we are going to get on the ground to every police officer. We’re not going to have the city of disorder.”
Adams reiterated that message on Tuesday night. He said he’s committed and “laser-focused” on bringing New York City back.
“That’s the mission we must leave here with today,” he said. “The mission is safety. If we are not safe, we will live in our city in disgrace. And we’re going nowhere. I firmly believe in every part of me it’s New York or nowhere.”