Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly had hardly settled into his seat after being introduced by Stephen Adler, editor-in-chief of Reuters, when two young men stood in the crowded auditorium at the 92nd Street Y last Thursday evening and assailed him.
“We charge you with terrorizing Black and Latino youths,” one of them cried out before being removed from Buttenwieser Hall.
Seconds after he was removed, another protester rose and shouted similar charges and berated Kelly for his role in the “criminalization of Black and Latino youths” and compared the NYPD with the KKK. He continued to scream his accusations as he was being hustled away by security guards.
“He’s clearly not part of the 68 percent,” Kelly quipped, referring to the 68 percent approval rating he recently received.
It was a raucous beginning but it could not have come as surprise since there were a number of demonstrators outside the Y, with a huge sign declaring “Stop and frisk doesn’t stop crime, stop and frisk is a crime!”
Obviously the commissioner took exception to this declaration, and Adler returned to it several times during their hour-long interview. His position on stop-and-frisk was never more apparent than when he responded to Adler’s question about U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin’s recent ruling that the tactic was unconstitutional. “We will be appealing that decision,” Kelly repeated several times.
Adler pushed him further by citing the dramatic number of stop-and-frisks by the NYPD and whether they were justified. Kelly resorted to his standard retort when asked about stop-and-frisk, citing research that challenges those who contend that the method is wrong and without merit. He insisted that there has been no appreciable increase in the number of people stopped and frisked.
Citing the recordkeeping of the past by the NYPD, he said, “We weren’t able to record, and it wasn’t being reported.” Even so, some 684,330 people were stopped and frisked in 2011, and 86 percent were Black and Latino, according to a flyer distributed by protesters.
Despite a growing concern among minorities, Kelly stood by his guns, insisting that “the things we’re doing here are working, and I would hate to see them change.” “And any future mayor should be held to the same policy,” he later added.
Adler did his best to put Kelly’s feet to the fire, and he could have applied even more heat if he had resorted to asking him what he thought of the comments made by state Sen. Eric Adams of Brooklyn. “There’s one quote Commissioner Kelly told me that I’ll never forget,” Adams said in a statement to the press. “He stated, the reason we use stop-and-frisk and target the group that we do is because we want all people who fit that group to feel that any time they leave their house, they can be searched by the police.”
Kelly often relies on the department’s database, which was instituted several years ago and backed by the Rand Corporation, that counted NYPD stops. As Kelly is fond of saying, the database has detected no racial profiling. “Crimes are inevitably interrupted when police stop to question individuals who are carrying weapons, casing locations to burglarize them or loitering near or following potential robbery victims,” is something he said two years ago and pretty much repeated this evening.
He was also asked if he had any intention of running for mayor. Kelly responded, “I have no plans to run for mayor.” Nor did he feel inclined to respond to the idea that Christine Quinn might keep him as commissioner if she becomes the new mayor. “We have not had that discussion,” he demurred.