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Eric Adams

Eric Adams Won’t Engage With What Everyone Knows: The NYPD Whitewashed Kawaski Trawick’s Killing

The mayor who ran on a promise to hold police accountable now doesn't want to "interfere."

11:55 AM EST on November 9, 2023

The police killing of Kawaski Trawick poses a moral test that Eric Adams is failing (Facebook / Benny Polatseck | Mayoral Photography Office)

On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams gave his first "off-topic" press conference since the FBI raided his chief fundraiser's home last week, and as you might expect, most questions centered around the topic of what the mayor did after rushing back from Washington, D.C. (none of your business, don't worry about it) and whether in doing so, he prioritized his personal campaign over vital City business. (Icy stare: "No.")

Hell Gate was interested in all those questions, but we also wanted to follow up on our months-long effort to get the mayor to talk about the case of Herbert Davis and Brendan Thompson, the NYPD officers who killed Kawaski Trawick in his apartment in 2019, mere seconds after breaking open his door. As ProPublica reported, the NYPD's Force Investigation Division investigation of the killing was an embarrassment—Davis and Thompson were interviewed for all of half an hour, and they were never asked why their testimony was contradicted by video evidence. The Civilian Complaint Review Board's own investigation of the officers was hamstrung by the NYPD's refusal to turn over critical evidence for a year and a half. By the time the CCRB was able to bring its case for discipline against the officers to an NYPD administrative court, the statute of limitations on the charges had run out, leading the NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Trials who heard the case to recommend no discipline at all for the officers. The final decision will be made—any minute now—by Adams's police commissioner, Edward Caban.

The first time we asked the mayor about this, he pleaded ignorance but promised to look into the matter. The second time he was asked about it, he did the same. But there is some stubborn cussedness in the heart of a reporter that takes umbrage when an elected official tries to dodge a question of public import, and so we've spent the last month politely but persistently trying to get the mayor to explain why, when confronted with public evidence of an NYPD accountability process that appears busted at best and a deliberate whitewash at worst, he didn't feel obliged, as the City's chief executive, to correct those problems before they were set in concrete. These efforts didn't go very well—for weeks, we were not permitted to ask a question at mayoral press conferences.

At this week's press conference though, the mayor's staff relented and called on us. We asked the mayor the same question we've been trying to ask him and his staff for weeks without success: Why, given everything that is publicly known about the NYPD accountability process for these cops—the cursory Force Investigation Division interviews, the fact the cops were never queried about the ways in which their testimony is contradicted by video evidence, the recommendation for no disciplinary consequences at all based on a delay of the NYPD's own making—does the mayor have such faith in the NYPD process that he still doesn't feel any obligation to intervene?

The mayor responded:

"I think that New Yorkers do have confidence in the New York City Police Department, and we're one of the few municipalities that would have in place a CCRB," Adams began. "I'm blown away by what happens in other municipalities. That system is an independent system with their own level of investigations." (So far, no answer to the question.)

"I stated then, I'm going to continue to say, that I'm not going to interfere," the mayor continued. (Not to belabor this, but the question, you will recall, was why he won't interfere, why he won't take responsibility for an NYPD process that's been shown to be cursory to the point of verging on a cover-up.)

"Once the commissioner makes his final determination, I'm going to sit down with the family and hear from them," Adams went on. "We always look at how to produce a better product. If there's something we could have done better, we will do so, but the CCRB has a time limit when they're supposed to turn over information, and I believe that we need to examine, did they turn it over in a timely fashion, so we can do our proper review. And so as soon as this is concluded, I'm going to sit down with the Kawaski [sic] family and give them the audience that they're seeking."

Trawick's family has been clear throughout this process that they are not seeking an "audience" with the mayor to get an autograph or a comforting hug, but to present him with evidence that the NYPD process that has unfolded up until now represents a miscarriage of justice, and to ask him to do something about it. For the mayor to say he'll talk to them only after the NYPD has finalized a process that appears designed to get killer cops off the hook and keep them on the streets is essentially to tell Trawick's parents to abandon any hope of justice for their son.

"The mayor gave one of his typical nonresponsive speeches peppered with falsehoods and distractions," Loyda Colon, executive director of the Justice Committee, which has been supporting the Trawick family in their demands for accountability, told Hell Gate when asked about Adams's most recent comments. "The mayor claiming he doesn't want to 'interfere' in disciplinary matters is nonsense—he campaigned on holding cops accountable for violence, and it's his responsibility as mayor to ensure Thompson and Davis are fired."

In his own column on the mayor's handling of the Trawick case last month, New York Magazine's Errol Louis called the NYPD's Trawick scandal a "moral test" for the mayor. At this point, it seems clear that it is a test the mayor is determined to fail.

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