Top Cop

GUEST: Raymond W. Kelly
AIR DATE: 07/14/2012
VTR: 06/14/2012

I’m Richard Heffner, your host on The Open Mind. And when today’s guest sat here 10 years ago he had then for the second time just become Top Cop.

Indeed, Raymond W. Kelly had just become New York City Police Commissioner for the first time when he had joined me in an Open Mind conversation a decade before that as well.

And I must say how much I wish that he’d stay on the job even ten years more…if he won’t take that as a curse, rather than as an expression of profound admiration.

For I feel safer and sounder that it is Ray Kelly who’s facing down the threats of crime and particularly of terror in the Big Apple…as well as facing up to the promises of police technology in the modern world.

And I say all that in the service of full disclosure. No conflict of interest here; rather a confluence of interests: my family’s … my city’s … and my country’s.

Yet, the long knives are out now … as perhaps they always must be when any strong and authoritative figure who doesn’t tolerate fools easily has been in office a long time, particularly a tough one like Ray Kelly, who has held every rank in the NYPD, who is a lawyer — with a Master of Laws from NYU Law School as well, and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government — who is a combat veteran, retired from the Marine Corps Reserves as a Colonel, who has even run the gamut in Washington, DC and in the private sector, too.

Whatever, while my guest today may want to comment about those long knives… I don’t know … I’m sure viewers are more convinced that they should be concerned with his views on crime, terrorism and police technology in the years ahead. Ray, I don’t know, we haven’t spoken at this table for a long time. When we have spoken we’ve spoken about general things. Right now the, the knives are out and you may want to respond to them. What do you feel?

KELLY: Let me say it’s great to be with you again. Those knives come with the territory. And in a way, (laugh) you get used to it. This is the most litigious environment in the world.

I get sued, literally, every day. Certainly the department does … every day. So, you just accept it as the cost of doing business and you, you go forward. It, it really doesn’t have much of an effect at all.

HEFFNER: You’re tough.

KELLY: (Laugh)

HEFFNER: Marines are tough.

KELLY: You kind of … you know, the job kind of makes you tough … all the time.

HEFFNER: Well, what do you think about where we are now in terms of crime, not just in New York, but in this country itself and in terms of terror. Those are things …


HEFFNER: … that concern me.

KELLY: Right. Right. Obviously I’m pretty parochial when it comes to the issue of crime. I’m looking at the five boroughs of New York City.

We’ve done very well, we’re down 34% since 2001 and we’re doing that with 6,000 fewer police officers than we had in our ranks in, in 2001.

HEFFNER: How come? I should interfere and interrupt …

KELLY: Budget issues …

HEFFNER: … and say …

KELLY: … for the most part.

HEFFNER: … no, I don’t mean in the downturn of the number of cops. How come we’re down with those disabilities … financial and otherwise?

KELLY: I, I think we’re engaged in smarter policing. We’re using technology. We’re using our resources in a more focused way. We’ve learned a lot in the, in the last decade. We’ve also brought to bear technology to a much greater degree.

We have a lot more information now. We know where crime is happening, you know when the crime is happening to a much greater degree than, than ever before. And it’s enabled us to hone in on where our problems are. And where our resources can do the most good.

Now, this year, for instance, right now we’re at a record low in murders. Ah, we are … I know … I’m not certain when this show is going to be shown … so … we, we are at, at a … the lowest point that we’ve been on this date in at least 45 years and that’s when we started to measure crime accurately.

At the same time the population of New York City has gone up … right now it’s arguably 8.4 million people. In 1990, we had 2, 245 murders with a population of roughly 7.3 million people. So we have a million more people in the city and we’re running at a rate now that would be a record low. I don’t want to predict what it will.

But we did have a low in 2009 of 471 murders … all indicates are we’ll come significantly below that.

HEFFNER: Btu what has technology got to do with this?

KELLY: Technology has a lot to do with it. We have more cameras … many … we didn’t have any cameras in 1990 … and now we have thousands of cameras that we’re able to access.

We have them, to a certain extent, in clusters … we have them in what we call a “low Manhattan security initiative” … the 1.7 square miles south of Canal Street … area has been attacked twice successfully by terrorists. We’ve had several plots since September 11th in that area, focused in that area.

We have cameras in mid-town Manhattan. And now we’re tie in cameras throughout all five boroughs into the lower Manhattan coordination center, which is where we, we monitor many cameras.

