This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, July 17th, 2013:
Although President Obama says he has many strong candidates to replace Janet Napolitano as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, it’s clear that NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly has the inside track. If Obama is determined to complete building the surveillance state nationally, Kelly is just the man to do the job.
In an interview on Sunday, Obama sent the signal to Kelly: “Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is, but if he’s not I’d want to know about it, because obviously he’d be very well qualified for the job … he’s one of the best there is … [and] an outstanding leader in New York. [He’s] done an extraordinary job in New York and the federal government partners a lot with New York.”
Currently, Kelly runs the largest police force in the country, with some 35,000 officers plus staff and a budget of $4 billion. He’s also transformed the “face” of the department from “friendly” to “frightening.”
When Kelly took on the commissioner’s job under Mayor David Dinkins back in 1990, he had to overcome the stigma of having been selected for the top job after only seven months on a street beat. He leapfrogged over several senior officials in what was an apparent move to reward an insider. In fact, the previous police commissioner had to do some “hierarchical adjusting” in order to keep one of those senior officers from having to report to Kelly who was previously his subordinate. So he mastered the art of public relations and for a while New Yorkers considered him a friend.
New York State Senator Eric Adams was startled at the change in attitude that took place after Mayor Bloomberg re-appointed Kelly as commissioner in 2002:
Kelly was one of the great humanitarians in policing under David Dinkins. I don’t know what happened to him that all of a sudden his philosophical understanding of the importance of community and police liking each other has changed. Sometimes the expeditious need of bringing down crime numbers bring out the worst in us. So instead of saying let’s just go seek out the bad guy, we get to the point of, “Let’s go get them all.”
After Mayor Dinkins his lost reelection bid to Rudy Giuliani in 1994, Kelly was out of a job. In the interim Giuliani instituted New York’s infamous “stop and frisk” program, which targeted blacks and Latinos. Once back in office, Kelly ramped it up. In 2011, nearly 700,000 citizens of color were stopped and frisked for illegal weapons just on the basis of “reasonable suspicion” instead of “probable cause” as demanded by the Fourth Amendment. The Bill of Rights apparently doesn’t apply to browns and blacks in the Big Apple. The fact that nine out of ten of those stops didn’t turn up anything worth citing didn’t really matter to Kelly, who said: “The program is a life saver. Critics complain that the stops don’t represent the demographics of the city. Well, no kidding!”
During the Republican National Convention in New York City in 2004, Kelly had 1,806 protestors arrested and held in an old bus barn on Pier 57, which became known as Guantanamo on the Hudson. Arrestees had to sleep on the cold concrete floor stained with bus oil droppings. Most of the arrests were thrown out of court, and the resulting lawsuits cost the city $8 million in settlements and legal fees. Kelly didn’t care:
That’s the cost of doing business here for us. Don’t forget you had groups saying they were going to close the city down. [That] simply didn’t happen. The aftermath is inevitable in this city when litigation is just the name of the game.
To keep an eye on things, Kelly uses every available technological improvement money can buy. He built a $3 billion Operations Center that includes people from the federal military services, FEMA, and the FBI, along with state and local first responders. He has officers located in more than 11 foreign cities (including London, Paris, Madrid, Tel Aviv, Hamburg, and Toronto, Canada) with instructions to keep him informed if they find anything that might possibly remotely impact the safety and security of New Yorkers.
Kelly installed CompStat, a database management program coupled with an online crime mapping system called ArcGIS and Microsoft’s MapPoint to monitor the doings of New Yorkers. He installed a Domain Awareness System, another joint project with Microsoft, which links the 3,000 surveillance cameras in the city with license plate readers and other surveillance devices. He’s had specially built radiological and nuclear detectors installed on police watercraft, helicopters and vehicles, along with detectors on his cops’ gun belts that are so sensitive that people who’ve had knee or hip joint replacements using titanium will set them off. He even has anti-aircraft missiles at his disposal, just in case.
All of this information is routed not only to his office – he’s a hands-on former Marine – but also to The Barn, a secret location housing his antiterrorism unit, as well as to his blacked-out Chevy Suburban which he uses frequently as his “travelling bunker.” In that bunker he has phones linking him to every one of the 79 precincts and command centers located throughout the city.
He even goes after his own people to make sure they toe the line. Following the murder of Imette St. Gullien in 2006, an officer leaked part of the department’s investigation to a local paper. Kelly, infuriated, ordered 33 officers to turn in their cell phones so that his investigators could determine who the leaker was.
The New York Civil Liberties Union has had a running battle with Kelly for years over his invasive extra-legal surveillance policies, which local head Donna Lieberman describes as “hyperaggressive.” She said that Kelly has built a police force that “has taken on the aura of an occupying force.”
It’s no wonder that Obama thinks Kelly is “one of the best there is.” As head of the Department of Homeland Security, Kelly will complete the job that Napolitano began: keeping an eye on every activity of every citizen in the country, ready to pounce at the first sign of “reasonable suspicion” of wrongdoing. We won’t be free, but we’ll be safe.