Eric Leroy Adams is an American retired police officer, politician, and author. He is the 18th and current Borough President of Brooklyn, New York City and is a candidate in the 2021 New York City mayoral election in the Democratic primary.
Adams served as an officer in the New York City Transit Police and then the New York City Police Department for over two decades, retiring at the rank of captain. He served in the New York State Senate from 2006 to 2013, representing the 20th Senate district in Brooklyn. In November 2013, Adams was elected Brooklyn Borough President, the first African American to hold the position, and was reelected in November 2017.
Adams announced his 2021 New York City mayoral election candidacy in November 2020.
Early life and education
Adams was born in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He was raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and South Jamaica, Queens and was the fourth of six children. His mother worked double shifts as a housecleaner and had received only a third-grade education. His father was a butcher.
Adams graduated from Bayside High School in Queens in 1978. He began attending college while working as a clerk at the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, receiving an associate degree from the New York City College of Technology, a B.A. from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and an M.P.A. from Marist College.
When Adams was 15 years old, he and his brother were arrested for criminal trespassing. While in police custody, they were beaten by NYPD officers until a black cop intervened. Adams suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after the incident but has said that the violent encounter motivated him to enter law enforcement. A local pastor added to his motivation when he suggested that by joining the police force, he could aid in reforming police culture from within.
Adams served as an officer in the New York City Transit Police and in the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for 22 years. He has described his wanting to serve as a reaction to the abuse he suffered by NYPD in his youth and separately stated that he was encouraged to join to lead reform from within. He attended the New York City Police Academy and graduated second in his class in 1984.
He started in the New York City Transit Police, and continued with the NYPD when the transit police and the NYPD merged. He worked in the 6th Precinct in Greenwich Village, the 94th Precinct in Greenpoint, and the 88th Precinct covering Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. During the 1990s, Adams served as president of the Grand Council of Guardians, an African American patrolmen’s association. In 1995, he co-founded 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, an advocacy group for black police officers that sought criminal justice reform and often spoke out against police brutality and racial profiling.
In 1999, Adams said on race in policing: "Lying is at the root of our training. At the academy, recruits are told that they should not see black or brown people as different, but we all do. We all know that the majority of people arrested for predatory crimes are African-American. We didn't create that scenario, but we have to police in that scenario. So we need to be honest and talk about it."
Adams has a son, Jordan Coleman, with former girlfriend Chrisena Coleman.
Adams owns a three-unit rowhouse in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, which he leases to tenants as a landlord. Adams and his partner, Tracey Collins, own a co-op in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
In 2016, Adams became a vegan after his diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Adams researched alternatives to lifelong insulin injections and sought opinions of physicians including Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr. of the Cleveland Clinic. Adams made lifestyle changes rather than pursuing traditional treatments for diabetes. He switched to a whole food plant-based diet, removing animal products, processed sugar, salt, oil and processed starches. He also began exercising regularly, including using an exercise bike and treadmill in his office. Within six months, he lost 30 pounds, reversed his diabetes, and reduced his blood pressure and cholesterol levels. He has stated that he wants to encourage others to switch to a healthier diet and that public health spending for diabetes should go towards lifestyle changes rather than treating disease. In October 2020, Adams published Healthy at Last: A Plant-Based Approach to Preventing and Reversing Diabetes and Other Chronic Illnesses, a book about his health journey that advocates for healthier lifestyles.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Adams garnered attention while Brooklyn Borough President for sleeping at his office. Politico later questioned Adams regarding how often he spent time at his office, alleging that parts of his daily schedule were dedicated to non-governmental work. Adams clarified that he continues to sleep primarily at his office out of convenience.