For well over two hours yesterday, the City Council aggressively lobbed questions at NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, on such hot topics as stop-and-frisk, Muslim surveillance, and Occupy Wall Street. Kelly, being
Popeye Kelly, fired back, often with open disdain for the elected officials who dared call him on the carpet. Perhaps the most heated moment of what was ostensibly a budget hearing came when Democrat Robert Jackson, who represents Harlem, tried to ask Kelly about his appearance in an inflammatory Islamaphobic documentary The Third Jihad, and press secretary Paul Browne's, uh, misstatements about it. Capital New York's Azi Paybarah reports:
Robert Jackson, a three-term Democrat from Harlem and the only Muslim on the Council, raised concerns about an inaccurate statement by the department's top spokesman, Paul Browne, about Kelly's appearance in an inflammatory film about Islam and terrorism called "The Third Jihad."
Kelly, waving his hand and turning away, said, "I won't even bother."
"That's the type of negative attitude ... " Jackson began, before he and Kelly began pointing fingers and speaking over one another.
"TALK TO THE HAND A-gah-gah-gah-gah!" CBS 2 reports that Jackson also told Kelly, "When you step on one religious group, Muslims, then you’re stepping on every religious group, and if you take the position, ‘Well its not me. I’m not concerned about it’; it’s not you today, but what if it’s you tomorrow?" Kelly replied, "It is not as if would-be terrorists aren’t trying. To the contrary, they’ve attempted to kill New Yorkers in 14 different plots." However, some of these alleged terrorist plots that Kelly claims to have foiled have been criticized as overblown, by the FBI and others.
As the session began, the Times reports, "it became evident that Mr. Kelly was not going to take it anymore" and a "defensive scowl" became etched on his face. In response to repeated questioning about his department's widespread stop-and-frisk policy, Kelly tried to flip the Councilmembers, blaming them for not coming up with any alternatives to reduce violence.
"Let me tell you what should also be of concern to you," Kelly said to Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, according to the Observer. "96 percent of the shooting victims in this city are people of color. 90 percent of the murder victims are people of color... What I haven't heard is any solution to the violence problem in these communities. People are upset about being stopped, yet what is the answer? What have you said about how we stop this violence? What do leaders of the communities of color say? What is their tactic and strategy to get guns off the street? Don't tell me 'a gun buy-back program.'"
Earlier in the hearing, Kelly had touted the gun buy-back program as an NYPD success story, so it seems strange that he would later dismiss it. Councilmember Jumaane Williams, who has been one of the most impassioned critics of stop-and-frisk (and was wearing a "no stop-and-frisk" button at the hearing), told Kelly, "You poo pooed gun buyback programs. I had one in November, 85 guns off the street, one tenth of what you did with 700,000 stop question and frisks.”
“I didn’t poo poo it," Kelly insisted (we really want that Kelly quote on a T-shirt). “It’s of value, but that’s all you hear from elected people. That’s the only answer that elected officials have.” Williams also questioned the efficacy of stop-and-frisk in reducing violence in the communities the NYPD targets. In a subsequent Twitter argument with Bloomberg spokesman Marc La Vorgna, Williams argued that there is no correlation between stop-and-frisks and crime-stopping. "In the 75th Precinct, for example, SQF ["Stop, Question, Frisk"] & #homicides fell in 2011," Williams Tweeted, later adding, "@MikeBloomberg loves selective stats, @MarcLaVorgna. #Stopandfrisks jumped by 84K last year, yet #shootings went UP. How's that effective?"
Kelly also revealed that the NYPD spent about $17 million policing the Occupy Wall Street protests so far, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez asked how much of that was spent "on undercover operations to infiltrate that movement." According to Capital New York, Kelly responded, "I don't have that number. I don't have those kind of things. We don't keep that sort of thing."