NY1 Exclusive: Kelly Reflects On Deaths Of NYPD Officers, Other Issues
12/12/2005 08:02 PM
The continuing threat of terrorism, the falling crime rate, the recent shooting deaths of two NYPD officers, and the cuts in police pay are all topics NY1’s Solana Pyne covered in an exclusive interview with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Copyright © 2008 NY1 News
Solana Pyne: Do you support the death penalty for people who've been convicted of killing cops?
Ray Kelly: “I do. The position that I've had all along is police officers, law enforcement officers, have a special position in our society, a special relationship. They represent all of us. They go into harms way and everybody else is going in the other direction. So I think because of this special situation, if someone takes a police officer’s life then they should forfeit their own life if they're proven guilty, if all the processes of course are gone through. I think it's a very defensible position.”
Pyne: And it's one that puts you in conflict with your boss. Does this ever come up?
Kelly: “No, no. It hasn't. He hasn't asked me about it. He knows it's my position. I know it's his position. We haven't ever discussed it.”
Pyne: The Stewart case has also brought up again issues of gun control, something that you've sort of spoken out forcefully that we need more of. Now, you're one of the most public faces of a Republican administration here in the city, and Republicans in Congress are blocking a lot of the legislation that you and others say we need - how do you deal with that tension?
Kelly: “I don't see it as a tension. I think the Republicans or whoever they are in Congress, not just Republicans·I was in Washington and I was involved in gun control issues in Washington and I can assure you that it is bipartisan in certain areas of the country, both Republicans and Democrats. I think they're wrong. It's a different mindset, a different culture in other parts of the country as far as guns are concerned. But I would submit that we have very reasonable gun laws here in New York. People say they're the most stringent in the country. To me, they are very reasonable. Number one, you have a right to have a handgun in your house, a premises permit. It's a matter of law, assuming you don't have a criminal record. Second, you have a right to carry a handgun if you can show a need for it. Yes, you have to show a fairly high threshold of need - carrying large sums of money or a unique situation - but if you can establish a need or if you want a gun in your house, you can have it right here in New York City. In my view, that is eminently reasonable and it's a law that should be enforced throughout the country. It is not.
We can't tell if more guns are coming into the city because the ATF is precluded from giving us that information. If a gun is used in a crime, we'd like to know where that gun comes from, where the gun originates. We can get information on one gun. It takes some time to do that. I would like to have information on the aggregate, in other words, how many guns from state x are used in crimes in New York City? We used to be able to get that and can no longer get that as a result of legislation passed in Washington.”
Pyne: Also dealing with lobbying Washington; a lot has been made of our crime statistics - they're going down, we are the safest big city in the country - does that make it harder to go to Washington and convince them that we need money?
Kelly: “Well, we're looking for money for counterterrorism programs. They're not going to give us, and have never given, money for traditional crime fighting. Oh, there might be a program here, a program there, but the money we're looking for is money for counterterrorism. We have the most comprehensive, I would submit the most sophisticated, counterterrorism program of any city in America. Why? We need it. Terrorists want to come back here, and everybody in Washington who thinks about this knows that we're on the top of the terrorist target list. So we're looking for money to help us. In the Police Department, we spend anywhere from $150 to $180 million a year on our counterterrorism program. That's an opportunity cost. We're spending money on that and we'd prefer to spend it on some other things that would help us drive crime down here even more.”
Pyne: Talking about counterterrorism programs, a lot of the programs, you've got detectives stationed abroad, things that seem, initially at least, to be more under the domain of federal law enforcement, the FBI or the CIA. Why do you think we need those?
Kelly: “Well, as I said, we're at the top of the terrorist target list. They want to come here. We have to do, in my judgment, everything we can to protect New York. We need to work with the federal government. We're not looking to substitute for the federal government. We're not looking to do their job. We're looking to supplement, to add resources to help us better protect New York. We're, as I say, again, at the top of their terrorist target list, and any bit of information that can help us better protect New York, we're going to attempt to get that.”
Pyne: You're worried that you won't get that information from the federal government?