And it’s a unique location because it’s a public/private partnership. We have police officers there and we have representatives from top corporations in these areas … in mid-town and in, in lower Manhattan.

The cameras are very sophisticated tools. They can act as alarms. You can put algorithms in these cameras that will enable you to search them. If you wanted to see everyone who walked in front of a particular camera wearing a red shirt at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, two weeks ago, we can do that. We can do it fairly quickly.

And it also just … data is, is now much more available to the Department enabling us to plan, enabling investigators to have information in their hands much more quickly.

We put in place something called a “Real Time Crime Center”. Doesn’t really exist anywhere else although some people use the name. We created a data warehouse, put lots of information into that data warehouse and sitting on top of it is this real time crime center, which is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week by experienced detectives to push information out to investigators in the field when a crime happened.

A murder happens, they get that victimology … the information about the victim … get it into the hands of the investigators as quickly as possible … who’s on parole, in, in the area … we have ten years of 911 call data information that had been called into our, our system.

It just … there’s just a lot more real time information in the hands of police officers … certainly investigators. But police officers of the street and we’re trying to increase that every day.

HEFFNER: Ray, how do you deal with the people who find that to be, in one sense, not the result … the lowering of the crime rate … but the very fact of information, information, information a horror story. That they’re on camera …

KELLY: I’ll tell you … those people … I think in this day and age … are really very few. The world has changed.

You walk into a department story, your picture is taken 20 times. Arthur Goldberg said in 1968 in a Supreme Court decision that there’s no expectation of privacy in the, in the public domain.

So that genie is out of the bottle, there’s cameras everywhere. And you really … when it’s polled, by the way, it usually shows about 80% support on, on the part of the, the public. So, I … we don’t hear those, those complaints anymore.

HEFFNER: If you want me to … I’ll …

KELLY: You’ll complain. (Laugh)

HEFFNER: … make a record of all the people who say to me … “You’re going to have Ray Kelly there, ask him about privacy, ask him about those cameras”.

KELLY: Yeah. Well, I think they’re protecting the city. They’re, as I say they’re in public areas and I, I don’t hear those, those complaints.

You know, the circles you travel in … the … up here (makes a gesture … laughs) people may, may complain about it. But it is a fact of life, it’s something we have to do to protect the city.

Crime is down to, to record lows … one of the reasons is technology and one of the aspects of technology is cameras that are proliferating all over. You go to London they have many more cameras than, than we have here.

Paris the same thing. So, it’s just the way the world is now and will be only increasing in the future.

HEFFNER: Ray, let me ask this … in London … in Paris … in other countries do we find … and I certainly accept your statement of statistics that 80% of people …

KELLY: MmmHmm.

HEFFNER: … are not concerned about this because the payoff is safety.

KELLY: MmmHmm.

HEFFNER: More safety. But the less privacy that goes with more safety … do other people deal with this more easily than we do? Let’s take the 20%. The people who are saying to me … “Ask Kelly about the invasion of privacy”. Are others taking that …

KELLY: Well, they may not be talking about cameras … they may be talking about other aspects of what, what we’re doing. But I don’t believe it’s an issue in, in the UK. I don’t believe it’s an issue in, in Paris.

I was in Argentina … in, in Buenos Aires … 12 years ago they had an elaborate array of, of cameras.

Obviously in Israel, in Jerusalem … they have some sophisticated camera systems. So, I, I don’t think there is that much of resistance any more to cameras.

Maybe in terms of other technology, but I, I think that, that’s sort of yesterday’s issue.

HEFFNER: Well, what are the other technologies that …

KELLY: Well, the complaints that you may hear but .. I mean that, you know, obviously … the issues about eavesdropping … those, those sorts of things that have happened in other countries, happen in, in the UK.

Here you clearly need a court order to, to do that. And, you know, we certainly adhere to the law in that regard.

HEFFNER: What’s the wave of the future? More cameras? More … what people … some people call invasion of privacy.

KELLY: Well, one of the things that we’re looking at and we looked at with, with the Brits and with our own Department of Defense … terahertz technology … it’s called.

We all emit a certain radiation … called terahertz. And what we were looking for is some device that would help us identify someone wearing a gun or a suicide vest, a bomb vest which is the DOD was, was looking at.

So, we’ve worked on this for a few years. It’s got a ways to go. But the technology is out there where you can see a person … the … you know, in sort of a green light … the fashion and you can see the outline of a gun.

