June 10, 2023

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former New York Police Department captain who was also assaulted by police as a teenager, told CBS News Tuesday that police departments must concern themselves with the “basic aptitude” of police officers and recruits, in addition to training.

In a wide-ranging interview with CBS News senior White House and political correspondent Ed O’Keefe, Adams said it was “alarming and troubling” to him that the officers in Memphis who violently arrested Tyre Nichols and then allegedly beat him appeared to be so “comfortable.” Five former Memphis police officers have been fired and charged with murder following Nichols‘ death, and two additional officers have been relieved of duty.

“You are trained with the basic needs of a law enforcement officer, and everyone should have those basic needs,” Adams said. “… We sometimes believe just because a person is a police officer, that they could do every job within law enforcement. But then there are those that do not have the basic aptitude discipline in needs. That’s what we saw on full display during the assault in Memphis. They don’t have the basic aptitude. They seem too comfortable in carrying out the actions. No one was there stopping each other from the actions. That was alarming and troubling to me more than anything.”

Adams said law enforcement should be recruiting the “best and brightest” in the Black community and other communities, the way the best and brightest are encouraged to become doctors and teachers. 

“The only place that we don’t go into communities and say we must bring our privacy is law enforcement,” Adams said. “We say just the opposite.”

Adams said there’s an “anti-police” campaign discouraging young people from being a “sellout” and joining law enforcement. That has to change, he said. 

“We should have every sorority, fraternity, every church, every civil civic group, NAACP — let’s find our best and our brightest and say public protection is crucial to our communities, and it must be done right,” Adams said. “So we should be part of the campaign of the policing we want it to look like.”

Still, Adams said, every day, men and women in uniform stand in harms way, and, “We cannot demonize them from the actions of those who have betrayed” their profession. 

On a separate topic, Adams told O’Keefe he spoke with President Joe Biden during his visit to New York on Tuesday about the fate of asylum seekers who have come to New York City. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been busing migrants to Democrat-led cities, including New York, with more than 40,000 migrants having arrived in New York City since the summer. On Sunday, Adams tried to enforce a plan to move single men from a midtown Manhattan hotel to an emergency shelter in Brooklyn has been met with backlash and dozens of migrants have camped out outside the hotel to prevent moving. 

Adams has been pushing the president to appoint some type of czar to handle the influx of asylum seekers, and said a “decompression strategy is needed.” 

“Yes, the president gave me an opportunity to have a brief conversation with him about the asylum seekers, we want to do a follow-up,” Adams said. “Because he, too, understands that the American dream should not turn into a nightmare. And the only way we could do that is with proper coordination. And I’m going to continue to speak on behalf of those who are pursuing the American dream. All of us, no matter who we are, we all came from somewhere. And there’s a reason the Statue of Liberty sits in our harbor, because for 400 years, we have welcomed people to this city.”

Adams said the president is “continuously pushing the Republicans” to approve comprehensive immigration reform. 

“That is the heart of the problem,” Adams said. “That is the fire prevention. What we’re not getting right is the fire right now. When my house is burning I like to say, don’t tell me about fire prevention tactics, we’ve got to put out the fire. The fire is the proliferation of migrants that are coming to cities like Chicago, New York, Houston, El Paso. It’s just not right. One city should not be holding a national problem.” 

But Adams said “heck yes” he wanted Mr. Biden to run for reelection despite the president’s age. 

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