NEW YORK — Six Democratic candidates for mayor squared off Wednesday night in the race's first televised debate, which focused on public safety and the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk policy.
The candidates offered their views on how to combat everything from terrorist threats to fatal street shootings in the live forum hosted by NY1 at John Jay College. The contenders also argued over how to increase oversight of the NYPD and how to improve the police's relationship with the city's minority communities.
City Comptroller John Liu drew one of the biggest bursts of applause when he called stop-and-frisk "the biggest form of systemic racial profiling that we have anywhere in the United States of America."
He was not alone in criticizing the policy, which has skyrocketed in use under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, while the number of shootings has stayed nearly constant.
One idea for improving oversight of the NYPD is to create an inspector general for the department, a move that Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and more recently City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, have supported.
Other candidates, including former City Councilman Sal Albanese and Rev. Erick Salgado, said an inspector general was unnecessary and would just add an extra layer of bureaucracy.
Former City Comptroller Bill Thompson said that if he were elected mayor, an inspector general would not be necessary because he would personally oversee the NYPD and ensure that stop-and-frisk was curtailed.
"As the mayor of the City of New York, I’m going to be responsible for keeping the City of New York safe," Thompson said. "I’m not going to outsource that job."
To improve the city's safety and protect against terror threats, all the candidates called for either an influx of new police officers to bolster the force or at the very least an end to the cuts that have slashed the number of officers patrolling the city over the past 12 years.
The contenders also voiced support for community-focused policing, especially for issues like domestic violence.