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Yang: 'Defund the police is the wrong approach for New York City'
New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang (D) on Thursday said "defund the police is the wrong approach for New York City," nearly a year after the slogan became a rallying cry following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
Yang made his remarks during the city's first mayoral debate, when asked about his "concrete plans" to address the city's public safety in his first week of office if he's elected.
He said the first thing he will do as mayor is tell the police force "your city needs you."
"The first thing I'd do as mayor is go to our police force and say that 'Your city needs you. Your city needs you to do your jobs professionally, responsibly and justly.' But the police are going to be a core way for us to address the public safety concerns that so many New Yorkers have. And let me be clear, defund the police is the wrong approach for New York City," Yang, who ran for the democratic presidential nomination in 2020, said.
Yang called for evolving to a "21st century form of policing" which he said includes an anti-violence and community safety unit that would work on "getting the guns out." He specifically advocated for "focused deterrence," which would enlist the help of communities to track down "troublemakers" in an effort to "get the rates down."
He also backed "intelligence-led policing," which he said would attack the "iron pipeline" by monitoring what guns are being used in other states that may enter New York City.
"These are some of the practices that would help make our people safer, but you have to start by saying to the police very clearly that you are vital to our city's recovery because there is no recovery without public safety," Yang said.
Thursday night's event was the first of three official democratic primary debates. Eight candidates answered questions from moderator Errol Louis of NY1: Yang, Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Ray McGuire, Dianne Morales, Scott Stringer and Maya Wiley.
The issue of defunding the police was a prime topic of debate among the candidates on Thursday evening. Wiley, a former MSNBC analyst and legal counsel for Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), called for funneling resources away from the police.
"I'm going to take a billion dollars from the New York City Police Department and shift that money to create trauma-informed care in our schools, because when we do that violence goes down and graduation rates go up" Wiley, viewed as a more progressive candidate in the race, said, according to The New York Times.
Morales, another progressive-leaning mayoral candidate, also differed from Yang's perspective, concluding that "safety is not synonymous with police."
"We actually need to recognize that police respond to crime they don't prevent crime," Morales said, according to The Times.
Public safety and policing was the first topic discussed at Thursday's debate, after a New York Police Department officer was shot the previous night while responding to gunfire, the Times reported.
The officer, who was shot three times in Brooklyn, was hospitalized.
The city's mayoral race has been closely watched, especially this week after two candidates went viral for widely underestimating the median value of a home in Brooklyn.
Donovan, who served as Housing and Urban Development secretary and budget director under former President Obama and as housing commissioner under former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, guessed that the median sale price for a home or apartment in Brooklyn is "around 100,000," during an interview with The New York Times's editorial board for the paper's potential endorsement.
Ray McGuire, an investment banker and former Citigroup executive, estimated that the median sales price is "somewhere in the $80,000 to $90,000 range, if not higher," during his interview with the Times.
The median sales price in Brooklyn, however, is $900,000.
Last week, Adams touted his campaign's momentum after a new poll showed him leading Yang in the race for the first time.