Former NYC police commissioner, Brooklyn president on controversy over cop's takedown

This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," December 5, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: Howard Safir is a former New York City police commissioner, he did a lot to improve relations between the police force and the community here.  Sir, good of you to be here tonight.

And so, the mayor taking incoming and so are others for suggesting that same message, that blacks need to be more careful when it comes to the cops because they're more likely to get targeted. They need to be extra courteous because cops are more likely to think they're doing something wrong. And that needs to stop. Your thoughts.

HOWARD SAFIR, NYPD COMMISSIONER, 1996-2000: Well, I think the mayor's comments were very inappropriate. A mayor is supposed to bring people together. And I think what Mayor de Blasio did was make polarizing comments indicting an entire police force. And it couldn't be more wrong.  The NYPD is one of the most restrained police forces in the country.  Civilian complaints are down. Officer-involved shootings are down. When you talk about diversity, the probability is that you're going to be arrested by a New York City police officer, you're going to be arrested by a person of color.

So, you know, all of this is just throwing flames on a fire. And it's just inappropriate.

KELLY: The implication is, and I believe our next guest is going to argue that, these cops -- one thing in the academy but when they get out on the beat they are told, there's an understanding whether they're black or white, you see a black guy, you need to worry. You see a white guy, you worry but you worry less.

SAFIR: I find that preposterous. I went to dozens and dozens of town hall meetings and community meetings and church meetings and I very rarely heard complaints about racism. Most complaints that I heard we wanted more police officers to protect us in our community. And, you know, ninety percent of the victims of homicides in New York City are people of color.  And the vast majority of perpetrators are also people of color. So this whole thing about racism is something that the left is perpetrating and it's just not true.

KELLY: They also in particular in the case of Eric Garner believe the reason that man was left to lie there for as long as he was after, you know, the arm was around the neck and he was saying "I can't breathe, I can't breathe," and not attended to, was his humanity was forgotten. And the reason that happened is because it was a black man whose life was worth less in the eyes of these police officers.

SAFIR: I think that's ridiculous. Police officers are there to protect people. Now, whether or not there was appropriate policy followed in the Garner case is going to be determined by the NYPD internal investigation. But I don't believe for one minute that any of those police officers intended for Eric Garner to die.

KELLY: Mr. Commissioner, thank you for being here.

SAFIR: Great to be with you.

KELLY: Joining me now with more, Eric Adams, the Borough president for Brooklyn and a retired New York Police Department captain. Sir, good to see you tonight.

So, did I get it about right? I mean, the implication is that these cops walk the beat and they among themselves behind closed doors, there's an understanding that they're going to worry more, target more African-Americans than they are whites.

ERIC ADAMS, RETIRED NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT CAPTAIN: Well, I think that's not, based on my opinion, is based on my 22 years of police service, and based on what the numbers show when it comes down to stop and frisk, marijuana arrests although whites use marijuana the same level as blacks, it's a disproportionate number of who's arrested for it.

So the methodologies that are used in law enforcement, across the country, not only in New York, is really based on a different implementation based on where you are carrying out the police factors.

KELLY: Do you contend that the police would not have confronted Eric Garner down in Staten Island if he had been a white man? Because what they say is, they were getting calls from the business owners down there, most of whom were African-Americans, saying this guy's driving away customers.  He's been a repeat problem. Please get rid of him.

ADAMS: And it's commendable for the police to have responded to a call of service. And we need to be clear on what's the underlying conversation. I want what I'm saying to be removed from those who are protesting, those who are angry. I want us to have a very rational and practical approach to this. What I am saying, a well-trained police departments across the country are applying their skills differently based on the community they're in. So I do want my police officer to come and tell a person you can't sell loosies. But that person should not be placed in a chokehold and left on the ground to die.

KELLY: Okay. So now, that sort of how we kicked off the show tonight.  That speaks to an argument about excessive force, which is quite obviously an appropriate discussion to be having based on what we've seen over the past month. And you can argue it whichever way you want to argue it, right? But when people take it to a racism place, saying what we're suffering from here, what we're seeing here is just the tail end or the next chapter in centuries of racism. How do we get to that place in Garner's case, for example?

ADAMS: Because we cannot ignore that race plays a role in how we police in America.

KELLY: How in Garner's case, how?

ADAMS: Let me tell you how in Garner's case. Take the same set of circumstances, a person receiving a call for service because something is selling loosies cigarettes. If it happens on Wall Street, the police officer's going to approach that person, de-escalate the situation, have an opportunity to apprehend them without harming the police or Garner.

KELLY: Okay. But is that a socioeconomic argument or is that a race argument? But you're telling me --

ADAMS: It's a race argument, it's a race argume.t

KELLY: -- if they get a call about an investment banker, they go down to Wall Street, it's a black man in a nice suit selling loosies or whatever they're called, that they're going to treat him differently than they're going to treat a white investment banker?

ADAMS: Yes. That's exactly what I'm telling you. I'm telling you the tolerance level and the skill set level of apply great police practices are different based on the ethnicity and the economic standards of the individuals involved, as based on my 22 years of observation. I've been at this for over 30 years and it's clear that we police people differently in America based on their economics and ethnicity.

KELLY: Economics. Yes, I'm just looking for the evidence in this particular case. If Eric Garner were a 300-plus-pound white man resisting arrest, there is a real question about whether your contention that the police would have treated him differently.

ADAMS: First of all there would have been a conversation.

KELLY: There was a conversation. He told them to get off of him and then he resisted arrest.

ADAMS: You talk about resisting arrest. There's a passive way of resisting arrest and there's a way that you harm in some way.

KELLY: All right. I got to go. I appreciate you for being here. I'm up against a hard break.

ADAMS: Thank you very much.

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