New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) says police departments should focus not only on training but on the "basic aptitude" of officers and recruits after five Memphis, Tenn., police officers fatally beat Tyre Nichols earlier this month in what Adams called an "alarming and troubling" attack earlier this month.
"We sometimes believe just because a person is a police officer that they could do every job within law enforcement. But then there are those that do not have the basic aptitude, discipline it needs. That's what we saw on full display during the assault in Memphis," Adams told CBS News in an interview released Wednesday.
"They don't have the basic aptitude. They seem too comfortable in carrying out the actions. No one was there stopping each other from the actions. That was alarming and troubling to me more than anything," the mayor said.
Graphic police footage released last week shows a group of officers pepper-spraying, punching, kicking and stun-gunning 29-year-old Nichols as he cried out in pain and as others at the scene stood by. The officers had pursued Nichols after a traffic stop.
"I was looking at the video and saying, 'OK, who is going to step in and say stop?' No one did that. That is a complete violation of what law enforcement stands for," Adams said.
The five officers initially named in the incident - members of Memphis Police Department's Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods unit, or Scorpion unit - were fired on Jan. 20 and have since been indicted on second-degree murder charges.
"Police must reach the level of professionalism that we expect of them," Adams said.
The New York City mayor was attacked by a police officer as a 15-year-old in an assault that he says traumatized him, and later became a New York Police Department captain to "fight from within."
At the same time, Adams underscored the need to recognize officers who carry out their duties honorably, "standing in harms way" to protect others, and to encourage new recruits in the face of an "anti-police" campaign.
"We cannot demonize them from the actions of those who have betrayed the shield," Adams said.
"We should have every sorority, fraternity, every church, every civil civic group, NAACP - let's find our best and our brightest and say, 'Public protection is crucial to our communities, and it must be done right.' So we should be part of the campaign of the policing we want it to look like."
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