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  • BOB HERBERT: Hi I'm Bob Herbert. Welcome to Op-Ed. T.V.

  • New York has seen a series of protests

  • demonstrations following the deaths at the hands of

  • police officers of Eric Garner on Staten Island

  • and Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri.

  • The city then went through the trauma of the cold blooded

  • assassination of two police officers by a

  • deranged man who shot them while they were sitting in

  • their patrol car and then killed himself. Those

  • killings lit the fuse of a continuing and bitter

  • controversy that has pitted angry police

  • officers against Mayor Bill de Blasio. We are

  • fortunate this week to be able to explore this

  • complex and potentially dangerous state of affairs

  • with the borough president of Brooklyn Eric Adams,

  • who graduated at the top of his class at the police

  • academy in 1984, and spent twenty two years as an

  • officer with the N.Y.P.D. Eric, how are you?

  • ERIC ADAMS: Thank you.

  • BOB HERBERT: Thanks for coming in today.

  • ERIC ADAMS: And it should be a footnote, I graduated

  • at the top not because of brilliance, endurance-

  • BOB HERBERT: Endurance, right, which is really an important

  • issue, you know, when I talk on college campuses I tell

  • college kids this, persistence and endurance, discipline

  • is really important, right? So-

  • ERIC ADAMS: So true, so true.

  • BOB HERBERT: But I'm sure a certain amount of

  • brilliance too. So you've been obviously on both

  • sides of this sort of thing, both as a police

  • officer within the department and as a public official.

  • How do we begin to sort out this unfortunate situation?

  • Do, for example, do the cops have a legitimate grievance

  • with Mayor de Blasio? What's going on there?

  • ERIC ADAMS: Well the first order, I believe,

  • is to understand that it's complex. Many people believe

  • there's a simplistic response to, how do we have public

  • safety and how do we ensure that our police

  • officers are safe and it's not. It is extremely

  • complex, particularly when you police in certain

  • communities and what you bring to those policing

  • environments. And if we don't identify all of them

  • then we're going to be in this constant state of

  • just debating with each other and not coming to resolutions.

  • BOB HERBERT: Now you recently wrote an op-ed piece

  • in The New York Times that carried the headline

  • We Must Stop Police Abuse of Black Men.

  • Now I've covered a tremendous amount over the

  • years of unwarranted violence by police

  • officers. I do not contend that that's the norm by

  • any means but there has been a great deal of it.

  • But if you talk to police officials they will almost

  • always tell you that there is very little excessive

  • force used by cops and almost no racial profiling.

  • This conflicts with sort of what I've seen in my career.

  • What's the truth there?

  • ERIC ADAMS: Well it's more than what you or I or anyone

  • else has witnessed, the facts speak for themselves.

  • The reality is, as I am attempting to

  • show as we have these conversations, is that a

  • police officer he or she leaves their command with

  • a tool box full of tools to go and fight crime or

  • correct conditions. They use the full scope of

  • those tools in certain communities. And in other

  • communities they only pull out their hammer.

  • They immediately go to this use of force. And I think that

  • is not so much racist as much as a racial society

  • that we live in. When a police officer is

  • recruited from that society, he goes to the

  • police academy with these racial stereotypes and

  • understanding and no one trains him in the police

  • academy how to deal with that and how to address

  • that. So they go on to the patrol with the

  • misunderstanding that you can just go into a

  • multicultural, multi diverse community and just

  • police based on what you know when you didn't

  • address some real issues that impact us all.

  • BOB HERBERT: Now you addressed that specifically in your

  • op-ed article. You wrote, and this is a quote,

  • "One of my white fellow officers once told me that

  • if he saw a white individual with a gun, he

  • took extra care for himself and the individual.

  • When he saw a black individual with a gun,

  • he took care only for himself." Now the double

  • standard could hardly be more stark or explicit

  • then it was in that paragraph. If the

  • situation is that bad how do we begin to change it

  • and who needs to take the lead here?

  • ERIC ADAMS: And I remember one case in particular in

  • the transit authority where a white male entered the system

  • armed with a gun and the officers saw him and

  • approached him in a very casual manner because,

  • again, they thought white male equals law

  • enforcement plus a gun. When you see, when one

  • sees a black male or Hispanic person they think

  • immediately gun, person of color, equal criminal.

  • So that misconception or that pre-disposition cannot

  • only harm the innocent person but you can also

  • endanger the officer. So our training must really

  • focus on the fact that when we come into law

  • enforcement we're coming in with the years and

  • years of what we believe is a definition of a

  • criminal and a definition of an innocent person.

  • And many of our officers Bob, which is interesting, they

  • come from communities where it's a monolithic

  • community. Not only white officers, even black officers,

  • many black officers may have grew up

  • in South Jamaica, Queens, Brownsville, Bedford-

  • Stuyvesant, had no interaction with Asians,

  • no interaction with Hasidic Jews,

  • no interaction with Italians and so until we understand

  • that we live in a monolithic community and

  • now we have to police in a diverse community, we have

  • to be trained to acknowledge that and leave

  • the area of denial. Policing believe that we

  • don't see color we only see crimes. That is not a reality.

  • Human beings acknowledge what they see

  • in front of them and we have to deal with it.

  • BOB HERBERT: So you mention the incidents where an

  • officer might see a white fella with a gun and they

  • think perhaps he's an officer. But we have seen

  • these so-called friendly fire incidents where

  • African-American police officers have actually

  • been fired upon by white officers who saw them and

  • didn't realize that they were police officers.

