On one side of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem, dozens of candles and bouquets of flowers stood outside the 32nd Precinct station house after a shooting that killed two officers.
Across the boulevard was the apartment building where the officers were hit by gunfire as they responded to a report of a domestic incident.
And in between, the new district councilor sat in a bare office, trying to reconcile the need to comfort a grieving community with her firm belief that police forces should eventually be abolished.
Councilor Kristin Richardson Jordan, 35, is a Democratic socialist, but she’s not a prominent member of New York City’s left wing — she’s largely unknown, even among like-minded elected officials. She has equated the police system with slavery and expressed her deepest sympathy for both the fallen officers and the man police believe killed them — positions that are vastly out of step with many fellow Democrats.
Her political style, as a revolutionary activist and poet, is distinctive.
But in the context of left-wing politics, its overarching argument around policing — that the city should invest much more in social services while cutting back on law enforcement — is not.
“The best way to honor the loss of life on all sides, the loss of life due to gun violence,” said Ms. Jordan, the granddaughter of a police officer, in an interview on Monday, “would be to invest in our communities.” . ”
Discussions about police, justice, and how best to ensure public safety have divided Democrats across the country, leading to elections from Long Island to San Francisco. But this week, on that stretch of 135th Street in Harlem, those debates were particularly raucous.
“Here,” said Mrs. Jordan, who lives a few minutes from the shooting scene. “We are in the center.”
Against the backdrop of the Harlem shooting, New York City Mayor Eric Adams — a former police captain who fought against racism within the system — released a comprehensive plan Monday, taking on the immense challenge of delivering on campaign promises to maintain public safety. deliver in a plain fashion.
Murders and other violent crime rates in New York City remain well below early 1990s numbers, but gun violence, in particular, has increased during the pandemic. Mr. Adams’ speech set the stage for a national debate about how to respond, following a wave of high-profile crimes that shocked many New York City residents and culminated in the shooting of the two officers.
Officer Jason Rivera, 22, was killed on Friday while responding to the emergency call. The death of Officer Wilbert Mora, 27, was announced Tuesday, a day after Lashawn McNeil, the man New York police said was the gunman, also died of injuries.
On Friday night, Ms. Jordan was organizing a planning meeting and gathering with fellow black socialists in her office when she learned of the shooting. She went to Harlem Hospital and joined other elected officials and Mr. Adams, who gathered for a press conference.
But while many of her colleagues expressed their pain and offered prayers for the police officers on social media, a social media message was sent that evening from Ms. Jordan’s Twitter account. focused in community gardens.
It was a pre-planned message, she later said, “incorrectly” posted by an employee, but it struck a chord on social media.
She did not comment on the direct shooting from police for several hours, due to directions from officials at the hospital, she said. (Assembly lady Inez Dickens broadly affirmed those instructions, although others who attended were quick to express their sadness.)
“I stand behind the families of the fallen,” said Ms. Jordan wrote later. “The death of police officers is not what abolition is. Abolition is a total end to violence.”
In the days that followed, she said, she prayed with voters for Agent Mora’s recovery. She attended vigils. She plans to attend the officers’ funerals.
She also indicated that there was a parallel between the loss of the officers’ lives and the death of Lashawn McNeil. “I see every human life as equal,” she said Monday.
After Officer Mora died of his injuries, Ms. Jordan went one step further.
“My deepest condolences to the families of Officer Rivera, Officer Mora and Lashawn McNeil,” she wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “Lives lost due to broken public safety and mental health systems that spare no one.”
Police and social safety net debates played a defining role in the New York City mayor’s primaries. Many of the working-class colored voters who propelled Mr. Adams to victory — in a sense a reflection of President Biden’s grassroots — embraced his message of both supporting a powerful law enforcement role in city life and demanding police reform. , and those discussions took on a new urgency in Ms. Jordan’s district this week.
“They want mutual respect between the police and the community,” said Ms Dickens, who represents an overlapping district. “But they want the police.”
At the memorial outside the Harlem police station, a sign read, “Mayor Adams, NYPD needs a raise.” Lenny Gardner, 67, a Democrat who works at a hospital, seemed to understand the argument as he walked by.
“They have hard jobs, are underpaid and sometimes don’t get credit for what they do,” said Mr. Gardner, who said he had lived in the area for 33 years and relied on the police himself. “I’m not with the abolitionist police. Only in this way can we keep order.”
Ms. Jordan also has deep roots in the area and describes herself as a third-generation Harlemite. She attended Calhoun School, a progressive private school on the Upper West Side, and Brown University and built a career around activism – she was involved in the Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street movements and established a “cop watch” – team on, she has said. And she spent time writing and publishing, including releasing a book grappling with her own encounters with domestic violence.
She ran for city council last year in a crowded primaries, initially inspired, she told The Nation, by the left-wing members of the “Squad” in Congress. Ms. Jordan identifies as a black socialist, although groups such as the Democratic Socialists of America and the left-wing Working Families Party have not endorsed those primaries. Other prominent left-wing organizations, including the faction affiliated with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, did offer support.
In that ranked choice election, she eventually triumphed over the incumbent by about 100 votes.
When asked to rate her performance, Manhattan Democratic Party chairman Keith LT Wright replied, “I’ve never spoken to her and I don’t know what she’s doing.”
(Mrs. Jordan said she welcomed conversations and noted her relationship with the Manhattan Young Democrats. “The future of the Democratic Party is forward-thinking and bold,” she said.)
Patrick J. Lynch, the head of the Police Benevolent Association — a union many Democrats consider toxic for supporting the likes of Donald J. Trump in 2020 — also said Ms. Jordan is “new in the office and we have no interaction.” with her.”
“We are aware of her public statements about police officers and public safety,” he said in a statement. “They don’t reflect what police officers hear from her constituents.”
Ms. Jordan acknowledges the interaction with the police in her district and also says she has been both “falsely arrested” and has relied on law enforcement herself to deal with domestic violence.
Her style is much more radical than many of her peers, but the broadest outline of her approach — to view social services as essential components of public safety — is widely shared by many New York Democrats, including, to some extent, Mr. . Adams.
“Big investments in the communities that have been overlooked and left out for so long, underfunded, divested into — that’s what will keep our communities safe,” said Brooklyn City Councilor Crystal Hudson.
Since the shooting, Mrs. Jordan contacted the families of both the officers and Mr McNeil, although she had not contacted them as of Tuesday.
She has kept other aspects of her schedule as well, attending a balloon-adorned inauguration celebration Saturday night. There she held a moment of silence to mark the shooting. Then, she recalled, she thanked her team and tried to brace herself for the task ahead.
“It was a very difficult moment to navigate,” she said. “Because people are looking for a villain.”
Susan C. Beachy contributed to research.