|Police Commissioner Ray Kelly Wows Crowd At Jamaica Church
|by Daniel Hendrick,
Asst. Managing Editor
||In a history-making move,
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly accepted an invitation to speak at the 103rd Precinct
Community Council on Tuesday, becoming the first top cop to address the council since it
was formed nearly two decades ago. During the
Comrie, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly , Precinct Council President Donna Clopton and
Precinct Commander Robert Thursland
||ninety-minute presentation and
|at an unusually packed St. Benedict the
Moor Church in Jamaica, he focused on key neighborhood concerns, like crime
reduction, community policing and racial
|profiling. But perhaps the most important thing about Kellys talk
wasnt anything he said, but merely that he came.
Former Commissioner Bernard Kerik, Kellys predecessor, was widely
criticized for not making a scheduled appearance before the 103rd Precinct Council last
year. He didnt send a representative or inform the council that he wouldnt
make the meeting.
Hes a very down-to-earth guy, said
|one Jamaica resident, of
Kelly. We are just glad that he came.
He began the evening by stating that there are many obstacles facing the
police department, particularly the drop in city tax revenues.
In years past, we had virtually unlimited money to spend on
policing to get crime under control. Thats changed. We are going to have to make
specific cuts, but we are working on cuts that wont affect the level of policing
that we give, and indeed make the department strong in some ways.
The largest shift at One Police Plaza will be new emphasis on terrorism,
following last Septembers attacks.
Kelly noted that Frank Libutti, a former Marine general, had been
appointed in January as the citys first Deputy Commissioner for Counter-Terrorism.
Libutti will oversee anti-terrorism training efforts, while the
department will seek government and private funding to purchase new technology and bomb
We have done a lot since last September, but a lot more has to be
done, Kelly said. This is an area that we are going to have to focus on for a
long time to come.
As the terrorism effort expands, the department will hold the line on
crime reduction. Violent crime has dropped 70 percent in New York City over the last
decade, while overall crime in the 103rd Precinct is 20 percent below where it was at this
time last year.
At the urging of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the NYPD began its Operation
Clean Sweep in January to focus on quality of life crimes.
Some 3,000 arrests and 22,000 summonses have been issued under the
initiative, which targets panhandlers, peddlers, squeegee people and petty criminals.
Recruitment and retention are arguably the largest obstacles facing the
department. Recruitment drives havent produced the numbers of incoming officers that
the top brass would like to see1,400 new cops are slated to be sworn in later this
monthwhile a major wave of police hired in the early 1980s is expected to retire
Overall headcount has dropped from 41,000 a few years ago to less than
On a local level, that translates into fewer cops on the beat. The NYPD
employs 12,000 more people than it did a decade ago, but the number of officers at the
103rd Precinct has actually fallen by three since that time.
Quite frankly, we have been selling the department short,
Kelly said. We need to raise our sights, by focusing on college and increasing
Prospective cops can now apply for the police examination online through
the departments Web site at www.nyc.gov/nypd, making the NYPD the first agency to
move its job application onto the Internet.
In terms of retention, Kelly is lobbing state lawmakers to allow cops to
pick the year that their pension benefits will be based on.
Last year, cops worked much overtime, making 2001 the highest-grossing
year for many officers. If they stay on for additional years, they would likely lose
significant pension income.
Many in the audience came to the meeting to hear Kellys thoughts
on racial profiling, and he didnt disappoint.
He said the department has never engaged in racial profiling in practice
and will announce an official order prohibiting racial profiling this week.
That will make us the first major department in the country to
codify our prohibition on racial profiling. Its been our practice for years, but we
want to make sure that the public is aware of it.
Concerns voiced by the audience ran the gamut from community policing to
expanding the CompStat program.
Asked why the department has no African-American precinct chiefs in
Queens, Kelly said that the root of the issue is that some officers are not studying for
The department has only 11 black officers at the rank of captain or
above. I urge anyone in the department to study for promotion. We just dont
have enough minorities now, he said.
Several residents urged Kelly to restart community policing efforts, but
he replied that the department just didnt have the money.
A lot of people view the term community policing pejoratively,
like its soft policing. I dont believe that. Its a concept in general
that I support. But I don t know if in
the immediate future, we will have the resources to expand the program.
On school security, Kelly said that the department is developing a
more comprehensive, well thought out plan for troubled schools.
Unlike most areas of the NYPD, there is no planned cut in the school
police force of 4,000. I would like to see more resources deployed in the schools.
They are understaffed and need more equipment.
Following the discussion with Kelly, local residents described the
meeting as productive. Its a positive thing that he would come out here to
support the community, said Lisa Downes, of Jamaica. Maybe that will get his
officers and everyone as a whole to get involved and keep working together.
Robert Jones, also of Jamaica, proposed creating a new civilian police
patrol to counter uniformed headcount reductions and make residents more comfortable with
law enforcement efforts.
We could do our own patrolling and that would help them and let
people know whos who in the neighborhood, he said.