In other words the terahertz does not come through … or the radiation does not come through the, the weapon, so you can see the, the form of a, of a weapon.

Now, we have worked with this, it’s right now the current device is way too big and the doesn’t have the range that, that we like.

But we know what cell phones looked like 20 years ago. So, you know, we’re hopeful that this would enable us in, in certain situations to spot someone with a, with a weapon.

Now there are legal concerns, legal issues here … our legal folks are aware of this, looking at it and the technology is not there yet. But that’s something that …

HEFFNER: How do you see it being used?

KELLY: Well, it could be used in, in areas where you have violence, shootings, that sort of thing. May be gangs are, are getting … coming together or talking about having, you know, fights, we might able to use this to, to disarm people … identify someone carrying a gun … it would rise to a level of reasonable suspicion. You’d be able to go right to that person who is carrying a gun instead of stopping and questioning other people.

HEFFNER: Reasonable suspicion. Reason is used by individuals. Do you feel sanguine about the ability of your individual cops to use that reason?

KELLY: It is a well-established principle in the law … police have been using it for a very long time. It’s another, I think 1968 Supreme Court decision … it’s was a banner year in the, in the Supreme Court.

Terry versus Ohio which gave authorization, you might say, for officers to do this. It’s also codified in our, in our criminal procedure law. You talk about stop and question, sometimes frisking …

HEFFNER: Or stop and use this machine that you’re talking about.

KELLY: Well, it’s not being using the machine. The machine is, is sort of like the next step where it would, it would …

HEFFNER: I understand.

KELLY: … develop reasonable suspicion, just on it’s own. And again, this is, you know, this is emerging technology, there’s certainly some uncharted water here … legal issues have to be ironed out and addressed.

But you asked me what’s coming down the pike. And I, I see that as, as something that is going to happen. When, I, I couldn’t tell you exactly.

HEFFNER: What other kinds of technologies are you hoping to develop or see develop?

KELLY: Well, one of the things that has just been passed in Washington, which is a miracle … in and of itself …

HEFFNER: To get anything passed.

KELLY: Is the … ahhh … D-block … it’s, it’s sort of a, an increase in, in bandwidth or radio frequencies for, for public safety. For both police and, and fire. It’s sort of an arm wrestle between the private sector and the government to, to use this, this spectrum.

And government is now going to be able to use it to have a much better communications for “first responders”, public safety first responders … fire, police, EMS and that will enable us to put a lot more information in the hands of the police officers.

Right now we have a little bit of this in a WiFi system in, in New York. But it, it’s just not broad enough, it’s not powerful enough to penetrate a lot of our building, for instance.

So this is going to, when it’s in place … and it’s … believe me, it’s heavy lift and it’s a way down the road … and will … this is a nationwide approach, but it’s going to enable a lot more hand-held information.

What I’m looking at … police officers having it … but certainly other, other first responders will have a lot more information available.

HEFFNER: Ray, I remember that after 9/11 this became such a hot issue, this ability or inability to communicate. Why has it taken this much time? Are we talking about science or are we talking about politics here?

KELLY: I think you’re talking mostly about politics. The, the science was there. I mean we can talk about the 9/11 situation towards communication had police and fire sort of separate systems. Have the VHF and the UHF system.

Those things were ironed out fairly quickly. But in terms of this expansion, there has been a lot of discussion, a lot of lobbying by lots of folks on different sides.

But the … remarkably this piece of legislation has been passed. The President has signed it, the Vice President had played a major role in, in getting it through. And I think it’s fair to say that all of … certainly law enforcement … and, and fire fighters throughout the country and EMS workers are very appreciative of this. They see this as making a, a big difference in the ability to have a lot more information.

HEFFNER: Are there other big political issues that law enforcement, by and large, agrees upon, in which there are political stumbling blocks, gun control or other areas …

KELLY: Well … you know … gun control is obviously a big issue and, and we know that both sides of the aisle in Washington are reluctant to take this issue on. That’s just the reality of it.

Mayor Bloomberg has been terrific in his leadership in this regard. He’s brought together over 300 Mayors … a pretty powerful force … yet they haven’t been able to make the legislative changes that he believes and I certainly agree that are needed to tighten up the flow of guns into New York City.

For instance, 90% of the guns that we confiscate here are from out of New York State. You can get on a bus and go to neighboring states and buy some guns, bring them back here, sell them for two or three times what you, what you paid for them.

