“If they did pull up to the job and didn’t exit the vehicle, they should no longer be police officers,” he said.
Officer Wing Hong Lau and Wael Jaber were eventually suspended. NYPD’s internal affairs is investigating what happened.
Their lack of action preceded the death of 22-year-old Tonie Wells, who was found an hour later laying at the bottom of her stairs last Wednesday morning. Her husband, 29-year-old Barry Wells, left the scene and drove off in his car. Police later caught and arrested Wells.
The medical examiner will determine Wells’s cause of death, but preliminary reports indicate that she was strangled.
Neighbors were reportedly tipped off after hearing screams from inside the brownstone. Someone who heard the noise called 911, sending officers to the scene. But Adams said the two cops may have stayed in their car, possibly because of the frigid weather.
“Cold temperatures are not an indicator of how thorough and complete our jobs should be carried out as police officers,” he said.
Adams, a 22-year veteran and former captain in the NYPD, said if the investigation proves the allegations that the officers didn’t leave their car are true, that would be “the most horrific aspect of policing.”
“It’s not acceptable the beginning of the year, at the end of the year or anytime during the year,” he said. “We are much better than that as a police department.”
He acknowledged the difficulty of responding to a domestic violence scene. Adams noted that with the level of uncertainty and family involvement, officers have to heighten their awareness. But he said that’s not an excuse for being complacent and not conducting an investigation.
“You can’t say that nobody picked up the phone because maybe the abuser pulled the phone off the wall,” he said. “You can’t simply say that no one is at the address because you’re dealing with a person who, if they’re an abuser, their actions can prevent the person from actually carrying it out.”
To ensure officers responding to domestic violence have as much information as possible, Adams called for the establishment of a registry for domestic violence offenders. When he was a state senator in 2011, Adams introduced that very bill. It passed the Senate, but not the Assembly.
He called on the governor and Assembly lawmakers to move the bill forward.
“Family members need to know if they have a pedophile in their midst, and if they have someone who has a history of attacking and abusing women,” he said. “We need a registry to do that.”
According to the borough president, Barry Wells had a history of domestic violence, including a pending charge on an incident that occurred in September.
“We need to start attaching the history of the domestic violence abuser to his record so we know who we’re dealing with,” he said.
If passed, the bill would require offenders to register with the State Division of Criminal Justice Services. The law would also make it a crime if an offender failed to register or verify with the state department.
Adams said if that system was in place, every time someone calls 911 about possible domestic violence, the officer would know that they’re heading to a location with a history of offenses. The information should be “transmitted automatically” to police, he said.
He added that his office was in touch with the victim’s father, and offered help during this turbulent time.
“We want to be as supportive as possible,” Adams said.