Ray Kelly discusses his life fighting crime as New York's former police commissioner.
The CFR Fellows’ Book Launch series highlights new books by CFR fellows. It includes a discussion with the author, cocktail reception, and book signing.
HAASS: And applaud you should. (Laughter.) This book—actually, I'm in a rare position. I do a lot of book events. I've actually read this book. (Laughter.) I'm not sure that's good for Ray that I have, but I have.
This book is lots of books in one. First and foremost, it's a love story about an amazing marriage with a young lady wearing orange, of over 50 years. (Applause.) It's an autobiography of an extraordinary life. And what's so interesting about the life is at so many stages the guy on my left did things that he didn't need to do, but for whatever reason he wanted to do and felt compelled to do. I thought I knew him, and I kept learning stuff about him. He's got more degrees than any of our fellows, I think. It's very interesting how he pushed himself in lots of different directions and lots of different dimensions.
It's a story about terrorism, but more important it's terrorism avoided and the vignettes or the stories of a dozen or so attacks that were contemplated and planned, but fortunately never completed and carried out.
It makes for fascinating, but also harrowing reading because you, and it's something we'll talk about, you realize just how close we came sometimes, what Machiavelli called fortuna. We had some fortuna on our side, and some fortuna is not something you can always count on. So it's sobering in certain ways.
It's obviously a story of dealing with crime. And also a success story there, I think, in many ways.
Ray Kelly had a major role in helping to make this city a truly livable and relatively safe place for its millions of inhabitants and visitors.
And it's an interesting book because it deals openly with some of the challenges about how do you balance, how do you get it right between civil liberties, both in the counterterrorism space as well as in the crime space, and how do you protect rights at the same time you protect people, and where do you draw those lines and where do you get those balances.
And there's no easy or glib answers. So if you read the book, I think you get a better appreciation for it.
The book is called “Vigilance,” which tells you something. The subtitle is “My Life Serving America and Protecting Its Empire City.”
We've been lucky enough here at the Council to have had an association with Ray since he stepped down, and he's been a distinguished visiting fellow with us and among us.
So on behalf of all of us, again we want to congratulate you on the book, but we also want to thank you for all you've done with us and for us.
KELLY: Thank you, Richard. (Applause.)
HAASS: And that's a really tough introduction to an interview if you've ever heard one. I mean, really. (Laughter.) Any of those, you know, journalists tomorrow night during the debate, you know, that'll be a hard act to follow, a sort of antagonistic journalism here.
What I want to do is, in some ways, start with some of the basics, almost a philosophical question. When you deal with the pendulum between making a society safe, but how you deal with individual rights where there are questions, whether it's in the terrorism space or the crime space, how is it you think about that? What goes on in your mind when you think of the balances, when you think of the tradeoffs? What's your vision of the problem, and then sort of where do you come out and why?
KELLY: Well, let me start off by thanking you, Richard, for everything you've done for me. You're right, you provided a home for me when I left the police department. I am a distinguished visiting fellow. (Laughter.) Some people question the distinguished part. But you have been absolutely terrific, and I want to thank you for that and thank the Council for that.
I just want to point out one person. You already introduced my wife and my son. David Cohen, who is a real hero, a New York City hero, is in the book and he happens to be here. I haven't seen David in a while, he's been traveling. David, it is great to see you, pal. And if you get the book, which I urge you to do, you'll see some fascinating things about David.
HAASS: I should just say that when Ray came here, one of the big innovations he made was essentially giving this city an intelligence and counterterrorism capability that it needed. And the gentleman he brought from a place called Washington, D.C., actually it was in Langley, Virginia, and he brought David who had had a senior role there on the interesting side of that place. And he brought him here to New York to stand up what has really become, no pun intended, a world-class intelligence capability. And for that, we are all grateful, so it’s great.
Despite the Boston accent, you are welcome in this room. (Laughter.)
KELLY: (Using a heavy Boston accent.) Boston is in down here these days. (Laughter.)
How do we address the issue, the balance? Well, I am an attorney and that is something that has concerned me through my professional life.