You can go to gun shows and if you are a … quote … “casual seller” or a “casual” buyer you can buy without any sort of records check. And that’s one of the, one of the big areas that the Mayor and certainly myself would like to see that, that loophole plugged.

HEFFNER: It’s a pretty big loophole …

KELLY: It, it is a big loophole … and it might be as many as 40% of the legal guns coming through that, that gap.

So that’s another … that’s a big issue I think it’s fair to say that most law enforcement would like to see … tighter gun controls. And, and the problems that we see … you know … as I say crime is down in New York City.

We still have way too many guns on the streets of, of the city. Most of the victims are young men of, of color. And if you look at other cities throughout the country … it’s exactly the same, only more so proportionately … when you look at their population.

So this is a national problem. You know we … as I say we’re looking, looking here in New York … but we know that in other major cities … it is … it is an on-going issue … their, their … we have the lowest murder rate of any major city in America … lower than the top 25 cities and … if you look at other cities … big cities … two, three, four times more likely to be murdered in those cities than in, in New York.

We’d like it to go down here in New York as well … but it’s … my point is it’s a national problem, not just the city.

HEFFNER: Ray … terror. What do you want to tell me to make me feel better?

KELLY: (Laugh) Well, I think it, it’s clear that core al- Qaeda has been significantly diminished. The drone attacks had a, a major impact.

But at the same time their affiliates are alive and well. Al-Shariah certainly in Yemen. As we say al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula … in the Maghreb in, in North Africa. In Somalia … al-Shabab is a … has sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda.

We’re concerned about Boko Haram which is a terrorist group in, in Northern Nigeria.

We just had the bomb plot which was leaked … just a few, a few weeks ago … you know, emanating from Yemen.

So, the threat is, is still very much with us. Yes, core al-Quaeda has, has been reduced. We know that number 3 and number 2 job is a, is a tough position to hold (laugh) in al-Qaeda, but we, we can’t … we can’t relax, we can’t take our pack off, as they say.

We, we have to continue to be concerned about those affiliates.

But also the lone wolf threat. Something that’s very hard to get your arms around. The most recent case we had here is an individual that we locked up in November … Jose Pimentel his name is. The case is going forward now with the Manhattan District Attorney, but he is a young man who basically self-radicalized. Born in the Dominican Republic, comes here when he’s five years of age. And he was a … within an hour of walking out with what he thought were three functioning pipe bombs.

We were watching him and he was arrested for that. But his plan was to attack returning troops and, and police stations.

And he learned how to make these bombs by looking at “Inspire” magazine, which something Anwar Awlaki who was killed on September 30th … last September 30th in a drone attack … and Samir Khan who was also killed … put on the Internet and it was a step by step method to put these bombs together. That information is, is out there. It’s available right now.

So the Pimentel type person is difficult to identify. No question about it.

HEFFNER: The lone wolf.

KELLY: The lone wolf. And it’s, it’s certainly a cause for, for concern.

HEFFNER: You say a cause for concern … we have two minutes left. What can a citizen do with this concern?

KELLY: Well, we have to operate on, on several levels. And I think human intelligence is an important factor. It’s something that in the seventies was sort of, sort of pushed to the side by intelligence gathering entities and agencies. And there’s nothing like human intelligence. We need that. We need to keep that, that ability to gather on the ground intelligence.

Difficult work. It certainly … overseas … you know, when you’re dealing with tribes and you’re dealing with clans … it’s very difficult to, to get into those types of organizations.

But human intelligence is often the key. You just can’t rely on, on the electronic means.

HEFFNER: That’s why one hears in public so much … “if you see something, hear something …

KELLY: “If you see something, say something” … absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. We need that. We need vigilance, we have, we have an NYPD shield organization here made up of over 10,000 security directors. We impart information to them. It’s a two way street. And we also have conferences where we bring them in and brief them on what’s, what’s going on. It’s a force multiplier for the police department in general.

HEFFNER: As my wife says, and I echo it … “We feel safer to know that Ray Kelly is Police Commissioner”. Thanks for joining me again.

KELLY: Great to be with you, Richard.

HEFFNER: And thanks, too, to you in the audience. I hope you join us again next time. Meanwhile, as another old friend used to say, “Good night and good luck.”

And do visit the Open Mind Website at to reprise this program online right now or to draw upon our Archive of 1,500 or so other Open Mind and related programs. That’s

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