NYC politicians demand Mayor Adams discipline NYPD Chief John Chell over ‘dangerous’ tweets

NEW YORK — More than three dozen local elected officials are calling on Mayor Eric Adams to discipline New York Police Department Chief John Chell over “illegal” and “dangerous” social media attacks that the police honcho has leveled against lawmakers, journalists and others in recent months.

In a Friday letter to Adams exclusively obtained by The New York Daily News, the group of 39 Democratic politicians, led by City Comptroller Brad Lander, wrote that Chell’s online screeds violate a provision in city conflict of interest law that prohibits police officials from using government resources, including social media accounts, for political purposes.

The group — which comprises Queens-Bronx Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Westchester County-Bronx Congressman Jamaal Bowman, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, 17 Council members and 17 state lawmakers — pointed in particular to a since-deleted post Chell thumbed out Wednesday that claimed Queens Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán “hates our city” and urged his followers to start “getting involved” if they dislike her policies.

“Chief Chell’s bombastic and bullying rhetoric is not only a violation of democratic principles, and the NYC Conflict of Interest Law, it is also dangerous,” the elected officials wrote to Adams. “He is jeopardizing the safety of Councilmember Cabán and her staff. This is unacceptable behavior from a public safety leader of our city.”

The group told Adams that Cabán isn’t the only target of Chell’s activity.

“Chell’s attack on Councilmember Cabán is part of a pattern of bullying, including attacks on reporters Harry Siegel, Errol Louis and Graham Rayman,” the letter continues, referring to how Chell has in recent weeks used his official department X account to name-call and lambaste reporters and columnists at The Daily News and NY1. “While Chell, as an individual, of course has the right to free speech, using his official NYPD account to bully reporters and elected officials reveals contempt for basic democratic principles.”

(Siegel writes a column in the Daily News; Rayman is a Daily News reporter, and Louis is an NY1 anchor.)

The politicians capped off their letter to the mayor: “We expect him to be disciplined and instructions delivered to NYPD officials that such behavior will not be tolerated.”

Later Friday, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams added her voice to the calls for punitive action against Chell — and announced she had formally requested that the Department of Investigation launch a probe into the “unethical and unprofessional” social media use by the patrol chief and other NYPD brass.

“This recent behavior undermines public confidence in the department at a time when public safety requires stronger trust, and sends a bad message to the rank-and-file officers of our city simply wanting to perform their basic duties,” the speaker said.

A Department of Investigation spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment.

Adams spokeswoman Kayla Mamelak would not address the assessment that Chell has flouted the law or say whether the mayor will consider reprimanding him. Mamelak did say many of the letter’s signatories have recently been “particularly vocal on social media about the importance of free speech.”

“We encourage these elected leaders to practice what they preach, and join us in truly supporting free speech, even when it’s not politically convenient for them,” Mamelak said.

The NYPD didn’t return a request for comment.

The elected officials’ letter didn’t specify what type of reprimand they want Chell to face, but Cabán offered a suggestion in a text to The News:

“He should be fired today.”

The group behind Friday’s letter is primarily made up of left-wing politicians like Cabán, but also includes more moderate-minded Democrats, including Brooklyn state Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Brooklyn Assemblyman Robert Carroll.

“We are all united in the basic democratic principle that law enforcement officials work for democratically elected officials, and must not engage in threatening, bullying, or menacing behavior of this sort,” they wrote.

Although addressed to the mayor, the letter was also sent to NYPD Commissioner Ed Caban, Corporation Counsel Sylvia Hinds-Radix and the city Conflicts of Interest Board, which enforces local ethics laws.

Councilwoman Cabán, a democratic socialist, has been on the receiving end of Chell’s online rants before. In March, he wrote from his official account that her policies are “hurting everyday NYers in our city,” and urged his followers: “If you want change, vote the change you seek.”

His latest Cabán missive about her “hating our city” was deleted Thursday morning, as first reported by The News.

The NYPD media office later said an aide to Chell took down the post by mistake, and Chell reposted the same message late Thursday night, but started it off with: “Like I said it was an accident….I’m back!!!!”

The push for reprimanding Chell comes as he and other top NYPD officials, including Deputy Commissioner for Operations Kaz Daughtry and Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Tarik Sheppard, are engaged in a concerted PR effort to boost their public image and push back against people who have voiced criticism of the Police Department and the mayor.

When Chell and other police officials have faced criticism for their social media activity before, the mayor has defended them.

That includes this past Tuesday, when he was asked if he thought it was appropriate for Chell to call on Columbia and City College to expel “entitled” and “hateful” students engaged in protesting against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

“Chief Chell is a professional,” the mayor replied.