UPPER EAST SIDE — Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had ominous words for any mayoral contender looking to change the city’s most controversial crime-fighting tactics.
Ending stop-and-frisk or dismantling the city’s expansive counter-terrorism efforts would put the city at risk, Kelly said during a rare interview Thursday night at the 92nd Street Y.
“The things that we’re doing here are working and I would hate to see them change significantly,” said Kelly, warning that, “People will die as a result.”
The remarks came during a far-ranging discussion with Reuters News’ editor-in-chief Stephen Adler that spanned from Kelly’s political aspirations to memories of his days as a young undercover officer.
When it comes to the future, Kelly said there was just one question every candidate needed to answer to test if they had the right approach to crime.
“I’d like to have them take a retrospective on what happened in the last 11 years of the Bloomberg administration and commit to continuing these policies and practices,” said Kelly, who has credited Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tactics for vast reductions in crime, including the lowest murder rate in the city’s history.
He said the city’s next mayor needs to commit to making crime-reduction their “public policy job one,” and said support for stop-and-frisk should be a “litmus test” for anyone seeking office.
“If somehow it’s eliminated, people are going to suffer,” he said of the practice — which last year lead to the questioning of more than 500,000 people, mostly black and Latino young men.
Twice, the talk was interrupted by anti stop-and-frisk protesters, who had to be escorted out, screaming.
Bloomberg’s successor, Kelly said, must also commit to maintaining the city’s aggressive counter-terrorism tactics, which includes camera surveillance and officers stationed around the world to track threats.
“We’re going to continue to be in the bullseye, and we need a commitment by whomever comes down the road here to continue to keep the city safe,” he said.
Many have complained the programs go too far, violating civil liberties.
Kelly, also repeated that, regardless of media speculation, he has no intentions of launching his own run for mayor, and is still mulling whether he would want to stay on as commissioner, if asked.
But there is one job he said just might top being the city’s top cop.
“I want to be one of those greeters at Wal-Mart,” he joked.