This morning Ray Kelly, the most popular police commissioner New York City has ever seen, gave a speech about the state of the NYPD. Kelly spoke at the Waldorf-Astoria (which he prefers over Applebee's) about the city's historic low murder rate, the department's coordinated response to Sandy, and the pressing need for federal gun control legislation. But no NYPD address is complete without carefully worded propaganda, so here are three issues that the commissioner either larded with half-truths and lies or completely glossed over.
"Hamstring" the Constitution:The Daily News and the Post are crowing today about how a federal judge backed down from "her hasty stop-and-frisk order." Reading those articles, you'd assume that President Obama proclaimed January 22, 2013 Frisk Your Friend (Within The Easily Identifiable Constitutional Parameters) Day. In his address, Kelly said the judge's order was "designed to hamstring our officers…We believe the court is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law."
Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin actually ordered the NYPD to cease unconstitutional, unlawful stops that the NYPD was conducting in Bronx housing units as part of the department's Open Halls program. Surely Kelly doesn't support the detention of residents while they were taking out the trash, or arresting people who are simply visiting their fiancees? These were the stops Scheindlin was referring to, and that credible studies and the Bronx DA have shown happen with alarming frequency.
A more accurate reading of Judge Scheindlin's decision to stay her immediate order [PDF] to stop unlawful stop and frisks reveals that she still believes many of the NYPD's stops in Open Halls building in the Bronx to be unconstitutional, and that it will streamline the remedy for them without putting an undue burden on the NYPD. "All the judge has done is to say she thinks it will be more efficient to consider all possible remedies at a single hearing," NYCLU associate legal director Chris Dunn tells the WSJ. Indeed, Kelly should have been thanking Judge Scheindlin today—blame Paul Browne for not making the last-minute change to the teleprompter. We'll know more about the impact of the ruling in March, when the NYPD and the civil liberties groups will meet to discuss how to fix the issue.
If you build a bomb, they will come: Today Kelly repeated the dubious charge that New York City has been besieged by 16 terrorist plots since 9/11. "The only way to stop such individuals is through intelligence gathering," Kelly said. "That’s why it’s essential that the police department’s efforts to defend against terrorism be proactive and that we find those who are in the earliest stages of planning violent acts."
There was no mention that the NYPD's "proactive" (some prominent civil rights attorneys might use the phrase "pernicious") method of surveilling innocent Americans who practice Islam generated zero leads. And about those 16 plots: Leonard Levitt explains how more than a few were either greatly exaggerated or botched by the world's largest police force. Someone at the department definitely has a future in set design, though.
It's not just Lionel Hutz: Nowhere in the text of Kelly's speech addresses the issue that is costing New York City taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year: lawsuits against the NYPD. According to a report from the City Comptroller released last month, suits against the department are at a "historical high," and have risen 55% over the last five years, a period of time that Kelly notes has seen a decrease in overall crime. In 2011 lawsuits against the police cost $185 million.
Kelly was eager (and rightly so) to discuss his department's historic declines in robbery, theft, and auto theft, and the continued success of mentoring troubled young New Yorkers. But when you're talking about milestones, you can't ignore the record flood of tax dollars hemorrhaging out of the city's coffers—due in large part to the unlawful actions of its police.