I see myself, and the book mentions this, as a civil libertarian in many ways. And it's something we were very conscious of, and certainly David Cohen was conscious of.
We brought in, among other things, a cadre of world-class warriors, in my opinion, fitting with the world-class intelligence operation. Former assistant U.S. attorneys, former district attorneys, people who had really in-depth knowledge and experience in the area.
And particularly when we look in the intelligence field, all of the reports, all the activities of the intelligence division were vetted by these attorneys. The intelligence reports, DD files as they were called inside the house, were examined and combed through.
It's, you know, it's a delicate balance. People, when you talk about the crime side of the house, we obviously had a high-profile case and an issue concerning stop-and-frisk. It's something that we thought about quite a bit.
And the practice itself was validated by a Supreme Court decision. It's codified in every state in the union. We were very careful to train people, show them how to do it. I believe the case itself, the case that went to court, was bad law and it certainly wasn't supported by the facts in the case. And the judge herself was removed from the case because of pretrial publicity by the 2nd Circuit, which would have heard the case, heard the appeal if Mayor Bloomberg's appeal had been allowed to go forward. Mayor de Blasio chose not to do that.
But being involved in the law and being concerned about individual rights is part and parcel to the job of police commissioner and the people that he or she has to have around them. And I think we did a good job in that respect.
HAASS: I want to get to stop-and-frisk in a bit, or as you called it in the book stop-question-and-frisk. But let's put that off to the side for one or two minutes.
When you left office, how much by then do you think the city resolved the challenge of integrating intelligence? You were getting it from all these directions, all these different federal, state, local capabilities. It was an integration issue. It was a coordination and cooperation issue. How far advanced had things gotten by the time you left? You can compare it to when you got here, but compare it also to where you think it needs to be.
KELLY: Well, we are light years ahead of where we were when we came onboard. The intelligence division then was basically kind of an escort unit for VIPs, did very little what I would call intelligence, did gather information concerning crimes.
There was a field intelligence officer in each of our precincts. And they were reasonably effective at that level, but we changed the game dramatically and David Cohen certainly was a major factor in that regard.
But intelligence never comes in neat packages. It's contradictory, it's kind of messy. You know, people think, oh, we've got this piece of intelligence. No, it doesn't work like that. You get a little bit here and a little bit there and you kind of have to put it together and that's what David and his people, I think, did very well.
We were able to bring in, as a result of sort of David's gravitas, people from the CIA, people who had had experience working in intelligence. And then that sort of spread. Then it was, you know, we were attracting people, first-class people, because this is where they wanted to be, this is where the action was.
But in terms of integration, it's not as smooth as you'd like it to be. Much of the information that we were receiving coming through the Joint Terrorism Task Force, no question about it, but we would get information from other sources and information from, you know, from other agencies and information from our own people as well in the field. So always a challenge.
And in this day and age, there's not nearly as much usable information as we'd like, you know, that people are like, oh, there's lots of stuff coming in. Well, it's not coming in necessarily in the volume we'd like.
HAASS: When you left, which was what, just over, what, just over a year-and-a-half ago now? What's the timing on that?
HAASS: Even though ISIS was already up and running, it hadn't reached the capability, much less the prominence it has now. So now we're in a different period, if you will, of global terrorism. You were, in some ways, the commissioner during what we might call the age of al-Qaida, now it's slightly more the age of ISIS.
And one of the things about ISIS is it does what you might call retail inspiration through the Internet, and it isn't necessarily people who go to camps and get trained and come back or can be tracked. You've got a very different problem.
What is your sense about what has to be done differently in order to meet that threat? Or do you sense that we're doing it or not?
KELLY: I think we're going to be fighting this battle for a long, long time to come. I think, you know, the ISIS phenomena is something that is not going to be addressed in the Middle East unless we're able to put together coalitions.
For myself, I don't think we should put any U.S. ground troops in the Middle East to fight them at this juncture, other than perhaps Special Operations components. We look at Turkey has 500,000 troops under arms, Egypt 500,000, Saudi Arabia 250,000—right there, three countries, you know, over a million troops. So that's what I think ideally should be done to fight them, you know, on the ground.
