When it comes to public safety, the 2013 mayoral candidates seem to agree on one thing: add more police officers. Beyond that, the candidates differ — to varying degrees — on who those officers would report to, where they would be deployed and what policies they would follow.
While the Bloomberg administration heralds the reduction in crime — including record low numbers of murders and shootings — among its achievements over the 12-year tenure. The policies that underlie the overall reduction are being scrutinized in the courts and the public square, particularly among New Yorkers who continue to live with crime or feel like targets of the NYPD’s tactics to combat it.
People like Brandon Gibson, 27, a leader in the Hope Christian Center, who said he’s been stopped and frisked 20 times, once after leaving from Bible study at church. During a 90-minute candidate forum Tuesday evening at the First Presbyterian Church in Queens, he asked the only question that every candidate answered: how effective is stop-and-frisk when it comes to reducing crime?
“The police commissioner has over-relied massively on stop, question and frisk,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Democrat, who continues to say she'd keep Commissioner Ray Kelly as head of the NYPD. “The numbers are unacceptably high, are not yielding results and are in fact driving communities apart, which makes the city less safe.”
Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, another Democrat, said NYPD leadership needs to change.
"You can't teach an old dog new tricks," he explained. “I think it is unbelievable that Ray Kelly is truly going to reform stop-and-frisk in the way that we need.”
Both Quinn and DeBlasio expressed support for creating a new Inspector General position that would serve as a watchdog over NYPD policies. A bill to create the position, which would have subpoena power, is expected to pass the City Council next month.
But former MTA chair Joe Lhota, who is vying for the Republican nomination, opposes the idea. While he thinks stop-and-frisk policy needs to be reformed, he thinks the answer could be as simple as police being required to tell people why they're being stopped.
“Whether or not there was a crime in that area and you might have fit the description or there was a bulge on your side that might have looked like a handgun,” he elaborated.
The crowd interrupted Lhota’s answer with hisses and boos, forcing him to pause briefly, lower his voice and finish bluntly, “Stop-and-frisk has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years, and we cannot abolish it, but we need to control it. We need to regulate. We need to train everyone how to use it.”
Businessman John Catsimatidis, also vying for the Republican nomination, suggested police officers should be on a scoring system, “I think every officer should be rated.”
“If you have an officer with a .000 batting average, he should not be allowed to stop-and-frisk,” Catsimatidis said.
Adolfo Carrion, who received the Independence Party nomination and is also seeking the Republican nomination, says he was stopped and frisked twice as a kid — once when jumping a turnstile and another time while trespassing in the East River Park amphitheater. He’s not calling for an end to stop-and-frisk either, but he says, “respect” needs to be restored on both sides of the equation.
“We have to respect the job of the police officer. We have to respect the young people in our community.” Carrion said.
Democrat Bill Thompson who's spoken with his 15-year-old stepson about what to do if he gets stopped and frisked declined to call for the abolishment of controversial tactic when challenged by another candidate.
“You and I disagree on that,” said Thompson, “Fundamentally, we have a disagreement. At the same point, we both want to see things used and done correctly in the city of New York.”
City Comptroller John Liu is the only mayoral candidate calling for an end to stop-and-frisk. The Democrat also said he'd replace the police commissioner.
“In fairness to Ray Kelly, in fairness to him, I'm not sure if anyone has actually asked him if he wants to stay beyond his 12-years in the current term,” said Liu. “But it's not just about the commissioner. It's about the top ranks of chiefs inside the entire department.”
Liu said there needs to be leadership changes throughout the NYPD.