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Mayor Adams praises new anti-gun unit, but admits NYPD has ‘Titanic’ task

Mayor Eric Adams said the unit made 31 gun arrests in six days: “This is what precision policing is about”


Police officers escort a handcuffed suspect to a car in Brooklyn, New York, on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

By Michael Gartland
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Mayor Adams praised the NYPD’s new anti-gun unit on Monday for making 31 gun arrests in six days — while also addressing pressing civil liberties concerns by vowing to make officers’ body cam footage available to police watchdogs like the Legal Aid Society.

Adams, who announced the new Neighborhood Safety Unit launch last week, appeared beside several officers from their ranks to say that, aside from the 31 arrests, they and their colleagues had taken 10 illegal firearms off the street in less than a week.

“More than a gun a day was removed from our streets,” he said. “This is what precision policing is about. The failure of the past was we stopped anyone, searched anyone based on their ethnicity and based on the demographics or the zip code of where they may have lived. We’re not doing that. We’re not going to allow that to happen in our city. We’re not going to break the law to enforce the law.”

Despite reassurances, the new anti-gun unit has raised concerns among skeptics who worry it will mimic the mistakes created by its forebear, the Anti-Crime Unit, which was disbanded for its heavy-handed tactics, especially towards Black and brown people.

A former NYPD captain, Adams pointed to his record as a police reformer as proof he will not allow the newly constituted unit to run roughshod over New Yorkers’ civil liberties.

“Why would I spend 30-something years fighting for proper policing and then allow it to erode away?” he said. “All I ask of Legal Aid is to come join us, sit inside, analyze the video, when we do our arrests, be a part of this evolution — because they have a role also.”

[RELATED: Eric Adams: Why we need stop and frisk policing]

Corey Stoughton, who heads the Legal Aid Society’s special litigation unit, welcomed Adams’ invitation to observe body-worn footage from officers, but appeared skeptical of the offer, given what she described as Adams’ failure to offer more insight into how the new anti-gun unit was constituted.

“I thought it was great,” she said of his invite. “If he’s inviting us to view videos of arrests by the new Neighborhood Safety teams, then we accept that invitation.”

Still, while Stoughton’s praise for Adams’ was genuine, she also questioned how the unit has been rolled out, noting that it is still unclear to her how officers were selected and who was selected.

“We want to see him back up his promises with action,” she said.

Adams did not directly address some of the concerns she raised, but he suggested that removing guns from the street in a way that also protects civil liberties will take some time.

“Crime is a Titanic. Crime is an ocean liner. You have to start changing the mindset on the streets. You have to start understanding that what we were doing in the past is not what is going to happen now. And that is what we’re doing,” he said. “The worst thing we could do is to rush something of this sensitivity and not get it right.”

©2022 New York Daily News. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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