NEW YORK — During the first Democratic mayoral primary debate, the conversation often turned to policing in New York City.
One of the first questions posed by debate moderator Errol Louis on Thursday was on what should be done about the NYPD.
While city comptroller and mayoral candidate Scott Stringer called for a focus on violent crime, he said he didn’t want to take New York back to its past.
“We cannot in this moment simply go back to the Giuliani style of policing that impacted Black and brown children, that scarred them,” Stringer said. “We need to get rid of the violence but we also need to make sure we protect our children.”
Former Citigroup executive and mayoral candidate Ray McGuire cited his personal experience and asked for the police to protect him and not profile him. He said he’d appoint a deputy mayor for public safety and holding the chain of command of officers who commit offenses held accountable for them.
Kathryn Garcia, mayoral candidate and one-time New York City sanitation commissioner, pitched a plan to have the gun-suppression division do gun buybacks and increase them. She wants police officers to serve as guardians rather than “warriors.”
Former HUD secretary and mayoral candidate Shaun Donovan called for taking $3 billion away from a broader criminal justice budget, and stopping the NYPD from dealing with mental health calls, homelessness and schools.
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Entrepreneur and mayoral candidate Andrew Yang came out against defunding the police and said that the city needed to “evolve” to a 21st-century version of policing and bring back plainclothes officers.
Former NYPD captain, and current Brooklyn borough president and mayoral candidate Eric Adams said gun buybacks are ineffective and there must be “prevention and intervention.”
He also called for the return of plainclothes officers.
“If we don’t reinstitute a plainclothes unit to go after gang behavior and stop the flow of guns to this city, we’re going to lose more young people,” Adams said.
Former nonprofit executive and mayoral candidate Dianne Morales, who is a proponent of defunding the police, argued that safety is not synonymous with policing.
“If the size of the funding of policing equated safety, we’d be the safest city in the country,” Morales said, adding that the reported violence increase in NYC is happening on the current NYPD’s watch.
Former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio and mayoral candidate Maya Wiley said she knows what it’s like to fear crime and police violence. She called it a “false choice” to decide between safety and lowering police funding.
“The reality is that we have to change the balance,” she said. “I’m going to take $1 billion from the NYPD to create trauma-informed care in our schools, because when we do that, violence goes down and graduation rates go up.”
Wiley called for a civilian police commissioner and a civilian oversight commission. Many of the other candidates agreed when asked by Louis.
All candidates agreed that police shooting footage should automatically be shared with the public.
All candidates, except for Stringer, Wiley and Morales, said they would put more police into the subway to deal with recent upticks in crime, though Wiley felt more mental health professionals should be sent.
Later, when the candidates were permitted a chance to ask each other questions, Adams and Wiley became confrontational.
Wiley asked Adams about him saying stop-and-frisk was a “great policy,” and Adams pointed out he has testified in federal court against it, though he does want to return to a version of it.
“Every time you raise that question, it just shows your failure of understanding of law enforcement,” Adams said to Wiley.
Wiley responded by citing her time as chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which Adams shot back by calling it “a failure.”
While some have said the city’s new ranked choice voting system would lead to fewer candidate-on-candidate attacks, the back and forth proved that would not always be the case.
“Once candidates start getting desperate, it’s gonna’ get nasty,” Adams said, citing his testimony against stop-and-frisk and noting there was no record of Wiley speaking out against it.