But the much more challenging and vexing problem is this inspirational aspect where they put out—they started just putting out almost 90,000 tweets or retweets a day. So there is that glut of that sort of information that I think is difficult to sort. And we're always going to have, at least in my judgment, in my lifetime, disaffected young people who will look at these videos, and they're very sophisticated, very slick, and decide to kill people in our own country.
HAASS: It's just, I think, a fact that sometimes these things are going to succeed. One of the studies over the years we've done here is not just on counterterrorism prevention, but on resilience. Is it your sense, you know, to how we cope as a city with the inevitable successes? Do you think terrorists are going to have some tactical successes? Is there a lot more we can and should be doing there to make this city—because you're never going to bat a thousand against it. We've got to become stronger in coping with it.
KELLY: I think—when we left I think we were doing everything we reasonably can do. I have no reason to believe that they've backed off from that approach significantly.
So we're an open city, 10 million people a day are in here on the workday. We're vulnerable, no question about it.
I think we did a good job. We were, I think, resolute in trying to sort it out, but we were lucky, too. Faisal Shahzad drove into the middle of Times Square. We didn't know him, he wasn't on anybody's radar screen, and tried to blow up a car next to the Marriott Hotel. He found a parking spot on a Saturday night at 7:00. What a miracle. (Laughter.)
And the reason that bomb didn't go off is because he dumbed it down. He thought that—he was a naturalized Pakistani, he was born in Pakistan, naturalized U.S. citizen and thought that he would be identified. If he went in to buy firecrackers, which he was told to do in Pennsylvania, that he may be identified because he, in his mind, looked, quote, “Pakistani.” So he dumbed it down, he bought firecrackers of less volatility, M-88s instead of M-80s, that sort of thing. If he had stayed with the formula, it would have worked and you would have had a major event in Times Square.
Those sorts of things are just very, very difficult to totally stop. There's a lot of good work being done in chat rooms. There's work being done by undercover police officers here, confidential informants who are outside the department, but you know, you can't continue to bat a thousand.
HAASS: Maybe just one last question on the terrorism front, and it gets a bit of the civil liberties issue. And you know, to use the cliché that you sometimes hear, you know, most of the world's Muslims are not terrorists, but most of today's terrorists happen to be Muslim. How is it this city maintains good relations with the Muslim community, yet has sufficient access to it so it can find out whether there are problems that are brewing? How do you balance that?
KELLY: Yeah. Well, I think we had very good relations with the Muslim community. We put together early on a Muslim Advisory Council. And this was not, you know, people in the choir, these were folks who had some very strong opinions. I'd meet with them on a regular basis and I think a lot of community interaction was done on the part of police officers.
We engaged in a major recruiting effort so that the department now has police officers born in 106 countries, which is just phenomenal in my view, it just doesn't exist anywhere else. That diversity obviously involved Muslim officers. There is a Muslim Officers Association that has increased in size. There's a D.C. association which is South Asia.
So I believe we, on our watch, had very good relations with certainly the leadership of the Islam de corps. Did we make everybody happy? No. Did we have people who objected to what we did? Absolutely. Did I meet with them? Yes, I did.
So we had that sort of dialogue ongoing. And you don't hear that sort of—and it's not rumblings in the community about, you know, the police department. You'll have some activists who will complain and did complain on our watch. But I don't think that's the general consensus of the Muslim community in New York City.
HAASS: Let me ask just a couple of questions on policing and then we'll open it up.
Two things you say in the book I want to highlight. One is you've come around on the question of body cams. Would you talk about that for a second, about why?
KELLY: Yeah. I think body cameras are going to cause police officers to hesitate. That could be a good thing, it could be a bad thing.
What I wanted was more of a sort of a pilot program period of time to see what the effects of that hesitation would be. But after I saw the horrific murder of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, I said what sort of individual, assuming a sane individual, a police officer, would do what that officer did if he were wearing a bod cam.
So to me, it was a game changer. And I think the train has left the station as far as cameras are concerned. Police departments have to, in my judgment, adopt it. There's lots of logistic problems: how do you store the information, who has access to it, that sort of thing. But it's something that, in my view, has to be done because I think it will have an impact, significant impact on getting back that level of trust that, in this city, I think we've worked very hard to achieve.
