Following a cut of a billion dollars from the NYPD budget and massive protests against police brutality, the Brooklyn Borough President said officials need to investigate response times to crimes and make better use of resources.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams was joined at Borough Hall Wednesday afternoon by members of Black Lives Matter and the clergy after several weeks of shooting violence that has swept the city. However, Adams said police can do a better job of clamping down the violence and “need to do a better job.”
He said there were allegations of officers responding late to violent crimes, including an incident on Troy Avenue where “a man and his wife were being violently assaulted – and the police never responded.” He said there have been many cases of lesser crimes where police also either never responded or arrived hours later.
Adams, himself a retired police captain, understood that lower police morale impacted by recent protests and budget cuts, but he said, “After 22 years as a police officer there was only one thing I was clear on, I was going to do my job – no matter who is in office, the city council, I’m still the person who has to protect the public.”
Adams claimed that police services to the community should not suffer if manpower is managed properly, including “civilianizing” of many services they currently provide. Some of these jobs currently done by cops he said should be in the hands of civilians include the public information office and reducing manning at parades by three quarters and instead use more auxiliary and other non-police presence.
Adams and the activists called for more community engagement, outreach, and economic support for communities where the violence has escalated – especially using reallocated funds properly.
Adams was most concerned about the drastic rise in shootings and violence in the city that he believes the department could handle properly under the current circumstances. He said that despite the suspension of the plain-clothed anti-crime teams that were designed to pursue gun arrests, there were many options open to the department to get the job done. He said he was against shutting that down in that way, and said there were other ways to use the team because “the element of surprise is necessary to make these arrests.”
“I would’ve done it differently,” said Adams, referring to his history as a cop.”You can use plain-clothed police officers without it being done incorrectly. Proper use of anti-crime should be part of public safety.”
His calls for both reduction of police officers on jobs that should be done by civilians, investigation of possible intentional delay in response times and a forensic accounting of police management followed Commissioner Dermot Shea saying on Good Day New York the budget cuts are a “significant challenge, but won’t cripple” the department.
Adams agreed and said many changes can be made to help the department adjust to the reduction in manpower will come from attrition and layoffs. Adams however, said the commissioner should stay out of the politics, after Shea blamed bail reform for people they have to re-arrest and the releasing prisoners from Rikers Island without proper supervision.
“You can’t empty prisons and then expect that crime won’t go up,” Shea said this morning. “But make no mistake, I think this is going to be a significant challenge, it’s going to impact how we police, it’s going to impact neighborhood policing.”
Adams took issue with Shea on the ability to police the city under the current budget and policies.
“Commissioner Shea shouldn’t trouble himself over the politics, he should trouble himself over-policing,” Adams retorted. “Let the lawmakers craft the politics and the policies, and instead focus on how do we police our streets and make our streets safe. Anytime we point to policies as not insuring safety, then we surrendered, and caught in the middle of that is every day New Yorkers who expect their police to protect them. That is their role.”
But he also said they will not return to business as usual.
“We are not going back to abusive tactics and we are not going back to 2000 homicides a year in this city,” Adams said, blaming handguns for much of the city’s shootings and violence. “We’ve never had a proper response to the use of handguns and even on the federal level the focus was on automatic weapons when in reality it has been handguns – you look at the reality here or the last few days, its been handguns – a handgun shot and 11-year-old child, a handgun a 3-year-old a handgun, a 7-year-old and a handgun to assassinate a man on Dean Street.”
When asked about the reduction of cops, he maintained that the NYPD can still be effective.
“We can maintain full patrol strength without eroding public safety, there is ay we can do it, and releasing more information on that by civilianizing the department and taking them out of non-public safety roles by taking officers out of barrier detail, that’s a civilian job, there is no reason why officers are assigned to DCPI – there’s no reason why police are doing parade or filling out accident reports,” Adams said. “So how you assure full patrol strength is to tell police officers you are no longer doing non-public safety jobs and do what you are hired for and that’s public protection. There is no reason to have police officers sitting at phones answering calls.”
On parades, Adams said most of those jobs can be done by auxiliary officers and the manpower can be cut by a quarter, thus cutting overtime.
“We haven’t had any shootings at the Pulaski day parade, or the Indian Day Parade, instead of having officers on every block, you can decrease police by a quarter you can use the manpower smarter,” said Adams who believes these changes would significantly lower overtime costs.
Anthony Beckford, president of Black lives Matter of Brooklyn, said he mourns the numerous people killed and injured from street violence and he called on gang members to “cease fire.”
“When we say Black Lives Matter, it’s not just due to the police violence, but its also due to the violence in our community and there is a better way and solution and that is for our elected officials to provide adequate funding and resources, so these guns can be traded off for something better in the community – give our youth an opportunity they never had before,” Beckford said. “It makes no use of us diminishing the number in our communities as we are out here fighting against the system that is already doing that through police brutality and mass incarceration. There is no purpose of us pushing police away so we can control our communities if you, the gangs, are going to do the exact opposite to bring them back in.”