Twelve years later, Adams governs like this methodical policeman. He’s “practically pragmatic,” he says — sometimes to the point of being ad hoc or reactive, as if following point A to point B to point C, wherever that might take him. In February, 40 days into his term, he wrote a speech about Jayquan McKenley, an 18-year-old rapper who lost his life to gun violence in Brooklyn. The speech was about the system that “failed” McKenley, but it led Adams to explore the world of social media-driven “drill rap” where messages “bled into violent real-world confrontations.” did he declare. He told reporters he talked about drill rap with his son, Jordan Coleman, a 26-year-old filmmaker and artist, and floated the idea of banning it altogether, much like Twitter banned Donald Trump “because because he was vomiting”. ”
Except Coleman and his father never mentioned McKenley. Jordan had shown his dad videos of fellow drill rapper, Pop Smoke, in 2019. “I’m like, ‘Man! It was Three years ago,” Coleman told me. “You can’t ban a genre of music, dad! Shortly after, rappers expressed concern over a mayor threatening to eliminate (as if he had the power to) an entire form of music. Meanwhile, Jayquan McKenley’s father, at the center of the mayor’s initial speech at City Hall, said Adams had mistakenly portrayed his son as a struggling student. (In fact, McKenley’s father told the Daily News, when Jayquan was living with him in North Carolina, he had done well in school. And it was true, but when Jayquan returned to New York, the mayor’s office said after reviewing city data, he had a long streak of absences on his record.) Adams said he had wrote the speech based on information from the city and had spoken with McKenley’s family before doing so. But he didn’t want to get into a back and forth with a grieving father. “What we don’t want to happen is the attempt to twist the spirit of what I’m saying,” Adams told a reporter of the father’s complaints. Five days after the speech, the episode ended with a late-night meeting with drill rappers at City Hall. They agreed to work with the mayor to prevent gun violence. A few days later, an aide said, Adams flew McKenley’s father to New York City at his own expense to have dinner with him, putting him up in a hotel.
On the one hand, the speech produced something of value in the end. On the other hand, it was a dizzying week-long ordeal, exemplary of the kind of style of government that has been shaped crisis after crisis, beginning with the murder of two police officers, Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora, a month after the start of his mandate. “You physically lost your brother,” Adams told Rivera’s family at the funeral in January, “but you gained me as a brother.”
Adams joined the force in 1984, after an early mentor, the Reverend and civil rights leader Herbert Daughtry, encouraged him to change the system from within. In his thirties, he became president of an association of black officers before founding his own group, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. Adams was quick to criticize the department, often for the cameras. “It’s pretty obvious to me that he was not well liked in the leadership ranks of the NYPD,” said Clayton Powell, the former assemblyman. “Because unfortunately there is this blue wall of silence and he ran through it and spoke out against the misconduct of the police.”
The anger did not dissipate over time. Around 2005, Adams passed the test to become an NYPD captain. Norman Siegel, a First Amendment lawyer who has been friends with the mayor for 30 years, came to 1 Police Plaza to celebrate with the Adams family. During the ceremony, a senior NYPD spokesperson at the time approached Siegel and asked him why he was there. “Eric just became captain,” Siegel replied. “It really is a major achievement.” In response, the NYPD spokesperson began to tear at Adams. Siegel was appalled. “Can’t you just for a moment go to his mother, at least,” he suggested to the NYPD officer, “and say, ‘You must be proud of your son,’ or something like that. ?” But no, Siegel recalls. “He couldn’t even do that.”