New York Mayor Eric Adams has made his top priority clear: tackling the rise in gun violence that began early in the pandemic. The path he has charted to reduce shootings centers on reinstating a version of the plainclothes police units that had become notorious for their use of force on Black and Latino New Yorkers before the units were disbanded in 2020, the New York Times reports. The proposal to restore what were known as anti-crime units has been criticized by progressive groups, and underscores the tensions Adams is facing over policing issues in his first days in office. Adams, a former police captain who was outspoken critic of the department from within, helped lead the backlash against the units after officers killed an unarmed Black man, Amadou Diallo, on his porch in 1999.
The units were widely viewed within the department as an elite force that produced strong results. They played an outsize role in the searches of millions of young Black and Latino men during the stop-and-frisk era. Studies suggest the practice — which very rarely produced weapons — did little to lower crime levels. Critics say that an intense focus on gun enforcement has historically led to aggressive and discriminatory policing. The way Adams navigates the reinstatement of the unit will offer an early window into how his administration may tackle some of the most critical questions the police department faces.