In 2013, the last year of the Bloomberg administration, the department had a 70 percent approval rating and I had a 75 percent approval rating. I say that not to brag, but to indicate what the relationship was like. This is after 11 years and change in office.
These high-profile events set that back. You know, it's understandable, throughout the country you see that sort of thing.
I think the adoption of cameras will make a difference when they're implemented more or when they're deployed more than they are now, will make a difference in terms of getting back that level of trust.
HAASS: You had this long and distinguished career in the Marines. And yet something else that surprised me a bit in the book was your criticism of giving a lot of police departments, you know, equipment that's normally associated with troops in combat, in our cities. Say something about that, about—because you're one of the people who bridges those two worlds, the world of military combat, the world of policing. You basically think that a lot of disarming doesn't make sense.
KELLY: I don't. And this was a well-intentioned, good-faith effort on the part of the military to deploy their excess equipment in the '90s to police agencies. It seemed to be sort of a logical connection, logical nexus there between the military and the police.
It really wasn't well thought out. And the types of equipment kept getting more and more muscular, I guess, and something that is not appropriate on the streets of this country. I think it just gives a bad signal, bad optics.
We saw that in Ferguson, but we've seen it in other places as well.
It started off with just trucks and vehicles, that sort of thing, but then it got into weapons, it got into these big M-Trucks.
And then you saw police officers in military garb, the helmets and camouflage vest, that sort of thing. It just looked bad. It's not the appropriate weaponry to have on as far as civilian policing is concerned.
Now, I think some of this equipment should be storehoused and kept at state level in the event of a natural disaster, that sort of thing.
But I just saw a movie last night called “Peace Officer.” I don't know if any of you have seen it. But it speaks to this issue about the over-militarization of the police. And it shows small towns in America with this equipment. And unfortunately, you know, bad shootings happen as a result. A pretty well-done movie.
But no, I think that has to be removed and chiefs have to look at it through the prism of, hey, you're dealing a community here, suppose you're on the other side? How would you like to see an army coming at you?
HAASS: I've got one last question before I open it up to our members. In the context in which your book's been published, you obviously now have a degree of violence often along racial lines between police and minorities. What would you do if you were still on the job or what would you recommend? How do you begin to reverse that dynamic? And is there a role for something like stop-and-frisk in that? Is that part of the solution or has the politics changed that that can no longer be part of the solution?
KELLY: Well, I certainly think it should be implemented. I don't see anything wrong with it. As I say, validated by a Supreme Court case. I don't think it was overused here.
What we were punished for in a way is better recordkeeping. When I was a police officer and stopped people I didn't record it, very seldom recorded it. We required police officers to record it because we wanted to know what they were doing, we have an obligation to know what officers are doing.
And by the way, the litigation against the city started in 1999. This was not recent, you know, litigation that has to do specifically with the Bloomberg administration. It started quite a while ago and saw it terminated in a case that uniquely coincided with the mayoral race here. The timing was quite interesting as to how this case came out. And you know, depending on what you want to see or looked and as far as the record is concerned, a lot of very important evidence was left out of that case.
But your question, does it play a role? Absolutely. If you go to communities of color, you know, there's an activist community and then there's the grassroots community. You go in the grassroots community, they want to be safe and they want, sure, they want to be treated with dignity and respect. But there's a tremendous amount of support in communities of color for stop-question-and-frisk and other tactics and strategies that have made them safe.
Now, 97 percent of the shootings in this city happen that the victims are black or Latino. That's where the violence is. They see themselves disproportionately victimized and they see it, many people, not all, and I understand that, but many people see it as a way of controlling guns and shootings in their neighborhood. And I happen to agree with it.
It should not be done randomly. You need reasonable suspicion to stop someone. But if you're out on the street in a lot of the neighborhoods and you build up a certain eye and sense of where suspicious activity is happening or where it's about to happen, I think it's something that should be fully restored.
Now, police officers have been given all sorts of signals that we can't all do this or you do it in a very, you know, very small number or the number that has been quoted is 40,000. Well, there are hundreds of thousands of calls just to the 911 system about suspicious activity.
