When New Yorkers head to the polls in November, they will be choosing between two mayoral candidates with dramatically different visions for the future of the nation's largest police force.
In a race that featured the department's controversial use of the “stop-and-frisk” as a central campaign issue, the top two candidates in the Democratic primary were also two of the staunchest critics of the tactic.
New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio secured about 40 percent of the vote and former Comptroller Bill Thompson came in at 26 percent. The two may face each other in a run off primary if a recount finds that de Blasio actually secured fewer than 40 percent of the vote — the threshold to avoid a second round.
In the Republican primary, Joe Lhota, former chairman of the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority, won 52 percent of the vote.
The candidacies of both de Blasio and Thompson have been fueled by criticism of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They have both supported legislation that expanded the definition of racial profiling and gave New Yorkers the right to sue police in state court.
Both supported separate legislation that will install an Inspector General to oversee the police department and both have pledged to replace Ray Kelly, the longest serving police commissioner in New York City history.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, long thought to be the front-runner in the Democratic primary, finished in third with just under 16 percent of the vote. Throughout the campaign, she was noncommittal about Kelly's future with the department if she were to win. As “stop-and-frisk” became a key campaign issue, her opponents sought to tie her with Bloomberg and Kelly, both proponents of the tactic.
Lhota, who was deputy mayor under former mayor Rudy Giuliani, has been an unequivocal proponent of both “stop-and-frisk” and Kelly.
He argues that Kelly, “stop-and-frisk” and many of the crime policies under the Bloomberg administration have been key to regular declines in major crime and preventing terrorist attacks in New York City.
At an April debate at John Jay College, de Blasio argued that “stop-and-frisk” actually gets in the way of anti-terrorism intelligence gathering.
“You have to have good communication between police and the community for intelligence-gathering,” de Blasio said. “There is a direct connection between overcoming some of the problems that have been created by the overuse of stop and frisk, and making sure we have a close relationship between police and community.”
On Monday, the day before the primary and two before the 12th anniversary of the September 11 World Trade Center attack, Kelly harshly criticized the entire slate of mayoral candidates for not being concerned enough with terrorism.
Warning that New York City is still in Al Qaeda's “crosshairs,” Kelly complained to the Council on Foreign Relations that none of the candidates in New York's mayoral race seemed concerned with the possibility of terrorist attacks.
“Not one of the candidates has requested a briefing,” Kelly said.