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NYC Mayor-elect Adams vows to bring back plainclothes anti-crime units despite ‘riot’ threat

Mayor-elect Eric Adams dismissed threats of “bloodshed,” saying he would keep his campaign promise

eric adams

In this Sept. 1, 2020, file photo, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams makes an announcement about early voting, in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File

By Chris Sommerfeldt and Tim Balk
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — New York Mayor-elect Eric Adams vowed Thursday to reinstate the NYPD’s controversial plainclothes cop units even though a prominent leader of the city’s Black Lives Matter movement told him “riots” and “bloodshed” will ensue in the streets if he follows through.

Adams — who met with the Black Lives Matter leader, Hawk Newsome, and other activists in Brooklyn on Wednesday — dismissed Newsome’s threat as toothless and said it holds no bearing on his plan to reintroduce the plainclothes units once he takes office.

“That’s silly, and I think New Yorkers should not allow rhetoric like that — this city is not going to be a city of riots, it’s not going to be a city of burning. It’s going to be a city where we are going to be safe,” Adams said during a Thursday morning news conference in Manhattan.

“There’s no surprise on what I said. When I ran to become the mayor of the City of New York, I said I was going to reinstitute an anti-gun unit in plainclothes. Voters voted on that. I stated what I was going to do. What I said on the campaign trail is what you’re going to see in City Hall, and I’m not backing away from that.”

Of Newsome and the other activists he sat down with, Adams added: “Those 13 people are not representative of the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Newsome, the co-founder of New York’s Black Lives Matter chapter, issued the warning over what will happen if the plainclothes units return while speaking to the Daily News after his Wednesday meeting with Adams.

“If he thinks that they’re going to go back to the old ways of policing, then we are going to take to the streets again. There will be riots, there will be fire and there will be bloodshed because we believe in defending our people,” Newsome said outside Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Asked Thursday about Adams dismissing his demands, Newsome said the incoming mayor is betraying the Black Lives Matter movement.

“There is a reason why he called us last year seeking to explain why he would be the best candidate for Black New York. He knows that Black people and brown people respect our work,” Newsome told The News, adding that his group has lobbied successfully for police reform bills in the City Council. “He stood with Black Lives Matter when it was politically convenient, but now it serves him better to be pro-cop.”

The NYPD’s plainclothes anti-crime units were disbanded at the height of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests amid long-running complaints that they were disproportionately targeting African-American and Hispanic New Yorkers with heavy-handed policing tactics.

The anti-crime units, which used to comprise about 600 officers, were also involved in some of the city’s most infamous police killings of Black New Yorkers, including the deaths of Eric Garner, Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo.

During their Borough Hall meeting — which took place behind closed doors, but was live-streamed on Instagram by an attendee — Adams and Newsome never discussed his plainclothes police policies directly.

But they clashed repeatedly over police reform, with Adams telling the activists that they can trust him to hold cops accountable for misconduct, citing his record of fighting racism and abuse in the NYPD during his time as a captain in the department.

“Brother, I mean, have you been living under a rock?” Adams said after one of the activists questioned his commitment to rooting out bad behavior in the NYPD.

Adams, who campaigned on a promise to beef up the NYPD while also making it easier to punish police misconduct, has maintained his plainclothes cop units will be different than the old iteration and that they will focus mostly on combatting gun violence.

During his Thursday appearance in Manhattan, Adams shed some light on the guardrails he want in place for the units.

“The plainclothes anti-gun unit is going to zero in on guns and gangs. They’re going to wear their body cameras,” he said. “The supervisors are going to personally monitor them, and they’re going to review the video footage. Those officers who are abusing their authority, they’ll be held accountable. And if they continue, they’ll be removed from my department. So, you’re going to see a better style of a gun unit that’s going to zero in on gun violence.”

But progressives and Black Lives Matter activists remain skeptical and say the units described by Adams do not sound substantially different from the ones that were disbanded last year.

Calling Adams “hypocritical,” Newsome said the incoming mayor is also sending the wrong message to cops by pressing ahead with his plainclothes plan.

“What he is not discussing is how the NYPD anti-crime and plainclothes unit has been responsible for some of the most famous police brutality cases in American history. Let us not forget who killed Eric Garner, Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo,” Newsome said. “Police believe we have a pro-cop mayor and that can lead to widespread abuse.”

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