Activists call on Adams to oppose stop-and-frisk

Reverend Kirsten John Foy speaks in front of Eric Adams’ Nostrand Avenue campaign office on June 2.
Photo by Ben Brachfeld

Activists are calling on mayoral frontrunner Eric Adams to stop supporting stop-and-frisk, the controversial NYPD practice ruled unconstitutional in 2013, and are urging voters not to rank the Brooklyn Borough President on their ballots on June 22 if he maintains his position.

“For Eric Adams, who I think is a good man, to resurrect policies that have been long oppressive, and dangerous, and lethal to Black and brown communities in the name of getting votes is disturbing at the least,” said Reverend Kirsten John Foy on Wednesday, in front of Adams’ Nostrand Avenue campaign office.

Foy stood with several other prominent Black activists opposed to stop-and-frisk, including Reverend Kevin McCall, Chris Banks of East New York Concerned Citizens, attorney Sanford Rubenstein, and Nicole Bell, the fiancé of Sean Bell, who was killed by NYPD officers in 2006.

Speakers at the June 2 rally said they weren’t intending their message to be anti-Adams, but rather anti-stop-and-frisk. However, they argued that Adams’ embrace of the policy, along with his support of reinstituting the NYPD’s notorious plainclothes anti-crime unit and of the use of solitary confinement, disqualifies him to be mayor.

“He wants to bring back the practices and the policies that we have been fighting against in this city,” said McCall, founder of the Brownsville civil rights advocacy group Crisis Action Center. “We fought against stop-and-frisk, we fought against solitary confinement, we fought against the anti-crime unit. But now, it seems like Eric Adams decides to have a message of being just like the former president Donald Trump, when he wants to reenact everything we’ve been protesting for years.”

Adams, a former NYPD detective who built his reputation as a critic of department tactics like stop-and-frisk, has staked a position as one of the most pro-police candidates in the mayoral race, often defending the department as opponents criticize it.

Speaking to CBS last year, Adams said of the tactic that he had “used it, used it often, great tool. We should never have removed stop-and-frisk.” He further said that it should be a tool in law enforcement’s arsenal if used “correctly.”

During the campaign, Adams has continued to defend the policy, though he has sought to distinguish his vision of it from the version utilized under the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations which, at its peak in 2011, was practiced on over 685,000 people, 87 percent of whom were Black or Latinx, and 88 percent of whom were innocent of any wrongdoing.

The practice as used by the NYPD was found unconstitutional by a federal court in 2013.

Adams has taken to referring to the policy as he wants to use it as “stop and question.” “If you have a police department where you’re saying you can’t stop and question, that is not a responsible form of policing,” he said last week.

“Whatever way you want to call it, Eric, it’s still unconstitutional,” McCall countered Wednesday. “If you give a police officer an inch, they take a mile.”

Foy, who was infamously arrested in 2011 with then-City Councilmemver Jumaane Williams at the West Indian Day parade after a police stop, said that the policy could not be used in any way that wasn’t discriminatory and abusive.

“There’s no way to tweak it. There’s no way to dilly-dally with it, to trim it around the edges,” Foy said. “When you’re making statements like ‘I want to randomly search bags on buses,’ what you are telling me is you are willing to barter the constitution for an election. And what we are here to say is, over our living bodies. We are not going backwards, I don’t care what color the messenger is.”

The Adams campaign, in a statement, told Brooklyn Paper that critics were misrepresenting Adams’ words and record.

“Opponents who are distorting Eric’s courageous record on battling the unconstitutional abuse of stop and frisk know better  — they physically held up the court decision where Judge Scheindlin favorably cited Eric’s testimony opposing that abuse,” said campaign spokesperson Evan Thies. “Civil rights leaders across this city, from former NYCLU executive director Norman Siegel to Reverend Al Sharpton and his daughter Ashley, know that Eric is consistent in showing up and leading the fight against injustice. As mayor, Eric will ensure that police officers do not abuse their authority to stop, question, and search innocent New Yorkers.”

This article has been updated to include comments from the Adams campaign