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Eric Adams

Eric Adams Does Not Want to Be Asked About Kawaski Trawick

The mayor won’t even admit he’s read reporting documenting the whitewash of an NYPD killing.

Eric Adams and senior staff sitting in front of an American flag in City Hall

Eric Adams at an off-topic press conference in City Hall October 31. (Hell Gate)

Four weeks ago, on October 3, Hell Gate asked Eric Adams at his first off-topic press conference about the fact that the NYPD was recommending no consequences at all for the officers who kicked in Kawaski Trawick's door in 2019, and, in the space of 112 seconds, shot him to death in his own apartment. The NYPD's rationale for this recommendation was that the underfunded and underpowered oversight organ that brought the disciplinary charges waited too long to do so, a curious logic given that the NYPD withheld critical video evidence in the case for more than a year and a half.

Adams told Hell Gate that any delay in turning over evidence was news to him, but that he'd look into it.

At the next off-topic press conference a week later, Adams was asked again about the case of Herbert Davis and Brendan Thompson, the officers who killed Trawick. He said he'd been busy traveling, but he'd asked NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban about it, and that Caban—who was evidently not able to immediately furnish answers about the most high-profile police killing in the city in recent years—had promised to look into it and get back to the mayor, but he hadn't done so yet.

On October 17, during the next once-a-week opportunity for the press to directly ask the mayor questions on subjects not of his choosing, Hell Gate attempted to ask the mayor if he was finally up to speed on the Trawick case and if he stood behind the NYPD's process, but City Hall staff did not permit us to ask any questions. 

This Tuesday, we tried yet again at his weekly press conference to ask if the mayor was now caught up with the reading public in his understanding of the Trawick case, and whether he could assure New Yorkers that the investigative and disciplinary process for the cops who killed Trawick met his standards. Once again, however, City Hall staff did not allow Hell Gate to ask a question. As the press conference broke up, we called out our questions to the mayor. His eyes met ours—he heard us— but he didn't answer. We tried again as he hustled out of the room; he still didn't answer, and his press team chided us for trying to ask the mayor outside of the formal press conference.

Reporters attend the mayor's Tuesday press conferences because he has unilaterally declared that he won't answer questions about topics not of his choosing for the other six days and 23 hours of the week. Even on Tuesday mornings, the mayor controls the agenda—his people decide who can and can't pose questions. To the extent there's any value at all in attending these stage-managed events, it's that if you manage to get your question off, the mayor is at least under some obligation to provide an answer, however helpful or unhelpful it may be. Not so, however, with City Hall's well-compensated press team. When we emailed them to ask our questions after this week's press conference, we didn't receive any response at all.

We did, however, hear back last month when we emailed the Mayor's Office and asked whether Adams was familiar with the reporting that raised questions about both the disciplinary process for the officers who killed Trawick and the NYPD's own internal investigation, which ProPublica revealed consisted in large part of a half-hour interview of the officers that didn't even refer to the video evidence. Charles Lutvak, a mayoral spokesperson, replied on behalf of the mayor with a statement that didn't answer our questions. "As with any NYPD disciplinary case, the mayor will not intervene while the case is ongoing. The police commissioner will make this decision independent of City Hall," Lutvak wrote, deploying an argument similar to the one the mayor has recently used when asked about a Department of Investigation inquiry into his trusted advisor allegedly assaulting security guards at a migrant shelter.

While there may certainly be circumstances in which a mayor should allow an investigation or disciplinary process to run its course without interference, that only makes sense if the mayor and the public have full confidence in the integrity of the process. In a case like this, one which the New York Magazine columnist Errol Louis recently described as "a moral test for Eric Adams," and where it has been publicly reported for months that there are serious concerns about the process, it's reasonable for New Yorkers to expect that the mayor knows at least as much as they do about what's going on in the police department, and that he, the person they elected to oversee the police department, is confident in its process. The fact that Adams and his press team can't make either of these assurances suggests that the mayor is either professionally negligent or is trying to dodge responsibility for the actions he knows are indefensible.

This state of affairs is, to speak plainly, fucked. The mayor is fond of blaming other people for the problems of his administration—he delivered a lengthy monologue at Tuesday's press conference depicting himself as an "old-fashioned common sense guy" trying to get things done in the face of meddling interference from starry-eyed idealists and unsatisfiable haters. But there's no one else keeping Adams from ensuring that trigger-happy cops are properly investigated. He is the people's elected executive in charge of the NYPD. The only thing standing in his way is his own evident unwillingness to do his job.

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