“I refuse to succumb to those that believe you have to decouple public safety and justice,” Mayor Adams said during a recent interview.

Mayor Eric Adams, Governor Kathy Hochul, MTA Chair & CEO Janno Lieber, and NYPD Chief of Transit Michael Kemper at the Fulton Transit Center on Friday, Jan 27, 2023 where they announce a decrease in subway crimes and increase in customers’ feelings of safety. January 27, 2023. (Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority)

“In his State of the Union address this year, Joe Biden’s big headline-making line was when he said ‘It’s time to refund the police’ — it got big applause,” began journalist and editor Bari Weiss on April 24, 2023. “It’s what everyone was talking about.

“Was that the Democratic Party, or the leadership of the Democratic Party, admitting that it let things go too far?” wondered Weiss. “And that all the talk, at least on the progressive wing of the party, about defunding or abolishing the police was foolish and has actually made the poorest Americans more vulnerable? Did you see that as a watershed moment?”

Weiss, formerly of the New York Times, now runs her own popular independent media outlet. Her question, directed as it was towards NYC Mayor Eric Adams during a recent one-to-one interview, was a sign of the times in many ways.

That New York City’s Mayor sat down with Weiss, an independent journalist, was perhaps one of those signs. Mayor Adams is another.

“Yes, I did,” Mayor Adams responded. “But I also felt that that was the second level of the watershed moment. The real watershed moment happened when I won the Democratic primary and then won the election in November.”

Eric Adams, unlike other Democratic Party candidates in New York City’s mayoral race, ran on an unapologetic platform of public safety and bringing down crime.

“I refused to succumb to the philosophical approach to public safety,” the Mayor continued. “We had to do intervention, prevention. Public safety is a prerequisite to prosperity, and we could have it with justice. I committed my life to doing that.”

“I’m a blue collar mayor,” Adams said of his approach to policing and criminal justice in New York City.

“But let’s be clear on something,” Adams added. “It was not the progressive wing of our party. It was the far-left wing of our party who are smaller in number, louder in voice, and that live, for the most part, on social media. And they believe they can govern through a tweet instead of governing on the streets, as I like to say.”

“The overwhelming number of Democrats had a clear practice in funding police departments, knowing that it impacts communities of color the most when you have high levels of crime,” Adams told Weiss. “I believe that too many of the tabloids played into the far left of our party and did not listen to the everyday Democrat who understood there’s a balance with public safety and justice.”

“Mayor, it’s always struck me as strange that the notion of being tough on crime is perceived as a conservative position with the people who are most harmed by crime are poor and minority communities, not the people that live in high-rises with doormen buildings who can afford to go to the Hamptons in the city goes south,” Weiss replied. “How did it become the Democrat position to be, quote, soft on crime?”

“We’ve allowed ourselves to be embarrassed to state supporting police means that you don’t support justice at the same time,” Mayor Eric Adams answered. “And I refuse to do that. I refuse to succumb to those that believe you have to decouple public safety and justice. They go together. In fact, they must coexist for us to properly keep our cities safe. And when you look at who’s impacted, it is not those philosophical leaders that sit in their comfort in safe places. It is those who are in the poorer community, the immigrant community, black and brown communities. They’re the victims of some of the egregious violence that you’re seeing.”

Mayor Adams isn’t the lone progressive voice speaking out on the topic.

“As Democrats, if we do not speak the truth about violent crime in our cities, we will be the worse for it,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during a panel discussion at the African American Mayors Association Conference in Washington, D.C., on April 21, 2023. “I come to this conversation as a former federal prosecutor. I come to this as a former defense attorney; I am the sister of a returning resident. But I know that people in my city are wreaking havoc every day and need to be off our streets. That’s reality.”

“What do we say to, not only the victims of crime, but the people who are terrified about crimes in their neighborhood, most of whom look like us, if we say, ‘yeah, the police department is spending all this time and resources to arrest, put a case on,’ and the judges and the prosecutors say, ‘you know what? We’re going to let you out on electronic monitoring to wreak havoc again,” Lightfoot continued.

“Somebody musters the courage to come forward and identify the person who just shot up their neighborhood, and then sees Pookie walking bold as day back on the streets two days later, what does that say to them?” Lightfoot asked.

“You’re telling them that the criminal justice system doesn’t care about victims and witnesses,” the soon-to-be ex-Chicago Mayor said. “And if we don’t call that out every single day with these prosecutors and with these judges, many of whom don’t live in our cities and don't care about what’s happening, then we are going to lose an opportunity to advocate for the victims and the witnesses and the residents who just want and deserve peace.”

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)