Following a massive brawl between police officers and a group of black teenagers at Jay Street-Metrotech subway station on Oct. 25, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams chalked up the incident to a lack of communication between civilians and law enforcement.
“You have a complete miscommunication,” said Adams at a Tuesday press conference at Borough Hall. “A person that was told of a threat, and a person that is just going about his daily duties — and there is no one telling them how to communicate with each other.”
A viral video of the incident shows one of New York’s Finest slugging 15-year-old Benjamin Marshall amid the wild skirmish inside the subway station — leading to numerous anti-police protests , and calls for more stringent oversight.
According to Adams, this disconnect has led the city youth to instinctively harbor negative feelings about encounters with police officers.
“Automatically, we are programmed to think these encounters are negative — and we have to learn not to view them as negative,” he said.
The Borough President also laid specific blame for the recent brawl on the officer who punched the teen, speculating that this was not his first incident of questionable behavior.
“He should not be a cop,” said Adams. “Without even knowing, I can tell you he has an extensive [Civilian Complaint Review Board] record just by the interaction I saw in that subway.”
Adams’ remarks came as he launched an initiative to train homeless youth on how to interact with law enforcement — and to then teach the tactics to their peers.
“They think they know their rights, but often they don’t — and the consequences of their not knowing can be dire,” said Adams. “This new pilot program we are announcing will empower young people to speak to each other in a language they understand about appropriate interactions with law enforcement.”
Funded by a $5,000 seed grant from the BP’s office, the school-based program will be administered by the non-profit group Community Counseling and Mediation, and will be modeled after similar in-school programs such as “Gang Resistance Education and Training” — better known as G.R.E.A.T, according to Adams.
The program centers around homeless youth because the infrastructure already exists to reach them — allowing Adams’ deescalation scheme to piggy-back off other programs, he said.
The initiative will first deploy in Brooklyn, but Adams hopes to expand the initiative to students across the five boroughs by the beginning of next year.