Kelly: “Yeah, sure, there's a worry. We're still waiting for a report on the Madrid bombings from the federal government. The Madrid bombings took place on March 11 of 2004. It happened in their transit system, actually commuter rail line. We have an underground system here, over 600 miles of track, 468 stations, and we're charged with the responsibility of protecting that system. We'd still be waiting for information if we didn't go out and actively have detectives who were there that day. We sent a team over from our transit bureau. The next day our counterterrorism and intelligence people were there. We got real-time information as to what they were doing, how they deployed their bomb making material, and we made some adjustments in our tactics the same day.”
Pyne: What was going on, earlier, leading up to the election, when there was the specific but uncorroborated subway threat? There, it really seemed like a lot of different messages were coming out. This time you spoke out with the FBI, but you had the Department of Homeland Security really criticizing the decision to go forward.
Kelly: “Yeah, it was unfortunate, really. I think they won't do that again. It was a kind of a confluence of things that happened in Washington. This was very specific information, and there's still pieces to that report that have not been totally answered. But it was very specific information. There was a time frame, there was a very specific information. There was a time frame. There was a specific modality as to how this was going to happen. We had no choice but to do what we did. ÎWe,’ being the city, the mayor, had no choice but to mobilize our resources and put additional police officers in the transit system. The federal government was simply wrong, in my view, in their assessment of the threat, but secondly, undermining our use of New York City resources to protect New York City residents. We're going to do that every time.”
Pyne: How much do you worry about what's happening in Iraq in terms of affecting New York City as one of the biggest targets for terrorism?
Kelly: “Well, it's certain that the tradecraft of the insurgents has improved. They're getting more sophisticated with their weaponry, their ability to make bombs, IED's - improvised explosive devices. It's something that we look at closely here. We work with the Department of Defense. We have a team that works in our counterterrorism bureau that looks at the capabilities that are being developed in Iraq. We can't afford to not look at it, you might say. That's where the action is these days in the terrorist world, and it's something that we've got to pay attention to.”
Pyne: Do you worry that it's creating more potential terrorists?
Kelly: “Yeah, that is clearly an issue that has to be looked at as far as Iraq is concerned.”
Pyne: Looking back at the year, and also at the last four years, this is the end of this administration's first term; do you feel like you've accomplished what you set out to accomplish four years ago?
Kelly: “Well, we've accomplished a lot. I think generally speaking things have gone very well. We're down a number of police officers. Right now we're almost 5,000 police officers below what this department was in October 2,000, and in spite of that, crime is down 20 percent for the last four years.”
Pyne: Part of the problem, it seems, right now, with attracting new officers is likely going to be the pay cut for new recruits, with the contract that was signed this year. New recruits are starting out at $25,100. Looking back, if you were younger and starting out in the Police Department, would you still join?
Kelly: “Well, I love this job and I probably would. But I don't know. I'm concerned about it, quite frankly. Our average recruit comes in at age 26, [and] many of them are married, both male and female. It's something that is of concern, we're just not able to measure the impact of it yet. We'll have to see as we staff up for the next class, because we hire from several lists, people who have taken the test at different times before the $25,000 starting pay was announced, and people don't necessarily focus on the pay perhaps until it's time to raise your right hand and commit to the department. So we'll have to see, and unfortunately for us it's kind of an eleventh hour situation - see how many people are willing to do it. I have hopes that can be rectified in a very significant way with further negotiations, because it's something that I think has to be addressed.”
Pyne: When was the last time salary was this low?
Pyne: There's a lot of talk that you might be taking on more responsibility in the next administration. Have you had any talks with the mayor about making your job bigger or even taking on a new post?
Kelly: “No, I haven't. But I guess I should keep the talks I have with the mayor private between the mayor and myself. But we haven't spoken about that, no.”
As for the future, the commissioner said he’d like to see more cameras on the streets, and continued improvement in the department’s counterterrorism initiatives.
He didn’t say how long he hopes to have his job, but he did say he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
- Solana Pyne