Jul 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democrats' new police playbook

Mike Allen
Eric Adams
Eric Adams. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain who's poised to become New York mayor after winning the Democratic primary last night, points to a new path for Democrats to navigate the police issue.

Why it matters: With homicides up across the country, and cuts to police spending in several major cities, key Democrats fear that last year's defund-the-police rhetoric could haunt them in next year's midterms. And Republicans plan to make crime a top issue.

Adams, 60, who retired as an NYPD captain after a 22-year law-enforcement career, spoke to rattled New Yorkers with a twin message of "the justice we deserve and the safety we need."

  • The win by Adams, currently Brooklyn borough president, "permissions every Democrat around the nation to argue for safety and justice" over defunding police, Howard Wolfson, top Democratic strategist and former deputy mayor for Mike Bloomberg, told me.
  • The win will "chart a course for Democrats around the country," Wolfson tweeted.

Adams' campaign site says: "As a founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, Eric would often police the streets in a bulletproof vest one day during the high-crime 1980’s and 1990’s and protest bad behavior by cops the next, marching side-by-side with his fellow civil rights advocates."

  • His closing message included the words "for a secure future."

Between the lines: Adams recreated the Biden coalition in New York — strong among blue-collar and non-college educated voters, Wolfson points out.

Another top Democratic operative told me: "No one thought crime (not how we police crime) would be an issue in this campaign (or in the country) a year ago."

  • "Eric's bio matches the voters' concerns. Voters in NYC are progressive and care about BLM [Black Lives Matter] and policing, but they also don’t want to defund the PD."

The bottom line: Many voters of color don’t want to defund the police, because they deal with some of the worst of the crime. The Adams model: Reform, don’t defund, policing. Take both crime and police misconduct seriously.

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