Mayor Adams Rejects Calls for Disbanding NYPD’s New Anti-Crime Units

Mayor Eric Adams, during a press conference at NYPD Headquarters in April, rejects calls for disbanding the NYPD’s Neighborhood Safety Teams. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for NY Daily News/TNS)

(New York Daily News/TNS) — Mayor Adams rejected calls for disbanding the NYPD’s Neighborhood Safety Teams on Tuesday in light of a damning federal monitor report finding that cops in the new street crime units have unlawfully stopped and frisked scores of New Yorkers of color.

The report, filed in court Monday by NYPD federal monitor Mylan Denerstein, concluded that 24% of hundreds of stops conducted by the Neighborhood Safety Teams were not predicated on reasonable suspicion of crimes. In addition, 97% of the stops analyzed by Denerstein targeted Black and Hispanic New Yorkers, a racial disparity finding that prompted criminal justice reform advocates to demand that the teams be abolished.

But Adams — who reinstated the teams last year after a previous iteration of them were disbanded in 2020 by ex-Mayor Bill de Blasio following years of accusations of racial bias in their ranks — said Tuesday morning that he has no plans to scale back the use of the units.

“No, I disagree with that,” the mayor said in an appearance on CBS News when asked about calls for the teams to be broken up.

At a press conference in Manhattan later in the day, the mayor made the case that the teams, which patrol in unmarked cars and wear modified plainclothes uniforms, have done a good job at cracking down on gun violence, citing drops in shootings and murders in the city since the units relaunched in March 2022.

He also pointed to statistics showing that the number of unlawful stop-and-frisks have dropped significantly since the infamous NYPD policy was first ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2014.

“We went from 684,000 stop, search and frisks [per year] to around 13-15,000. We’re doing a successful job,” Adams said. “We’re going to continue to improve, but I got to keep this city safe.”

Of the racial disparities highlighted by Denerstein, Adams suggested he wasn’t fazed because “over 90% of the people who are using guns are Black and brown [and] over 90% of the victims are Black and brown.”

“That’s a real number that we cannot ignore,” he added.

While vowing that he won’t “allow any abuse,” Adams did not say whether he plans to order any specific reforms in light of Denerstein’s report to ensure the Neighborhood Safety Teams don’t violate New Yorkers’ rights.

His spokesman, Fabien Levy, said Monday that the mayor’s team has “serious concerns with the methodology” used by Denerstein to produce the report. Levy did not elaborate on what those concerns are.

Denerstein was appointed in 2022 to serve as the federal government’s monitor in the years-old court case that first deemed the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practice unconstitutional. Her job is to make sure the NYPD complies with reforms and training protocols ordered by a judge as part of the stop-and-frisk case.

Though the city saw a roughly 11% drop in homicides last year as compared to 2021, Denerstein’s report cast some doubt over how instrumental the Neighborhood Safety Teams have been in contributing to that trend.

According to her report, of 230 car stops conducted by the teams, only two appeared to have turned up firearms.

The NYPD’s old Anti-Crime units, which got disbanded by de Blasio in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, were entirely made up of plainclothes cops. The units were involved in some of the city’s most high-profile police killings, including the 2014 chokehold death of Staten Island man Eric Garner.

Adams, who made a name for himself as a reformer while in the Police Department, has argued his revamped version of the units won’t repeat the mistakes of the past because cops on the new teams are required to wear some identifiable police insignia and keep their body cameras on during all encounters.

But Charles McLaurin, a senior counsel at the Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit civil right law firm, said Denerstein’s report shows the Neighborhood Safety Teams are “simply another iteration of the NYPD’s notoriously violent Anti-Crime unit.”

“For far too long, the NYPD has relied on these harmful, discriminatory tactics to push forward a flawed vision of safety that continues to harm its residents,” McLaurin said. “We call for the city to put an end to these units for good.”

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