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NYPD Brass Attacks Columnist Over Subway Crime Story

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Mayor Eric Adams and top members of the NYPD spent the better part of the past three days lashing out at a columnist who criticized their response to subway crime, the latest instance of the city’s top officials attacking people they disagree with through their official social-media accounts.

In a New York Daily News piece published Saturday, columnist Harry Siegel wrote that despite the presence of more cops in the subway system, police don’t appear to have a workable plan to deal with the high number of mentally ill people there. The column came days after a series of high-profile incidents in the subway, including a shooting on a Brooklyn train and the death of a man who was shoved onto the tracks in an East Harlem station last month.

In one passage, Siegel called out Michael Kemper, the NYPD’s chief of transit:

While declaring that “some of these people should not be in civilized society,” Kemper said “We do our job, we arrest people, we remove them from the system. And then these other stakeholders, it’s their job to determine the consequences, not us.” It’s the real-life version of an old Onion bit: Somebody Should Do Something About All the Problems.

After the column was published, Kemper attacked it online, claiming it contained “misleading and straight up false information.” He pointed to Siegel’s erroneous assertion that ten people had been killed in the subway system so far this year, rather than four.

The next day, NYPD deputy commissioner of operations Kaz Daughtry went after Siegel in more personal terms, writing on X, “​​We are the police. And you are a gadfly — who should consider revising their definition of madness to: reading a Siegel column expecting a useful takeaway.”

On Sunday, the Daily News issued a correction regarding the number of subway deaths. Despite that, NYPD chief of patrol John Chell mocked Siegel, suggesting that the article’s timing and Siegel’s work as an editor for nonprofit outlet The City “demonstrates the overall disdain for the NYPD.” The criticism even extended into Monday with Chell saying in an interview on 1010WINS that Siegel is “anti-cop.”

The posts prompted some backlash. New York contributor Errol Louis called them “unprofessional tantrums.” Former city councilmember Sal Albanese said the attempt to label Siegel as anti-police was a “false narrative.”

In an interview with NY1 on Monday, Kemper defended the messages. “If people are surprised that we have a voice also, well I don’t know what to tell them,” he said. He continued, “My response was correcting a false narrative that was written and, at the end of the day, the Daily News did correct the error.”

During his weekly press briefing on Tuesday, Adams said he wasn’t going to comment on “tweets” and defended the NYPD leaders who went after Siegel. “I don’t think they attacked anyone. They responded,” he said. “The columnist shared his opinion, they shared their opinion.”

The mayor then shared his own opinion, saying it was “distasteful” to publish the piece on the same day as the funeral for Officer Jonathan Diller, who was shot in the line of duty during a traffic stop last week. Adams suggested that the response from the department was rooted in the grief they were feeling from losing a fellow officer. “What you saw from Chell and Daughtry, you saw a human reaction,” he said.

The NYPD has lately ramped up vitriol against their perceived critics both in and outside of the media. The Associated Press reported last month that the department shown more of a willingness to call out pieces of legislation, journalists, and even judges if they feel they’re in the wrong. The strategy has backfired: In February, Chell wrongly identified a judge as having presided over a case where the suspect was released without bail. According to court records, the judge wasn’t involved in the case at all.

Late last month, Adams sat for an interview on the popular radio show The Breakfast Club, where he was questioned by attorney Olayemi Olurin, who accused him of stoking fears about subway crime at a time when transit crime rates have been trending downward. As several clips of Olurin’s tense interview with Adams went viral, the NYPD’s Chell called out Olurin on X, saying that she “epitomizes everything that true NYers are against.” Though others raised Diller’s funeral to criticize Siegel’s column, Chell personally brought it up during his interaction with Olurin, challenging her to face him at the memorial after she blocked him on the platform.

When Councilmember Tiffany Cabán shared a clip from Olurin’s interview, Chell listed several accomplishments of Adams’s administration and seemed to suggest that voters should consider voting Cabán out. “You know, as I travel through the city and spend time doing media just about every day, the community always asks me what can we do to help? I always say to all NYers, ‘If you want change, vote the change you seek,’” he wrote.



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