So a city of 8.4 million people where almost 6 million people travel a day in the subway system that have only 40,000 stops, it's just very, very low and it's certainly not reflective of the suspicious activity that police officers encounter or should encounter, assuming that they're doing their job.
HAASS: Want to open it up for questions. Just before I do, I want to recognize also one of your other deputies, Rich Falkenrath. I thought I—
KELLY: There he is. Rich Falkenrath, I didn't see him there.
HAASS: Had the counterterrorism mantle, basically working closely with David.
KELLY: Rich is another star and I was so fortunate to have him. He was President Bush's homeland security adviser and was literally one of the designers of the whole Department of Homeland Security. He was just a tremendous asset.
I happened to see something today where the mayor was in the command center in police headquarters. Rich was the person primarily responsible for having that whole command center built. He got the money, federal money, and helped in the design and the layout. So he is a true star. He's now gone off to the private sector, though. Another failing. (Laughter.) But you're terrific. Great to have you here.
HAASS: We're looking forward to him to endowing a chair at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Laughter.) So we're hoping he succeeds.
KELLY: That's right, he's a member here. Yeah.
HAASS: Let's open it up to questions for our members. Just stand and introduce yourself, ask a question. Wait for the microphone, and we'll jam in as many as we can.
Q: Yeah. Stephen Schlesinger from the Century Foundation.
What do you think about the hiring of another 1,200 police officers under the current administration?
KELLY: Well, any administrator, you know, we always want more resources. But the job that was done under the Bloomberg administration and when we left, we had record low crime, record low shootings, record low murders, record low shootings by police officers.
I mentioned the 70 percent approval rating. And that was done with 6,000 fewer police officers than the previous administration had. So the job was being done.
And this administration decided to add more police officers. Now, if I was sitting in that seat, I'd say, hey, great. You know, you can do more with it. But you know, whether or not it was needed is, you know, I don't have the answer to that question.
HAASS: Yes, ma'am? Just wait for the microphone.
Q: Ray, congratulations. I'm sorry. It's Consuelo Mack—
Q:—and my husband, former deputy commissioner under Ray as well.
Q: So we're delighted to be here. And congratulations on the book.
What about police morale? You know, we're talking about community morale and relations to police, but I'm wondering how the police are feeling and what we can do to encourage them and motivate them as well to stick with an honorable profession when they are feeling under fire.
KELLY: Yeah. Just let me say something about Walter Mack. When I was became police commissioner, we did something that was really unique. Walter was a very experienced assistant U.S. attorney. And to run our internal affairs operation, to do the investigations of police officers, I brought in Walter to be the deputy commissioner of internal affairs. He did a—he did a terrific job.
Thank you, Consuelo.
Yeah, morale—(chuckles)—I said this to someplace recently. Every year I’ve been—I was in the department 40-something years. Just ask the union, morale has never been lower. It keeps going down, that's it, you know. I mean, morale in policing is—this is obviously a self-selecting job, and most cops love the job.
Now, what is the objective criteria of morale for, you know, the rest of the world? People vote with their feet. If you don't like it someplace, you're going to leave. In 2013 or last year, we had the lowest percentage of people leaving the department with less than 20 years of service, police officers, and then we had the lowest percentage of police officers after 20 years retiring. And that, to me, is a significant indicator of morale.
Now, we know in 2008 we had, you know, big economic problems. I'm talking 2013, the situation was different. You could have said, well, no, police are not leaving, there's no work out there. So I think that is a very meaningful indicator.
Now, as far as what's going on, it's difficult for me to judge. Obviously, there is a little bit of a—not a little bit, there is an attack on police officers, verbal attacks. And we saw some of that culminate in just the outright assassination of police officers Liu and Ramos here in December. But I think that could be a—you know, it's a blip, and I think for a relatively short period of time.
Police officers, generally speaking, really like, you know, what they do. It's exciting. It's camaraderie and bonding experience. I loved it, and you know, I don't think I'm unique. It is sort of like the military a little bit, bringing people together. And I think, you know, union people will say whatever they want to say about morale, but you stop the average cop on the street and ask them do you like your job or do you love your job, they're going to say yes.
