Candidates vying for Mayor Bloomberg’s job all agree that reducing the police force is not on any of their immediate agendas, but are not all in accord on just how to address controversial safety policies.
Mayoral hopefuls spoke at a policy forum at the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica on Tuesday night, offering their thoughts on how they would improve housing, crime and safety if elected.
The program, the third mayoral candidate forum sponsored by the Daily News and multi-faith coalition Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, highlighted the future of stop-and-frisk, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and security within public housing.
Candidates also sounded off on the possibility of instituting an NYPD Inspector General position.
City Comptroller John Liu was the only candidate who said he wants to eliminate stop and frisk legislation, citing racial inequality and a lack of democratic consensus as the policy’s primary issues.
“The amount of division that this tactic has created between communities and the police has made it less safe for everybody,” Liu said. “We need to have a balanced police force; one that is working closely with the community and one that does not face so much immense pressure for artificial reasons.
Republican Joseph Lhota reaffirmed his support for stop and frisk legislation, saying the program should be maintained as long as police training is revamped.
“stop and frisk has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years,” Lhota said. “We cannot abolish it — we need to control it, we need to regulate it, we need to train everyone how to use it.”
Democratic candidate and former city Comptroller Bill Thompson also discussed his views on the role of the NYPD with minority youth, mentioning that he has spoken with his own son about proper protocol in stop and frisk procedures.
Although Thompson advocates for the reform of stop and frisk legislation without completely eliminating the process, he said the program is being highly misused.
“There’s an art to being a police officer,” Thompson said. “The art of being a police officer is being taken away because of discretion to stop who they know they should and not stop a certain amount of people.”
Although most candidates agreed that crime figures have significantly decreased under Kelly’s administration, many of their views on the police commissioner’s intended future are polarized.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Republican candidate John Catsimatidis are the only mayoral hopefuls who said they would keep Kelly as police commissioner if they were elected.
“I think Ray Kelly has been an outstanding police commissioner,” Quinn said. “In particular areas like hate crimes and domestic violence and rape and sexual assault, he’s brought new and inclusive strategies to the table that has helped take those categories that were so hard and headed in the right direction.”
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said he firmly opposes Kelly’s leadership, saying it would be impossible to eliminate hate crime charges and racial profiling with the incumbent police administration.
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” de Blasio said. “I think it’s unbelievable that Ray Kelly is truly going to reform stop and frisk in a way we need – he is someone who has served the city in many ways but he’s also been the architect of the overuse of stop and frisk that has created the division we have today.”
Security within public housing facilities was another hot-button issue discussed throughout the forum, with varying opinions on administrative measures that should be taken to combat crime within NYCHA buildings.
Former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, who mentioned that he lived in a public housing facility as a young child, said that driving up policing in NYCHA homes does not work because it pushes crimes inside buildings.
“What we need is to restore the relationship between police and the community,” Carrion said, promoting his Clean Halls initiative aimed at restoring safety in public housing facilities.
“The Clean Halls program doesn’t work by itself where police officers are doing this all on their own – it’s a partnership with tenant associations, with tenant leaders, with community leaders, with young people in those buildings so that we can re-establish a community trust relationship with our number one customer in New York City.”
Catsimatidis offered an alternative approach to Carrion’s proposal, saying that a ranking system should be implemented to rate police officers on their performance like a “batting average.”
“Let’s put a police officer in every one of those buildings,” Catsimatidis said. “If you can get rid of 20 percent of the city’s crimes with a few thousand officers, let’s just do it and get it done.”
A bill to create an NYPD Inspector General position that was voted on by the City Council hours before the forum was supported by Quinn and de Blasio but was opposed by Lhota who said it would be “bureaucratic.”