One Police Plaza

Kelly Speaks Out: Why?

June 22, 2015

Law enforcement guys have a code. Often mistreated by their bosses and misunderstood by the media, their ethic is to suck it up, shut your mouth and move on.

Not Ray Kelly, though.

Last week the most powerful and longest-serving police commissioner in the city’s history lit into Mayor de Blasio [and implicitly Police Commissioner Bill Bratton] for limiting Kelly’s controversial policy of Stop and Frisk, which Kelly said has led to an increase in homicides and shootings. 

“For over two decades,” he told Fox News’s Maria Bartiromo, “New York City has been made safer as a result of proactive policing, police using their own initiative.” Now, he saw “a certain hesitancy on the part of police to engage. …All signals that are being given lately to police officers are: ‘Don’t get involved, don’t engage in this type of practice.’”

Referring to de Blasio’s and Bratton’s recent comments, dismissing the importance of the crime spike as confined to gang members in only ten precincts, Kelly said, “For people to say ‘Oh, they’re only gang members,' you know, I thought all lives matter. That was a very strange signal from this administration here in this city.”

Asked where those signals emanated from, Kelly said, “From the mayor.”

O.K., so what’s going on here? Why did Kelly speak out?

Was it, as people at Police Plaza say, because his memoir [modestly sub-titled ‘My Life Serving America’] is due out this fall and Kelly wants to sound controversial?

Was it his 20-year rivalry with Bratton, which began in 1994 when Bratton replaced him as police commissioner and repeats itself today?

Most likely, he wants to protect his legacy, which, in today’s climate of African-American anti-police distrust, is daily being shredded. His overuse of Stop-and-Frisk has been declared unconstitutional, resulting in a federal monitor and inspector general — supervision the NYPD has never before experienced.

Even his counter-terrorism claims are being questioned. Top Bratton officials refute Kelly’s assertions [albeit not for attribution] that he prevented numerous plots against the city.

“Sixteen plots?” says a top NYPD official. Alluding to the department's use of undercovers to track so-called “lone-wolf terrorists," the official said, “The NYPD started 13 of them.”

Nonetheless, Kelly’s words about the city’s increased homicides and shootings resonate.

Indeed, in the past six months, two cops have been assassinated, another gunned down with no provocation, a fourth attacked near fatally with a hammer, a fifth with a knife.

In addition, police officials say the bad guys are no longer choosing “flight over fight,” as one top official put it. Instead they are firing at cops. Recent incidents have occurred in the 101 precinct in Queens, the 70 in Brooklyn and the 120 in Staten Island.

Then there is the mayor and his “signals.” From his embrace of Al Sharpton, perhaps the most racially polarizing presence in the city; to his $51 million settlement of the Central Park jogger case, despite no evidence the police acted improperly; to his support of Rachel Noerdlinger as his wife’s chief of staff despite the anti-cop postings of her son and boyfriend — these actions have belied whatever words of support he has offered the police.

Yes, Mayor de Blasio, no less than black lives, gestures matter.

. Finally, we note the irony of Kelly’s remarks, which are 180 degrees opposite from what he was saying two decades ago.
As crime began to fall dramatically under Bratton by what was termed “proactive” policing — much of which resembled Stop and Frisk — Kelly told Time magazine in the issue that placed Bratton on its cover: “A lot of people aren’t comfortable with this style. It goes to the question of what kind of policing we want in America. You can probably shut down just about all crime, if you’re willing to burn down the village to save it.”

We also note the irony in Bratton’s downplaying the recent spike in crime as only gang-related and confined to ten precincts. Upon taking office two decades ago, he stood next to Mayor Rudy Giuliani and in Churchillian wartime oratory announced, “We will fight for every house in this city. We will fight for every street. We will fight for every borough. We will win. We will take back the streets as we began to take back the subways. I did not come here to lose.” 


Copyright © 2015 Leonard Levitt