Warren? Mr. Hogue?
Q: Warren Hogue, International Peace Institute.
Ray, I was at the same film you were at last night. And that police officer, who was a remarkable police officer from Utah, came down to talk to us afterwards. And of course, he's in New York so we ask him about gun control. And he said I believe in guns, I'm a Second Amendment guy. I wanted to ask you, you served a mayor who's passionate about gun control and has put so much resources into it. From your point of view as a police commissioner or as a police officer, is gun control necessary? Is it effective? And do you see any future? It seems to be so hard to convince this country of the necessity for gun control.
KELLY: Yeah. No, it's a complex question. I see no gun legislation coming down the pike. It's a third rail in Washington on both sides of the aisle.
Is it effective? Generally speaking, no. We have over 300 million guns are bought in this country. Even if we stop manufacturing tomorrow, we'd still have 300 million guns to deal with.
Practically speaking, I don't think we're going to see any legislation that is going to address even something as simple as the gun show loophole. What is the gun show loophole? It is this fiction that you go to a gun show, you and I are private people and I'm going to sell you a gun, but we don't need a background check because, you know, we're just private folks and that's fine. Now, some states have tried to address that. Thirty-six states have some attempt to address that, but there's still 14 states that leave this wide open. And many crime guns come through that opening.
I was undersecretary of treasury in the Clinton administration, ATF was reporting to me. To the best of my knowledge, the last report that was done on the issue of where crime guns were coming from and what the effect of the gun show loophole is was a report on my watch, and that was in the late 1990s.
So there's no desire in Washington to do anything about it. It's seen as, you know, very, very politically dangerous.
Here in New York, 90 percent of the guns that are confiscated come from out of state. They come from Florida. They come from Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania. And you go hop on a bus, you get a gun and maybe five guns come up here, sell it for two-and-a-half, three times what you paid for it.
I don't see any short-term solution to this problem. The only real solution can be a national policy. That's not happening, in my mind, so we’re stuck with the problem.
HAASS: Can I ask you about another—can I ask you about another social policy issue, which is drugs and criminal penalties—whether, from your perspective, too many young men in particular are being sent to jail for things they ought not to be sent to jail for?
KELLY: I think we've seen a shift throughout the country where, for the most part now, people who are incarcerated are there for violent crimes. I think, de facto, judges throughout the country have, you know, gotten the message that, hey, you know, young lives are being destroyed. That sort of thing is much more of a redirection towards treatment than ever before—you know, the Rockefeller drug laws, which changed here quite—you know, now quite a while ago. So I think that was the case. I think it's much less now, and it’ll continue moving in that direction.
HAASS: And you approve of that?
KELLY: Yeah, I do.
HAASS: Mr. Rose?
Q: Dan Rose.
You're a hero. You're among friends, A.
B, Ta-Nahisi Coates, in his recent book to his son, tells his son to be more afraid of police than of the murderous thugs in the neighborhood, and the public cheers. What is the most effective reply to the Ta-Nahisi Coates position?
KELLY: Well, it's obviously an emotional issue for parents, for people of color. There is a perception out there in certain communities that racial profiling goes on with great abandon. And then you see these high-profile cases and the suspicion is confirmed in a lot of people's minds, unfortunately.
I mean, I've been in the business for a long time, over 40 years just in the police department. I know the good work that goes on. I know that the communities of color need help. As I said, 90 percent of the murder victims are black or Latino, 97 percent of the shooting victims. That's where the shootings happen.
Fifty percent of the murder victims in the United States are African-American. So that's where the help is needed. And the police are there because they're called by members of the community. They're not just showing up, they're there because the community wants them to be there.
I think it's going to be a long time before we ever get over that perception in a lot of people's minds. Ben Ward, who was my mentor, the police commissioner, he would say, you know, talking about an African-American community, he'd say people want crime to go down in those communities, but don't stop my son. So it's sort of this duality of thinking.
