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Back the NYPD — but demand better cops.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams walked a tightrope over the Big Apple’s policing debate Tuesday as he promised to do more to push bad officers out of the New York Police Department while demanding protesters show more respect for the badge.
He said the endorsement he scored from Abner Louima, the victim of one of the most notorious NYPD abuse cases, is a key exhibit in proving he could maintain that balance as mayor.
“There are people who discovered police reform this year,” Adams told The Post’s Editorial Board.
“My role now, in running for mayor, is not to tell my story —but to reintroduce people to my story. Remember, some of the activists today were 1 or 2 years old when I was doing this. I have a 35-year record of fighting for safety and reform.”
For an earlier generation, the torture and sodomy of Louima by Officer Justin Volpe in a NYPD station house was one in a trio of cases — along with the shootings of Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond — that marked the nadir of police and community relations under then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
At the time, Adams was both a supervising officer at the 88th Precinct in Fort Greene and the cofounder of a police reform and civil rights group — 100 Blacks In Law Enforcement Who Care, which supported Louima and demanded reforms.
“I may not know too much about the others, but I know Eric Adams,” a soft-spoken Louima told reporters as he stood beside Adams in City Hall Park during a mid-day press conference earlier Tuesday.
“At the time,” Louima added, Adams’ support “meant everything.”
The dance between promises of reform and advocacy for the department was evident during the first minutes of the Editorial Board meeting where Adams promised new reforms.
But he also blasted the hard-left activists, who successfully campaigned Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council last summer to slash $1 billion from the NYPD’s budget and organized protests where cops were frequently insulted and sometimes assaulted.
“We have allowed police officers who are not suitable to wear the uniform, to stay too long,” he said, recounting several reasons he believes the relationship between New York’s black and brown communities and the NYPD has hit the skids.
“People are angry over the [George] Floyd’s, they’re angry over the other incidents,” Adams said. “But what they’re really angry about is the day-to-day disrespect.”
Those remarks came immediately after he detailed his opposition to the tone and tenor of the hard-line elements of the police reform protests that erupted after Floyd’s death.
“Nothing angered me more and concerned me more than when we allowed people to pour water on police officers,” Adams said. “That was a dangerous moment for our city, that was a tipping point. When you allow open disregard for the symbols of public safety, that’s a slippery slope.”
Adams is banking on relationships earned through his years as a reformer cop, state senator and at Borough Hall to power him to a win in the June 22 mayoral primary. Polls have consistently shown Adams second in the race, only behind front-runner and municipal political newbie Andrew Yang.
Throughout the hour-long sit down, Adams repeatedly promised to use technology to modernize city government and to expand social services and supports for pregnant women and mothers with newborns and toddlers.
He was also pressed about his controversial “go back to Iowa” remarks about newly minted — and often white — New Yorkers who have moved to the city’s traditionally minority working-class neighborhoods, which ignited a firestorm over gentrification.
“I still say that if you don’t want to embrace New York, then this is not the city for you because this is a city where we embrace each other,” Adams responded, talking about the slights he says longtime residents have reported about newcomers to him.
When pressed again about the racial tinge to the remarks and if he believed middle-class white New Yorkers should move to traditionally minority neighborhood like Crown Heights, Adams responded that he took no issue with that.
“Gentrification is not an ethnicity, it’s a mindset,” he said. “It was a common saying — if you don’t embrace the diversity of this city, this is not the city for you.”
Time and again, the conversation circled back to gun violence across the five boroughs. NYPD stats show that reports of gunplay are up 83 percent for the year as the shooting surge continues unabated.
Adams’ plan for combating the surge calls on the NYPD to reconstitute its plain-clothes operations with a focus on gun violence, despite Police Commissioner Dermot Shea saying the squads were responsible for a disproportionate number of complaints — and a long history of scandal.
He also said that he would work to improve cooperation between the city and federal authorities on gun smuggling cases, ask for the creation of a special prosecutor’s office to handle gun cases, and would push state lawmakers to tweak New York’s criminal justice reforms to give judges discretion to set in cases involving firearms, hate crimes, burglary and robbery.
When pressed how he would respond to liberal and left-leaning activists who have argued such changes would disproportionately hit African Americans and Latinos, Adams retorted: “I’m locking up criminals, it doesn’t matter what ethnicity they are.”
“I have never notified a mother who lost a child to violence and they felt better if that child was lost to a gang-banger in blue jeans or a police officer in a blue uniform,” he added. “I’m focused on innocent people not being the victims of crime.”
Additional reporting by Craig McCarthy
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