02/28/2012 11:16 am ET Updated Apr 29, 2012

New York's Next Commissioner-in-Chief

In the same way the president is the country's commander-in-chief, New York City's mayor is the police commissioner-in-chief.

That should be priority number one when we elect our next leader: who can lead our city and keep it the safest large city in America and continue the incredible work of the last 20 years in decreasing crime and the vigilant anti-terrorism work of the last decade.

Recent coverage of the NYPD surveillance of the Muslim community is just one example where ideology and misplaced concern for the few is clouding the overarching need to protect the many.

We all wish that had our nation and our local authorities been more vigilant in 2001 -- just eight years after the first WTC bombing -- we would not still be mourning more than 3,000 New Yorkers and hundreds of our Bravest and Finest. To honor their memory and to protect our great city, we can never let our guard down again.

Yes, of course, the NYPD has to abide by the laws of our country and coordinate its surveillance with other law enforcement authorities in the region like the New Jersey police department. But let us not blunt our thin blue line's ability to continue its decade-long streak of thwarting those who plot against us. For this, all New Yorkers owe our gratitude every day.

The other flashpoint issue is the city's "stop and frisk" program, which has reportedly disproportionately targeted African-American and Latino men. This is, indeed, a concern, but as long as the federal government refuses to pass legislation restricting handguns from our streets, we must use whatever legal means necessary to protects all our citizens from gun violence. In fact, African Americans and Latinos are the disproportionate majority of victims of gun violence (95% of shooting victims in New York) and one could argue that "stop and frisk" is actually protecting minority communities more than others.

New York needs a leader who is tough, independent and doesn't wallow in the "on the one hand and on the other hand" philosophy of government, which leads to the kind of inaction and pandering that made New York practically unlivable in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

I know this from personal experience, because I grew up in New York in those days and as a teenager was fearful of walking down certain blocks or going to certain neighborhoods. I was 15 when New York suffered an electrical blackout in 1977 and there was widespread looting and violence in my West Side neighborhood.

That was the moment when many of my parents contemporaries fled for the suburbs and other cities because New York has become like the "wild, wild west."

But in the early 1990s, Mayor David Dinkins, Council Speaker Peter Vallone and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly started the "Safe Streets, Safe City" program and police were back on the neighborhood beat in record numbers.

The precipitous decline in crime started then, accelerated under Mayor Giuliani and his stellar Police Commissioner Bill Bratton (whose administration invented the groundbreaking Compstat crime tracking program) and has continued under Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly the past decade, all the more remarkable because they are dealing with the dual threat of crime and terrorism, with no greater resources.

I fear that the next mayor may be too soft on crime. I fear that my three teenagers, who I much more confidently let roam the city than my parents let me in the 1970s, will live in "fear city" again after 2013.

I am running for mayor for many reasons: to implement real education reform and expanded job creation and execute alternative transportation solutions and improved recycling, being just a few of them.

But let's be clear: being commissioner-in-chief and keeping New York safe overshadows everything else. One can argue that a safe city helps create safer learning environments for children and teachers and makes businesses want to move here and create jobs.

So, as you scrutinize and evaluate the likely mayoral candidates over the next 18 months, ask yourself this question: Will I be able to sleep soundly at night with him or her as police commissioner-in-chief?