And I think that is unfortunately a fairly widely held view in the African-American community. I think some of the ways you lessen that is by diversity. You want a department that reflects the people that you serve. Not only is it the right thing to do, it makes the job easier.
And as I said before, 106 countries, but even the African-American number in the police department I think is pretty good. It's about 16, a little over 16 percent; it's come down from 17 percent. But the African-American population in the city has gone down to 23 percent. So, you know, it's not that far away. We should certainly try to close it.
Mayor Dinkins just came in here. Hello, Mayor. How are you?
Mayor Dinkins—at the end of Mayor Dinkins' term I was the commissioner. We did a lot of recruiting in black churches, and it worked. And one of the things the next administration coming in, it was a requirement that you have 60 college credits, and that was kicking in in the next year. So what we had hoped would happen is that would be waived, particularly for the lists that we were putting together. But it wasn't waived, it was an opportunity that was missed.
I still think that black churches are a very good avenue to approach as far as getting young men and women interested in policing. But to answer your question, frankly I don't think that issue is going to go away anytime soon in a lot of African-American parents' minds.
HAASS: Yes, ma'am?
Q: Janet Benshoof.
HAASS: Janet, you want to wait for the microphone so we can all hear you?
Q: Janet Benshoof.
Could you address the role of more policewomen in New York City or how you think the department could change if it were 50 percent women? Thank you.
KELLY: Yeah. Well, the department is about 18 percent female now. And that is a pretty high number when you compare it to police departments throughout America. They're in every position. There is a three-star, which is the highest uniform level next to the chief of the department, and many precinct commanders now. So they're sort of dispersed throughout the department, not unlike what you see now going on in the military, at least that discussion.
Fifty percent? It's a good question. I'll have to think about it a little more. It is a fact that in some situations you need the physicality, you know, you just do at 2:00 in the morning, you need to be able to sort of enforce rules, regulations, laws, that sort of thing.
And let me say this, that there's no height requirement anymore in policing. It's all been eliminated as far as lawsuits and civil service regulations are concerned.
I want to think about it more. But I think the department has made pretty good progress in putting women in significant roles throughout.
HAASS: Mr. Rosenwald? Here in the front row.
Q: John Rosenwald, JPMorgan and a friend of all Kellys. (Laughter.)
First, thank you for what you did for this town.
KELLY: Thank you.
Q: Ray, when you were in office you implemented a policy of stationing abroad a number of NYPD officers with strong language capabilities to serve as sort of a listening post overseas. I was just wondering whether the new administration has continued that policy.
KELLY: Yes, yes, they have. And it was an idea that I think David and I came up with collectively. We fight about whose idea it was.
I was a U.S. Customs commissioner. We had legats, legal attaches outside of the country. And I found it to be pretty effective as far as getting information back.
So we felt that was a good idea and particularly starting off with Tel Aviv, a remote police officer. And because of the diversity of the department, you know, a tremendous reservoir of talent to draw from, so our first officer we put into Tel Aviv. And that was before the Sharon Wall, and there was a lot of activity going on. So we were getting real granular information quickly as to what was going on in Israel.
And again, the notion was to put people overseas to protect the city. We want to know what's going on in other places; that can help us protect New York. But you needed a receptive, friendly environment to do that. I would never put someone in Pakistan—quite frankly I think it's too dangerous an environment.
But we wound up with police officers assigned in Abu Dhabi, which we've put a male and female, a couple there, both born in Egypt, but a police officer and a lieutenant, you know, his Egyptian-born police officer with was with him, in Lyon, France, which is where INTERPOL is located and interacting with lots of other countries. In Madrid, we have a detective who had been born in Madrid. In Paris, in London, in Amman, Jordan, in Montreal, Toronto, because we're concerned about the northern border, Singapore and the Dominican Republic.
We had really just a talent pool that was really, you know, top notch. We were able to do that. They had proven very effective, particularly when something happens either in their locations or in another location.
When Mumbai bombing took place, the Mumbai massacre really, we were able to get three of them on the ground very quickly. They sent back information to us very quickly. Mumbai took three days and they were there on the last day of the event. They went to the Chabad-Lubavitch House, real specific information. We had sent police officers there for a bombing of seven trains the year before, so there was very good relations there.
