Eric Leroy Adams was born in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York on September 1, 1960. After graduating from the New York City Police Academy in 1984 as the highest-ranked student in his class, he launched a 22-year career as an officer with the NYPD. Claiming to have been unjustly beaten by NYPD officers when he was 15, Adams has spent much of his professional career trying to expose what he views as widespread police racism. The “culture of policing” in “communities of color,” he says, is based on a “Bull Connor mindset” which presumes that “black equals crime,” and that “using violence extremely quickly” against black suspects is appropriate.
In 1993 Adams praised the Nation of Islam (NOI) for having “proven that they can take a bite out of crime” by using “non-traditional methods of policing their communities” in urban areas. He criticized David Dinkins, New York City's then-mayor who was actively seeking re-election, for “catering to other communities” by refusing to meet with NOI leaders, who were widely perceived as anti-white and anti-Semitic. Further, Adams lobbied activist Al Sharpton to withhold his endorsement from the mayor if Dinkins continued to resist a sit-down with NOI.
In 1994 Adams tried to run against a fellow Democrat, the incumbent Major Owens, for the 11th Congressional District seat representing central Brooklyn, but was unable to gather enough valid signatures to get his name on the ballot. Adams attacked Owens for having characterized NOI, which endorsed Adams's campaign, as a “hate-mongering fringe group.” Moreover, Adams depicted Owens as a “hustler” who, in an effort to extract campaign contributions from the Jewish community, was “dangling [NOI leader Louis] Farrakhan like a Bogeyman.”
In 1994 as well, Adams derided local Hispanic politician Herman Badillo for being married to a Jewish woman, saying: “It's insulting to the Hispanic community that he can go to the Hispanic community for support, but he can't go to the Hispanic community when he's picking a wife.”
Also in 1994, Adams condemned Jesse Jackson for having criticized an infamously racist and anti-Semitic speech by a Farrakhan aide named Khalid Abdul Muhammad. “I believe no matter what was said [by Muhammad], it's time for us to realize the importance of what Farrakhan is trying to do around the issue of crime in this city,” said Adams. “…Jesse Jackson cannot deliver the African-American community as a debt to pay for the 'Hymietown' statement. He is losing his credibility.”
In 1995 Adams co-founded 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, an organization that protests against police practices which it views as racist and discriminatory. During the 1990s as well, Adams served as president of the Grand Council of Guardians, a national organization of black police officers.
From 1995 through the early 2000s, Adams re-branded himself as a Republican, saying that the Democratic Party had long taken the black vote for granted while failing to help that constituency in any meaningful way.
Adams was angered when the management of New York City's Irving Plaza reneged on its agreement to serve as the venue for an August 2000 hip-hop concert, due to concerns that violence might erupt in response to one of the scheduled performers, known as “dead prez,” who was famous for pro-violence songs like Cop Shot and Assassination. “It would be naive to think it is not possible,” said Adams, that police pressure had caused “dead prez” to be blacklisted by the city. “The hip-hop community has been classified as [an] enemy of the state by law enforcement agencies,” Adams stated, but “hip-hop is no different than any other art form, any other culture, any other group of youths attempting to express themselves.”
In the spring of 2006, Adams and his “100 Blacks” organization released their Annual Report in which they gave New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly a grade of “F” for promotions and assignments, and a “D” for recruitment and retention. Adams’s principal complaint was that “91% of the NYPD uniformed personnel in the rank of captain or above are Caucasian.” But in fact, fully 56% of blacks who had passed the Department's most recent test for captain were promoted to higher ranks, compared to only 39% of similarly qualified whites. Moreover, Kelly had already promoted more black chiefs than his two predecessors – Ben Ward and Lee Brown, both of whom were black – combined.
By the time Adams retired from the NYPD in 2006, he was once again identifying himself as a Democrat. That same year, he was elected to the New York State Senate, where he quickly established himself as a critic of police “stop, question and frisk” practices, which he portrayed as racially discriminatory. In a 2013 court proceeding, Adams testified that Raymond Kelly had once articulated a desire “to instill fear in the Latino and black communities” (to get guns off the streets). Kelly denied making the statement.
When Adams was chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee (in 2009), he and others were accused of improperly awarding casino video slot machine rights at the Aqueduct Race Track to Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG). The New York Post reported that Adams had received $14,500 in campaign contributions from AEG, and an Inspector General's report found that Adams had indeed played a key role in persuading New York Governor David Paterson to select AEG for the contract.
In November 2013, Adams was elected Brooklyn Borough President.
In March 2014, the New York Post reported that Adams had been soliciting donors for his “affiliated nonprofit,” the One Brooklyn Fund, even though the organization had not yet been formally established. As one legal expert explained, Adams's action had the potential of triggering “fraud charges” because “you can’t raise money for a charity that doesn’t exist.”
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