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Adams: Revived NYPD plainclothes anti-crime unit to work to reduce shootings

Mayor Eric Adams, right, visits The Cathedral Church

Mayor Eric Adams, right, visits The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in upper Manhattan on Sunday. Credit: Mayoral Photography Office / Michael Appleton

New York City Mayor Eric Adams vowed on Sunday to battle a surge in shootings by bringing back the NYPD’s controversial plainclothes anti-crime unit, but he declined to say how it will differ from the team that was disbanded in 2020.

Adams, who was sworn in as mayor Saturday, said he gave new NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, the former chief of detectives for the Nassau County Police Department, his concept for the anti-crime unit and left it to her to develop the details.

"We are not going to do anything in secret," Adams said during a news conference after holding a roundtable discussion on gun violence with community members in Manhattan. "When the commissioner finalizes the final operation, we are going to do a nice presentation, we will let you see exactly how it is."

The unit, disbanded by former Commissioner Dermot Shea in June 2020 in the wake of calls for reform sparked by the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police, had been involved in a disproportionate number of civilian complaints and fatal shootings by police. Adams, a former NYPD police captain who ran on a platform of improving public safety, said the police department will do a better job of balancing justice and policing than under his predecessors.

"I know how to do it right because I fought against what was being done wrong," Adams said.

There were more than 1,800 people shot in New York City in 2021, Adams said, a 104% increase over 2021.

Adams said body cameras and other technology will help ensure that officers with the anti-crime unit are not overly aggressive when policing in minority communities.

"We’re going to have the right officers assigned, they’re going to wear their body cameras, every interaction that they have … it’s going to be videoed and reviewed," Adams said earlier on Sunday on MSNBC’s "The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart."

Adams called Sewell a "good police commissioner" who is conducting an analysis of the NYPD police force to determine "the right balance, because the balance is not just heavy-handed policing. It's public safety and justice."

Adams also vowed to keep the city open even as the omicron variant has led to a record-breaking number of COVID-19 cases throughout New York State.

"If we close down our city, it is as dangerous as COVID," Adams said during an appearance on ABC’s "This Week." "So, the proper balance of safety, keeping our economy operating, is going to allow us to get through this."

Asked about staffing shortages among municipal workers due to the virus, Adams insisted the city is "pivoting based on where the urgency is located," including reducing service on some subway lines to account for the reduction in workers.

"We spent $11 trillion on COVID and we don't have another $11 trillion," Adams said of the costs associated with the two-year pandemic. "So our lives can't be based on what's the new variant. No. We have to figure out, ‘How do we adjust?’"

With Laura Figueroa Hernandez

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