And we brought in 500 security directors into our auditorium the following Friday, hooked them up with the telephone conversation. They produced a 75-page report about what they found. We had a tabletop exercise with all our commanders and we had an actual exercise done out of Floyd Bennett Field that we watched on our television screens. All within less than a week.
So it gives us tremendous flexibility. They were there, we have very smart people, they got us granular, you know, very worthwhile information. And we used it to help us protect New York.
One of the outgrowths of that is we increased the number of special weapons people that we have because, yeah, you need some capacity to deal with, you know, heavy weapons. We had 400 emergency service officers. We took officers from our Organized Crime Control Bureau and trained them so that they could augment the emergency service officers. And we also filmed the insides of the hotels, the major hotels here, to familiarize police officers with the, you know, structures they don't normally go into, into hotels.
So my point is a lot came out of them being overseas and we got it all very quickly. I think it's a very valuable program. All indications are that we're going to keep it in place.
HAASS: Yeah, this young lady there has been patient. Last question.
Q: (Off mic)—One William Street. Thank you for your service to New York City.
KELLY: Thank you.
Q: We've spoken about terrorism and violent crime, but we haven't spoken about cybersecurity. What else should the Financial Cyber Crimes Task Force and law enforcement broadly be doing about cybersecurity?
KELLY: It is a huge problem. And just an article today in the Times talking about. We just don't have a sufficient deterrent effect. I mean, you have the state sponsors of cyber intrusions, you know, Russia, we have Iran, we have China. These are the obvious ones. Then you have kind of the next level down with these sort of “Ocean’s Eleven” teams that are in it for the money and crime, advanced persistent threats they call it.
And very difficult to attribute were intrusion is coming from. And with these advanced persistent threat entities, they're very amorphous. They could be sitting in Belarus and doing something here.
So let's assume we know that there's a team in Belarus doing something. Now, we have to work with the, you know, with the authorities in Belarus. There's no compacts that allow us to do that. What do you do? How do you deter that sort of attack?
Then you have the—you know, in China they have what they call patriotic hackers where you have, you know, thousands upon thousands of them that supposedly the government doesn't control. And then you have just hackers, kids who are out to, you know, have fun in their minds.
So it's very complex. We don't have a meaningful deterrent. It's only going to get worse before it gets better. I wish I had a better answer for it. We can't even get legislation passed in Washington.
There's an issue of, you know, just having companies notify the government when they experience an intrusion. Well, they want a certain amount of protection to do that, protection from liability. And that legislation can't be passed and it's been floating around for years.
So I'm very concerned about that. You know, you can see a—you know, you can think of all sorts of scenarios that would just make our lives much more difficult, let alone more dangerous. I wish I had a better answer, but I'm very concerned about.
HAASS: Just one last question. When you think about modern-day policing and you are going to talk to a young person who is thinking about making this a career, do you think in your mind of policing now as a largely anti-crime, but increasingly has to do counterterrorism on the side? Or increasingly now do you think of policing as a counterterrorism force that still does anti-crime work?
KELLY: No, I would say it's still, you know, anti-crime is the primary job, antiterrorism is much more specialized. But interacting with the community, being peace officers, as the movie emphasized last night, is really what it's all about.
I think it's a terrific way to make a living. It's not for everybody. What I say in the book is that I think a college degree should be required of virtually every police officer. Teachers throughout America, even in the most rural communities, are pretty much required to have a four-year college degree. Police officers are not, yet their job has become much more complex, much more demanding, and I think what you want to do is sort of elevate the pool of people who may go into, you know, into policing. And I think that will change a lot over time. We need that education and we need, I think, a four-year baccalaureate degree.
But it's a great way to make a living. As I say, not for everybody. It was great for me. I enjoy the excitement of it. I enjoy the ability to make a difference and to really, really help people.
HAASS: If you add up Ray Kelly's time in the military and in the policing, he did more than half a century of public service, made it to colonel, made it to commissioner.
So, Colonel Kelly, Commissioner Kelly, thank you very much.
KELLY: Thank you. (Applause.)
This is an uncorrected transcript.