Brooklyn Borough Remembers Slain Officers At Candlelight Vigil
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
In Brooklyn over the weekend, two New York City police officers were killed. Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were ambushed and shot in their patrol car. The gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, killed himself after being chased by police. He had a long rap sheet and a history of mental illness, and he expressed anger over the recent police killings of unarmed black men.
Many in this country are angry, and they've been protesting to send a message to the police. But in New York City, after the killing of these two officers, there's a prominent voice calling for a pause in those protests. It's Eric Adams. He's a former New York City police officer who joined the force hoping to improve the NYPD's relationship with the black community. He is now Brooklyn Bureau's president, and he joins us on the line. Good morning to you, sir.
ERIC ADAMS: Good morning. How are you this morning?
GREENE: I'm well this morning. Thank you for asking. Can you tell me what went through your mind when you heard about the murder of these officers on Saturday?
ADAMS: Well, as a former police officer and retired captain and my younger brother was also a police officer and several of my cousins - one of them is with the police department currently - immediately, I drew on the years of hearing about police officers being shot or assaulted and instantly thought about them, and were they OK? And even after finding out they were OK, your heart still comes to a pause because you know someone lost their life to violence. And so I thought about the families and what it would be to call my mother or my sisters or brothers or significant other and be told that, you know, Eric was killed or Burnhop (ph) was killed. And there's a human part of this that sometimes, I believe, gets lost in the political parts.
GREENE: Certainly a human moment, as you say. And it is worth, though, talking about the context of all of this. There's been so much anger at the police, in New York City in places like Ferguson, and protests. I wonder - you're now calling on people in New York City who are angry at the police to stop their protests. Explain to me exactly why you came to that decision.
ADAMS: No, I don't want them to start their protests. I want them to put a pause on the protests to allow these two officers to be buried. These officers were representative of what the protesters are fighting for. These were two officers that wanted to change the relationship between the community and the police department. Officer Ramos was clearly a very spiritual person who believed by using God, he can build the rift between the police and the community.
And I want them to think of the parents. You know, I thought of the parents when Eric Garner was choked to death by police officers. I knew how significant it was. And I talked with officers, and I said, let's put ourselves in the shoes of the parents. And so if we start to think about the victims, we can have a moment of just pause and allow these parents and these family members, the son - allow them to mourn. Let's embrace them and help them over this difficult moment.
GREENE: But, Eric Adams, I just wonder - I mean, I've seen some angry tweets on social media directed at you after you called for this pause in protest. And one said this - it is safe to assume Eric Adams is blue before he is black. How do you deal with an emotion like that?
ADAMS: Well, we have to understand that, but we have to put it in its proper context. There are 8 million people in New York City - millions of people in America - you are going to have people on both ends of the fringe element. There are people in the city, in the country, that believe cops do no wrong at all. There are people in the other element that believe we don't need cops and everything they do is wrong. I'm speaking to those who are in the middle, those of us who not only think with our minds, but we live with our hearts, and we know that there's a human element to this. So there's going to be those on the end of - both ends of the element that will be attacking anyone that says let's be human first, so I understand that.
GREENE: We just have a few seconds left. I just wonder, the head of the police union in New York, Patrick Lynch, charged that Mayor Bill de Blasio has, quote, "blood on his hands." He suggested the mayor didn't show enough support for police after the death of Eric Garner - the unarmed black man who you mentioned who died in a police chokehold. Do you agree that the mayor has blood on his hands?
ADAMS: No, blood is on the hands on the person who pulled trigger, and blood is on the hands of those who are allowing the over-proliferation of illegal guns in our country. I think that Patrick Lynch represents the spirit of public safety. The mayor represents the spirit of the people of the city. They can't turn their backs on each other. They must come together because there can never be a divorce between public safety and the people of the city.
GREENE: All right, Eric Adams is the Brooklyn Borough president and a 22-year veteran of the NYPD. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.
ADAMS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.