Candidates Focus on Quinn in Debate on Public Security

NEW YORK -

The frontrunner throughout the mayoral race, Council Speaker Christine Quinn escaped unscathed from the barrage of attacks from her five Democratic opponents in a freewheeling debate Wednesday night which focused on police tactics, terrorism and public safety.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio accused Quinn of being a flip-flopper on her support for oversight for the police department.

“The fact is, you only moved on stop-and-frisk because there was tremendous public pressure,” de Blasio said. “You weren’t willing to challenge [Police Commissioner] Ray Kelly previously.”

“Bill, you are engaged in revisionist history,” Quinn, over audience applause for de Blasio’s remarks, responded.

The issue of the NYPD’s tactic to stop suspicious people, and if necessary frisk them, was a big topic at the forum hosted by NY1 in Manhattan’s John Jay College. Most, if not all, of the Democratic candidates consider it racial profiling and would replace Kelly if elected. Quinn has said she would want him to stay on in her administration and has appeared more reluctant to approve police oversight.

The tactic, while controversial in minority communities, has been credited by safety experts for the record drop in most sorts of crime in New York City, which remains the safest big city in the United States.

De Blasio, intent on doing damage to Quinn’s ratings, segued several times from other issues back to her earlier opposition to limit stop-and-frisk.

At one point, when the candidates were asked if they would keep Kelly as commissioner, former councilman Sal Albanese said, “Mr. de Blasio wants to fire Ray Kelly but he didn’t bother to fire two of his staffers who tweeted out ‘Kill the Cops.’”

When de Blasio’s turn came, he did not bother replying to Albanese, who is polling in the single digits, instead accusing Quinn of opposing laws to “ban racial profiling.”

Erick Salgado, a socially conservative Hispanic pastor from the Bronx, said that he would hire former mayor Rudy Giuliani as police commissioner.

“I would consider Ray Kelly if he’s available,” he said. “If he’s not interested, maybe I ask Rudy Giuliani to come and serve as police commissioner.”

Quinn’s support for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, particularly her changing the law to allow him to run for a third term, received mention from Bill Thompson, the 2009 Democratic candidate who lost to Bloomberg.

“If we would have had a different mayor in City Hall — to be honest about it, if I would have been the mayor of the city of New York, stop-and-frisk wouldn’t be a problem,” Thompson said. “To be blunt about it, if we hadn’t change term limits, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

Comptroller John Liu, the only candidate to state that he would end stop-and-frisk, got applause for his denunciation of the policy.

“Stop-and-frisk is the biggest use of racial profiling in the United States of America,” he said.

All the candidates said they support hiring additional cops — Quinn called for 1,600 new officers, Thompson wants 2,000, Liu wants 5,000 and de Blasio wants to prevent it from falling below its current size of about 34,000 officers.

Although de Blasio’s campaign sent out a release following the forum titled, “How Bill De Blasio Won The … Debate,” no candidate landed any knockout blows on Quinn.