This morning, WNBC 4 aired Gabe Pressman's News Forum interview with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Pressman asked Kelly about topics such as attacks on the police given the city's record low crime, stop-and-frisks, the recent arrest of a man who intimidated a witness in the Sean Bell case, the NYPD's eal Time Crime Center, terrorism, Rudy Giuliani and police conduct during the Republican National Convention. This is a small bit of Pressman and Kelly's exchange:
PRESSMAN: Civil libertarians go--hark back to the Republican Convention in '04 and the many people who were arrested or detained and then released. Thousands in all were involved in these demonstrations. Do you think that they have a legitimate complaint, that too many were detained, considering the results?
Mr. KELLY: No, the Republican National Convention was perhaps the finest hour in the history of the New York City Department.
PRESSMAN: Why do you say that?
Mr. KELLY: We had major, major challenges. Just look at the context in which it happened. You had the incumbent administration coming here for its convention. They were prosecuting, certainly, an unpopular war. We had literally thousands of groups talking on the Internet about what they were going to do when they came here. Many of them just peacefully protesting, but hundreds of them talking about shredding down the city. We had groups of anarchists coming here who had been arrested in places like Seattle, which they, in essence, closed down with militant...
PRESSMAN: Were there threats of violence?
Mr. KELLY: Of course there were threats of violence. Many, many threats of violence. We gathered information. We'd be remiss--I'd be negligent if I was running a police department that wasn't gathering information. You had 800,000 people who came here and demonstrated peacefully, the largest political demonstration that has taken place in the city or at any convention in the history of this country. We had something like 67 civilian complaints, three of which were substantiated. It was just a phenomenal job done by the police department.In other words, spying on people who don't have the intention to break the law is cool, too. Naturally, the New York Civil Liberties Union takes exception to that statement: "The NYPD has had many proud moments, but an event at which hundreds of law-abiding protesters and bystanders were arrested, were held for up to three days and were illegally fingerprinted is not our idea of a finest moment."
PRESSMAN: But in the wholesale roundup that took place...
Mr. KELLY: No, it wasn't a wholesale roundup. It wasn't a wholesale roundup.
Mr. KELLY: We had 800,000 people. We had 1800 people arrested. And you say they were--they were let loose. A majority of those people were--got what we call a disposition of adjourn, contemplating a dismissal. In other words, if you did nothing wrong for six months, then the charges were going to be dismissed. This is the normal disposition that you get for a low level offenses. They weren't dismissed. They were adjourned contemplating the dismissal.
You can also read the whole interview here - Kelly also says protesters "quite frankly, they met their match" (in the NYPD) and also "We can't absolutely guarantee that everyone was a perfect arrest."
Photograph by Mike Epstein/Satan's Laundromat during the 2004 RNC