Mayor’s school safety agent video revives conversation on police in schools

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Mayor Eric Adams and a school safety agent in a video posted to his official Twitter, @NYCMayor.
Screenshot via @NYC Mayor on Twitter

It’s no secret that Mayor Eric Adams wants the NYPD to know he supports them, and on Monday, he showed his support for school safety agents. The SSAs are part of the NYPD, but later this year, there are plans to move them back to the supervision of the Department of Education—a move the mayor is firmly against.

Adams already put his foot down with progressive councilors—their views on solitary confinement were met with harsh words from the new mayor. Several of them, including the new Speaker of the Council Adrienne Adams and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, previously expressed a need for change in the safety officer system.

Now, Mayor Adams has promoted SSAs via an off the cuff video on Twitter, putting another wedge between himself and the bustling progressive movement in the city. 

“When I talk about school safety agents, this is what I’m talking about overwhelmingly black and brown women,” Adams said, hugging what appears to be an officer in uniform. 

On controversial issues, the public advocate and the speaker act as a check to the mayor. Speaker Adams and Public Advocate Williams both have issues with the possibility of students of color being overpoliced in the classroom. 

The mayor said in his video, “What they’re doing here in this school, is giving out food to the students, really developing the relationship and community in school.”

Speaker Adams once co-sponsored a bill that suggested transferring supervision of school safety officers from the NYPD to the Department of Education. Eventually it was Bill de Blasio’s  support that led to the change, based on the sentiment that they need to take a more community-based approach.

At the end of 2021, the speaker reversed her position and moved closer to the mayor’s more moderate view as the mayor’s campaign came to a close: “I’m not all the way convinced that, number one, this is what the SSAs want, and I’m not convinced that this is what is best for the students in the school,” she told the Gotham Gazette

The public advocate, who favors the move, would not reaffirm his stance after the release of Mayor Adams’ video, but instead pointed back to the conversation. 

“As we move forward with the important conversation on how our city must improve school safety while preventing over policing, it’s critical to include all perspectives and voices, including agents— the majority of whom are Black and Brown women invested in the well-being of students,” a spokesperson for Williams told PoliticsNY. “We need our schools to be welcoming, healing-centered spaces, and the Public Advocate has always been committed to that dialogue and that work.”