Former cop turned New York Mayor Eric Adams plans to reduce the city’s spike in violent crime by returning to discarded policies that many believe helped police brutality and mass incarceration thrive.
Two cops were ambushed responding to a domestic disturbance in Harlem over the weekend; one died and the other remains hospitalized. The incident highlighted a dramatic spike in shootings in New York and other cities that started with the beginning of the pandemic.
In response, Adams–an ex-NYPD captain who took office this month–announced on Monday that he plans to bring back the NYPD’s anti-gun unit, which at its height was a 600-officer force that wore plain clothes and drove unmarked cars as they flooded New York neighborhoods with aggressive and at times violent tactics.
The unit was formed in the late 90s and dissolved in 2020 by then NYPD Commissioner Dermot F. Shea, who said the move was necessary to adjust the culture in the department and to help build trust with the communities it serves.
According to reporting by the New York Times and The Intercept at the time, plainclothes or anti-crime officers accounted for between 2% and 6% of NYPD officers but were involved in 31 percent of police shootings between 2000 and 2018.
That apparently doesn’t sway Adams, who since even before taking office signaled that his preferred way of fighting crime reads like political talking points from the ‘90s (which, not at all coincidentally, is when Adams was in the middle of his 22-year policing career): put more cops on the street and get tough on crime.
In addition to bringing back the anti-gun unit, he has proposed flooding the subway system with more cops, reinstating solitary confinement at the city’s jail on Rikers Island and said that anyone who’s never been a cop can’t question his policing ideas.
In his Monday announcement, Adams called on lawmakers to go backwards on bail reform and to lower the minimum age for charging minors as adults. All of those changes are antithetical to the movement for policing and criminal justice reform of the past decade, and have come in for criticism.
From the New York Times
Tiffany Cabán, a new City Council member from Queens, said she was “strongly opposed” to revising bail reform and called the return of the anti-crime unit “particularly troubling.”
The plan for Neighborhood Safety Teams fulfills Mr. Adams’s campaign promise to reimagine the anti-crime units, whose primary role was finding illegal weapons. But it has also raised concern among community activists and civil rights lawyers that the city is returning to heavy-handed practices that led to the deaths of Amadou Diallo and Eric Garner, and which were often abused in ways that alienated communities of color.
Akeem Browder, whose teenage brother, Kalief, became a symbol of criminal justice reform after he was held for three years at Rikers Island without trial, said the mayor’s plan was ill conceived.
“This is just another slap in the face leading us to a police state,” he said, adding, “I think that’s what his whole administration is going to be about, fullness for the police and emptiness for the people.”