January 27, 2023
Mayor Eric Adams: New Yorkers, there is a lot of pain in America right now. A lot of pain in Memphis. And like so many of you, I am feeling that pain. My heart goes out to Tyre Nichols' family and friends and the people of Memphis.
As a human being, I am devastated. As a mayor, I am outraged. And as someone who spent decades fighting for police diversity and against police abuse, I feel betrayed by these officers — there is no other way to say it. I have been a police officer and I have been the victim of police abuse.
I know the impact of it. When my brother and I were beaten as young men in the basement of a police station by officers, I was angry. I refused to trust the system. But when I turned to civil rights activist Reverend Herbert Daughtry, he encouraged me to turn my pain into purpose. And that's what I did as a police officer who co-founded the organization 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. We fought against police abuse from within the system.
Any officer who engages in violence and brutality tarnishes all the work we have done to keep communities safe and foster a better relationship between the police and the communities they serve. And they make it harder for their brothers and sisters in uniform to accomplish the incredible work they do day in and day out.
In this case, the Memphis mayor, the police chief, and the justice system acted quickly and decisively, resulting in the arrest of the five officers responsible for Tyre's death. This is not always the case, and I strongly commend them for their actions. Here in New York City, we are working and will continue to work hard to prevent something like this from happening. I know the importance of police to our communities, and I have stated over and over again that we have a sacred covenant: Our officers must follow the law and be held accountable for their actions; otherwise, there is no law.
We should be able to express our sorrow and our rage, but we must take all that pain and turn it into purpose like the Reverend Daughtry taught me. I have just been briefed by the White House, along with many other mayors across the country. Immediately before that, I communicated with over 125 elected officials here in the city. We discussed the video that will be released today, a video that by all reports will be graphic and disturbing. It will trigger pain and sadness in many of us. It will make us angry.
My message to New Yorkers is to respect the wishes of Mr. Nichols' mother: If you need to express your anger and outrage, do so peacefully. My message to the NYPD has been, and will continue to be, to exercise restraint. We, as a city and nation, must have an open dialogue about what happened to Mr. Nichols, and it means taking actions as Americans united against violence and abuse of power. I have dedicated over 40 years of my life to the pursuit of both safety and justice. And as your mayor, let me promise you this: I will continue to work with leaders across the nation to make that vision a reality. Thank you.