Who is Maya Wiley? AOC-backed NYC mayoral candidate will defund NYPD by $1 billion

Maya Wiley wants to use $18 million from the NYPD budget to fund neighborhood-based anti-violence programs and defund NYPD by $1 billion

                            Who is Maya Wiley? AOC-backed NYC mayoral candidate will defund NYPD by $1 billion
Maya Wiley speaks onstage during the We Stand United NYC Rally (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Could defunding the police actually solve gun violence? It's a call many Americans have been making through the Black Lives Matter movement, and now it has a new proponent — NYC mayoral candidate Maya Wiley. Wiley has unveiled her plans to combat the city's gun violence epidemic — by defunding the police and investing in communities instead.

Calls for defunding the police have gained massive prominence over the last summer. In June 2020, a 2014 report reemerged that said the Los Angeles School PD bought grenade launchers and armored vehicles. A sharp rise in police shootings has also led to calls for defunding from liberal politicians and even Madonna. In December 2020, however, former President Barack Obama weighed in on the controversy, calling the idea "snappy" and that candidates would lose a "big audience the minute you say it".


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Nonetheless, calls to defund the police have been gaining steam, with more supporters like Wiley emerging of late. She's now got the backing of New York Rep Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), giving her the vital leg-up she needs in the hotly contested election. But how did she win the endorsement of AOC? To answer that, we need to look at her history. 

New York City Mayoral candidate Maya Wiley speaks to the media on June 02, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City  (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Who is Maya Wiley?

A noted lawyer, professor, and civil rights activist, Wiley is a well-known face in New York City. She's also got strong connections to civil rights, thanks to her family. Her father George was heavily involved in the 1960s civil rights movement, and her mother Wretha was a member of the short-lived Citizens Party in the 1970s and '80s. Bruce Hanson, Maya's stepfather, was also deeply involved in civil rights, and her brother Dan currently serves with Rep Nydia Velázquez (D-NY).

After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Dartmouth College, Wiley received her law degree from Columbia University School of Law. She then served in the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. In 2014, she joined Mayor Bill de Blasio's office as counsel. Prior to that, WIley worked for the Open Society Foundation, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and the American Civil Liberties Union. 

After leaving the mayor's office, Wiley founded the Center for Social Inclusion, taught at The New School and appeared numerous times on MSNBC as their political and legal analyst. She stepped down from that role in July 2020, as she began ramping up her bid for mayor. She formally announced her bid in October 2020, and was backed by AOC on June 5. "She will be a progressive in Gracie Mansion," AOC said, leading to an endorsement from Rep Jamaal Bowman as well.


Wiley's plan to counter gun violence

On her website 'Maya for Mayor', Wiley detailed her plan to tackle the gun violence epidemic in NYC. To fund her plans, she wants to reduce the NYPD budget by $1 billion, "and invest those funds directly into the communities." She plans to invest that money on "evidence-based therapeutic supportive programs", and "point to innovative and targeted solutions" for communities.

Her website also says the administration will "recognize that gun violence is linked to a lack of educational and employment opportunities and increase access to these opportunities." Wiley wants to launch Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) programs for at-risk youth. She also wants to launch hospital-based violence interruption programs and community-based violence interruption programs at public health facilities.

Wiley also plans to launch an $18 million "participatory justice process". She describes the fund as, "Akin to participatory budgeting, the fund would allocate funds to communities identified by their rates of gun violence and support a democratic process to support existing and new programs that have proven track records." Finally, she also wants to "double the number of slots allocated to youth at risk of involvement with violence in the Summer Youth Employment Program, resulting in 10,000 slots designated for young people."

It's one of the boldest plans yet, and Wiley has clearly found support with a lot of people. Apart from AOC and Bowman, others who have endorsed Wiley include activist Arnie Segarra, Rep Hakeem Jeffries, entrepreneur Maurice Cox, sportscaster Jim Trotter, Rep Nydia Velazquez and comedian Rosie O'Donnell. 

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