Ray Kelly, the Quiet Campaigner


On Sunday, the Times ran a profile of police commissioner Ray Kelly which asked the question: How can Kelly’s 36,000-strong, multiracial police department frisk far more people than Giuliani’s did without provoking the ire of more New Yorkers? The article offers up a number of answers, the most compelling of which is the observation that after 9-11, people are more willing to put up with increased surveillance and even encroachments on their civil liberties.

When the Times asked Ray Kelly himself what he thought accounted for his positive image, he spoke about his community outreach efforts: “I go to mosques, I go to synagogues, I go anywhere and take questions and answers.”

That reminded us of our own piece on Kelly’s low-key outreach efforts.

Last month, the Voice wrote about Kelly’s quiet campaigning. We spoke with Islamic leaders who had given the commissioner a plaque inscribed in Arabic calligraphy as a gesture of gratitude. We wrote about the recruitment of minorities, which now comprises more than half of the police force (more than in Giuliani’s time, which may also have something to do with why stop-and-frisks aren’t causing the same kind of rage). And we speculated as to how much this strategy also coincided with his now-dashed mayoral hopes.

Are people more likely to accept aggressive policing because Ray Kelly “goes anywhere,” or because of a 9/11 hangover? Or it is because they don’t think they have much of a choice?