  • So the question becomes, you say that it's a question

  • of training, the question becomes who should be

  • responsible for initiating this training, if we have

  • it now we don't have enough of it, and who

  • should take the lead politically even outside

  • of the police department?

  • ERIC ADAMS: And we don't have enough of it because it has

  • never been acknowledged before, it has been ignored and I

  • use the analogy that our law enforcement community

  • across the globe particularly here in

  • America we suffer from abuse of law enforcement

  • abuse intoxication and any time you've taken those

  • steps towards sobriety, the first thing you have

  • to do is acknowledge it. We have failed to

  • acknowledge it. Finally I believe Mayor de Blasio,

  • Police Commissioner Bratton and Deputy

  • Commissioner Julian, they're looking at,

  • we have to acknowledge that we have a problem and take

  • steps towards sobriety. And that is looking at how

  • we treat police interactions based on what

  • communities we are in. And I think we are on the way

  • to doing that and it starts in the police

  • academy, very real honest training and how to go out

  • and deal with police- and then reinforcement.

  • Because anyone that goes through any form of

  • getting rid of some form of addiction you know that

  • it doesn't mean because you do a three day

  • training that all of a sudden you're not going to

  • have some of those same problems that got you in

  • trouble in the first place. It's the constant

  • retraining so that people don't get caught up in the

  • everyday life of answering jobs on the street.

  • BOB HERBERT: Now this is an unusual posture for a high

  • ranking elected official in the city to take. Why has this not

  • hurt you or hindered you politically do you think?

  • ERIC ADAMS: Well I think because people know that during my

  • time in days in a police department, a career that I

  • loved I enjoyed so much being a cop. I just thought that

  • there's no other type of profession I wanted to do,

  • study and to get promoted and in the department,

  • moving up from sergeant, lieutenant and then the captain,

  • was a dream come true for me. And when people knew

  • how much I enjoyed the career but I was willing to

  • critique the career because I wanted to make

  • it better. I thought the uniform and the badge

  • stood for something and because I was so

  • vociferous about police reform as a police

  • officer, then when I got into government and became

  • a state senator and then the borough president,

  • I was able to critique policing because people

  • knew that I was coming from a very honest and

  • authentic position making the department better.

  • BOB HERBERT: Now this issue of excessive police violence.

  • You experienced first hand, you were a victim of

  • police violence when you were just a teenager.

  • Can you tell us about that?

  • ERIC ADAMS: I was fifteen years old at the time.

  • I was arrested for criminal trespass trespassing and after

  • the arrest I was assaulted by police officers who,

  • you know, kicked me in my groin area repeatedly.

  • And when you think about it you could assault someone

  • all over the body but to focus on that area,

  • I thought there were other significant connotations

  • behind it. And you know for days Bob, I urinated blood and

  • I was concerned, even today when I think when my son was

  • born how I was relieved because I actually thought

  • I would never be able to have children and to see

  • his birth was you know it relieved me of some of the

  • demons and, you know, it's amazing some of the demons

  • you have inside you. So I had a demon in me and the

  • only way I could get it out was to go in.

  • BOB HERBERT: To go in to the police department?

  • ERIC ADAMS: Go in to the police department.

  • BOB HERBERT: Is that the reason you wanted to be a cop?

  • ERIC ADAMS: It was a combination.

  • Reverend Herbert Daughtry, from the House of Lords Church,

  • he was one of the driving forces that recruited some

  • young people to become law enforcement members after

  • there was a terrible shooting in our community

  • and I jumped at the chance because I realized it was

  • my opportunity to deal with some of those very

  • significant issues that I was dealing

  • with in police and police reform.

  • BOB HERBERT: You haven't just talked about these issues

  • I mean you were very proactive even when you were in the

  • department. You were one of the co-founders

  • of the group 100 Blacks In Law Enforcement Who Care.

  • I believe you were once the president of the Grand

  • Council of the Guardians. Can you tell us what those

  • two organizations were and what they were trying to achieve?

  • ERIC ADAMS: A significant legacies that Roger Ables and

  • so many of the men and women who came before me that paved the

  • way for those of us in law enforcement. They were

  • extremely progressive, they wanted diversity in the

  • police department. They wanted to ensure that police officers

  • were treated fairly but also treated the people fairly.

  • In addition to that what was important about those

  • organizations is that they paved the way. They were a

  • voice. We looked around Dr. King when he did his

  • speech in Washington D.C. Present was members of the

  • Guardian's Association. They played a very important role

  • in our community. The problem that I'm feeling now is many

  • of our young people who are of color and they are wearing a

  • police uniform or law enforcement uniform they

  • don't really understand the legacy and they're not present

  • in the moment and history is not going to be kind to

  • them because many people are asking, where are the

  • black cops? Who are Hispanic cops during this time?

  • BOB HERBERT: That was one of the questions I was going

  • to ask you, why we don't hear more voices from

  • African-American police officers and other officers of

  • color when we have some of these terrible situations

  • developing? So you say that they don't know a great deal

  • about the history but there must be something else at

  • work now because they're aware of what's going on right

  • now why aren't they speaking up?

  • ERIC ADAMS: Well I think that many of them and I have

  • had several conversations with active law enforcement officers

  • to talk about this because many of them believe they