By Bill Bratton as seen in the NY Daily News
Eric Adams is suffering from a condition that has been on the wane in New York, and I don’t mean his recent bout with COVID. It’s called “common sense.” Apparently, at least among politicians, it’s not contagious. In his first 100 or so days as mayor, Adams has displayed symptoms by taking a series of positions that have put him at odds with both the right and the left. Why? Because he has clung to logic, fact-based judgments, and a sense of what most people actually want.
For example, he has riled the left because he believes that people should not live in a city where we choose well-meaning ideology over shootings, violence and fear. He believes some people need to be arrested and some people need to go to jail, especially if their records show they tend to keep committing the same crimes between arrests, and that judges should be allowed to exercise judgment, a trait that actually appears in the job title. He believes people who come into the transit system should pay the fare and use it to travel rather than to smoke, drink, urinate or call it home.
He equally annoys the right because he believes that city workers should be vaccinated, that the youngest children should still wear masks and that people in high crime areas need both police protection and consistent, unbiased respect from the officers whose job is to serve them. They are suspicious because Adams maintains cordial relations with both centrists but also progressive politicians, he often disagrees without feeling a need to vilify them.
One hundred days is not enough time to fairly list accomplishments or even fairly judge whether his programs will succeed — but it is enough time to discern whether he intends to govern in the spirit he campaigned.
Let’s consider what he has done so far as evidence. The road to success begins with a plan. First came the Subway Safety Plan, which not only maintained 1,000 additional cops being pushed into the system every day but then expanded it substantially by having every patrol unit in every precinct conduct station inspections below ground a couple of times during each tour of duty. This has resulted in an increased presence of police at various times throughout the system that has resulted in more than 100,000 additional patrols without increasing workforce or overtime.
Working with his criminal justice team and Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, he instituted a gun violence reduction plan that included new anti-gun teams focused specifically on the areas that experience the most shootings, with hand-picked officers who are not only tactically proficient but also better trained in the constitutional aspects of conducting stops based on reasonable suspicion.
Adams instituted a quality-of-life enforcement initiative in 17 precincts experiencing the highest number of quality-of-life complaints combined with violent crimes. This has not only been responsive to people’s complaints about things like public drinking, loud parties throughout the night, dice games in the street, but takes into account that according to police, as the weather gets warmer, about 30% of shooting incidents are preceded by other reports of lawbreaking and other violations.
Mayor Adams also realizes that criminal justice without consequences is enforcement without effect. He went to Albany to negotiate with legislators and Gov. Hochul to change criminal justice reform laws that were well-intentioned but poorly thought-out that allowed revolving-door justice even for career criminals who demonstrate that in between arrests they will continue to commit the same crimes. Even with the meaningful changes to these laws he and his police commissioner were able to convince Albany to make, he has been quite candid that the change they refused to make, allowing judges to consider dangerousness in setting bail, is still something that is needed to keep the very few people behind much of the cycle of violence behind bars.
The mayor has realized the fundamental premise that to be a prosperous city, one that will keep residents from moving out, get businesses to stay and attract new ones, requires that it must be first a safe city. That means one free not just free of rising violent crime but also of the kinds of disorder that we see in the streets every day that make people feel unsafe.
Like any effective manager, the mayor has set a course, announced it publicly, and is attempting to navigate it forward. But he cannot do it alone. To succeed he will require more support from the City Council, the Legislature, and the people. Recent polls show that where crime and disorder are concerned, the people are with him. It is time for other elected leaders to join in the effort.