By Donna Ladd
When Eric Adams was a lieutenant with the New York Police Department, he took a white rookie into public housing in their precinct. When they got on the elevator, they saw a puddle of urine in the corner.
“You see, lieutenant,” the officer said to him, “these people are all animals; they don’t deserve anything.”
“Only one person pissed in the elevator,” Adams responded. “The people in this building are just as upset over that piss as you are.”
Adams, who is black, was an officer for 22 years. On the force, he spoke out against police brutality and served as president of the black fraternal NYPD Guardians Association; he was a captain when he left in 2006 to enter politics.
Now the Brooklyn borough president, Adams says officers and management must stop making assumptions about poor communities based on the “numerical minority” that commits most of the offences.
The majority of residents in every community, Adams says, want the “same thing as a millionaire,” that is, “an environment where they can raise a healthy child.” And most work hard. “They may not go to a high-paying job on Wall Street, but they go and clean the streets. But if the police don’t have interaction with the healthy people in that community, then they’ll never know how to properly police it.”
Ray Benitez, who retired in 2004 after 20 years, mostly in Bedford-Stuyvesant, agrees. He watched officers stereotype entire neighborhoods. “You’ve got to know that 95% of the people in the community have no dealing with the police at all. None.” That includes positive interactions, adds the Flatbush native who identifies as black Hispanic.