New York City Democratic mayoral frontrunners Eric Adams and Andrew Yang clashed over a key police endorsement on Wednesday night during a heated final debate that focused heavily on the city’s escalating violent crime crisis.
Adams and Yang are among the Democratic candidates who have called for tougher police tactics to crack down on crime in the city. Yang was asked to explain why he should be trusted to address crime as mayor over Adams, a former captain in the New York City Police Department.
In response, Yang, who has been critical of Adams throughout the Democratic primary campaign, noted the Captains Endowment Association opted to endorse him for mayor. Adams once belonged to the union.
“The people you should ask about this are Eric’s former colleague in the police captains’ union, people who worked with him for years, people who know him best,” Yang said. “They just endorsed me to be the next mayor of New York City. They think I’m a better choice than Eric to keep us and our families safe.”
Yang claimed that one of the NYPD captains referred to Adams’ call last summer for New Yorkers to talk to their neighbors to stop the use of illegal fireworks rather than call the police as “the most irresponsible thing he’d seen from a public official.”
Adams fired back at this opponent, claiming that the captains only endorsed Yang because he did not ask for it. Yang accused Adams of lying about not asking for the endorsement, asserting that news outlets and NYPD captains had said otherwise.
“I never went in front of them,” Adams said during the tense exchange. He argued captains didn’t support him because he called to reform the controversial “stop and frisk” policy while working within the NYPD.
Questions about New York City’s crime wave dominated the first hour of the debate, which featured the top eight Democratic mayoral candidates. In May, the NYPD said felony assault cases rose more than 20% and shooting incidents rose 73% compared to the same month one year ago.
Several Democratic candidates, including NYC comptroller Scott Stringer, civil rights attorney Maya Wiley and nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, have called for police budget cuts.
Adams has called for the reimplementation of “stop and frisk” on a limited basis, as well as for plainclothes detectives in high-crime neighborhoods. Former New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said the city was in the middle of a “gun crisis.”
At one point during the debate, candidates were asked to identify the worst idea they had heard from another candidate during the race. Both Garcia and former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire identified calls among their opponents to “defund” the police.
Candidates were also asked to raise their hands if they supported additional uniformed police officers in the New York City subway trains and platforms to address violent incidents. Three of the eight candidates – Morales, Wiley and Stringer – did not raise their hands.
Recent polls show Adams, Yang, Garcia and Wiley among the top contenders for the Democratic mayoral nomination. New York City’s primary elections will be held on June 22.