When the race to New York City Hall began in earnest at the end of last year the city was still convulsed by the assassination of George Floyd and shouted for “defuse police” sounding from the Bronx to Battery Park.
Now, as Tuesday’s Democratic party primary approaches, Eric Adams – a former black police officer who asked for more NYPD officers – is one of the favorites to win a contest that has become a referendum on the New Yorkers ’attitude toward police and public safety.
Several surveys have shown Adams conducted a crowded field as a source of shootings and hate crimes has pushed public safety to the top of voters ’concerns while the response to the coronavirus pandemic, once the first problem, has faded.
From the party’s moderate wing, Adams quarrels with businessmen Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia, a former head of the city’s health department whose campaign appears to be gaining momentum. All have proposed various reforms to improve policing, from better training to raising the recruitment age and imposing rigid penalties for bad officers. However, they have remained rhetorically supportive of the police force and its role in the city, and have rejected progressive calls to cut back on their resources.
“Nothing would work in our city without public safety, and for public safety we need the police,” Yang said last month after the shooting in broad daylight of a four-year-old girl in Times Square. .
Meanwhile, Garcia dismissed the “defunding” as not serious, saying, “Black life counts, period … But we still need a safe police force.”
To his left is Maya Wiley, the mayor’s former chief lawyer Bill de Blasio, who has promised to cut $ 1 billion from the NYPD’s $ 6 billion budget and redirect it to social services. He has benefited from a series of recent approvals, including from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Bronx Congresswoman and progressive star.
“Here’s the reality – we were taking police officers to do social work,” he said Wednesday evening in a final debate that was dominated by questions about public safety.
Jumaane Williams, the New York City public attorney, said he felt compelled to support his campaign after concluding that voters had a wrong choice: between more police or more violence. “Police alone can’t – and they’ve never provided public safety,” Williams said.
Another progressive candidate, Dianne Morales, a former school official, wants to take $ 3 billion from the police department and has gone so far as to say that police made the city more dangerous.
In a democratically tight city, Tuesday’s primary winner will almost certainly lead the November general election and take over the direction of America’s largest city at a dangerous time, as it tries to recover from a pandemic that has killed more than 33,000 inhabitants and destroyed the commercial and social fabric.
Whoever wins, some analysts and observers have concluded that political winds have shifted to security.
“The pendulum has shifted towards the defund movement, and I think it is now back,” said Richard Aborn, chairman of the Citizens Crime Commission, a non-partisan group that is campaigning for better policing. “I think the defund movement prospered only for the short time it did because crime was so low.”
Alexander Reichl, a professor at CUNY Queens College, agreed that the growing crime had “reformed” the mayor’s race, saying: “It has taken the wind out of the sails of many of the progressives.”
Similar debates are taking place in other U.S. cities afflicted also by the rise in crime. Yet, as Reichl noted, it was a single salient problem for New Yorkers because of “the long shadow of the 1970s and the fear of the city going out of control.”
According to NYPD statistics, shooting incidents are up 64 percent this year through the second week of June compared to the same period a year ago, when the number was even higher. Over a 12-month period, shots were more than doubled compared to the previous 12 months. Homicides increased by 13 percent and reported hate crimes increased by 117 percent.
Not caught up in the numbers is the horror provoked by reports of elderly Asian women being assaulted on sidewalks and the decay of neighborhoods while graffiti and other anarchism take root.
“The situation is very bad. The city has almost politically renounced any enforcement of quality-of-life crimes, whether it’s squeegee parasites, illegal peddlers, drug traffickers in the cantonment, all emotionally disturbed individuals among the population without home, ”said William Bratton.
Bratton was leading the police department under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani when the drop in crime rates set the stage for rising property prices and the rise of New York as “the biggest city in the world. America’s safest. “
Bratton returned in 2014 for the first three years of the De Blasio administration. Crime continued to decline even as it limited aggressive “stop and frisk” tactics that sowed so much resentment in black and Hispanic communities during the Bloomberg era.
Bratton blamed criminal justice reforms passed by city and state politicians – including the cancellation of bail in numbers for many crimes – for most of the renaissance. It is also complained that the May 2020 assassination of Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, and other such incidents, have “shattered” trust with communities of color.
“Whoever ends up elected mayor should be their first priority because apparently they have to pay before they get better,” he said.
For Williams, the public prosecutor, that analysis overlooks the role of the pandemic, and the economic and social dislocation it has caused while also closing down the courts. For those who support only incremental reforms, he noted that the Minneapolis Police Department had undergone its own review prior to Floyd’s assassination.
“We need to rethink public safety in its truest form because what we have done is allow the police to take all this responsibility and it is not working,” he said.
Adams ’political background story begins with police violence: when he was a teenager growing up in Queens, he says he and his brother were beaten in a nearby basement by two white police officers. This experience, he says, has led him to a career in law enforcement to be able to effect changes from within.
He retired to the rank of captain after a 22-year career during which he co-founded the 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Group with an interest in tackling racism in the force and building better relationships with the black community.
Adams ’campaign showed some warts, particularly regarding his past fundraising practices and, more recently, questions about whether he is actually a New Jersey resident. (It’s not, he insists.) He also has an unusual tendency to speak in the third person.
But his reputation as a pragmatist and merchant reassured the city’s commercial elite. He was also well placed for the changing mood of the crime. Hours after the Times Square coup, he held a nearby press conference.
“Violence with weapons,” he responded this week when asked what his first priority would be if he were elected mayor. “Look at it always and everywhere in our city.” He explained that the balance was human but also connected to the economic recovery of the city: “No tourists will come to this city if a three-year-old boy is shot in Times Square.”
Among other changes, Adams proposed hiring more color officers and reducing bureaucracy to send more police into neighborhoods. A bit controversial, it wants to revive special “anti-crime units,” which were disbanded last year, to deal with rifle crime. He refused to disavow “stop-and-frisk,” as long as it was used correctly, a point on which Wiley hammered him repeatedly.
“He knows the police outside and the advantage he has as a reformer is that he understands what can be done, and he will be in a very good position to reject the notion of what cannot be done,” Aborn said. of the City Commission for Crime.
But Victoria Davis, whose brother, Delrawn Small, was killed and killed by an off-duty police officer in New York City in 2016 after a car furious incident, was not convinced. Davis accused Adams of “playing out of fear” and mocked him as “the go-to [candidate] for whites who want to be progressive but don’t know how ”.
In the South Bronx, a neighborhood that has seen New York’s worst crime in years, Ed Garcia Conde, a longtime resident and blogger, has heard his neighbors split along generational lines.
“You have the old generation that wants to‘ send troops in ’and do something to increase armed violence and then you have the younger generation that wants to‘ defund ’the police,” Garcia Conde said. “It’s going to fall to whoever goes out to vote.”
Rana Foroohar and Edward Luce discuss major issues at the intersection of money and power in U.S. politics every Monday and Friday. Subscribe to the newsletter here