Black and Latino law enforcement groups are protesting the prospect of having NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly head the Department of Homeland Security, citing his controversial stop-and-frisk policy and the Muslim surveillance program.
At a rally in front of the New York Police Department headquarters on Sunday, law enforcement groups criticized Kelly for his work at the NYPD, accusing him of legalizing civil rights violations, the New York Daily News reports.
“The commissioner has both codified and legalized racial profiling,” Anthony Miranda, a retired NYPD sergeant and director of the National Latino Officers Association, said at the rally. “We can’t allow him to take racial profiling to the national level.”
The National Latino Officers Association, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement and the Grand Council of Guardians all spoke out against Kelly’s prospective appointment.
President Barack Obama has not yet endorsed anyone to head the Department of Homeland Security, but last week told Univision’s New York affiliate that Kelly has done an “extraordinary job” as police commissioner. He also noted that Kelly “is one of the best there is” and “an outstanding leader in New York.”
“Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is, but if he’s not I’d want to know about it, because obviously he’d be very well qualified for the job,” the president said in the interview.
Although a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), have expressed their support for nominating Kelly, Sunday’s protests shed a critical light on the NYPD commissioner.
Kelly oversaw the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk program, which allows police officers to stop, question and frisk a person who appears suspicious. Most of those who have been stopped have been African-American or Hispanic, even though data shows that white suspects were more often to be found in possession of weapons or drugs. In 2002, when Kelly first took office, there were fewer than 100,000 forcible police stops, and crime had already decreased 63 percent since its height in the 1990s. In 2011, the NYPD stopped and questioned 684,330 people,87 percent of which were African-American or Latino and only 12 percent of which had been violating the law.
Kelly also oversaw the NYPD’s extensive Muslim surveillance program across New York City and neighboring New Jersey. The department has spied on Muslims in mosques, classrooms, restaurants, and public places. The NYPD is currently facing a lawsuit for violating civil rights by unconstitutionally profiling and intimidating Muslims.
“Citizens’ civil rights are being violated by the hundreds and hundreds of thousands,” Noel Leader, a retired NYPD sergeant and co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, said at the rally. “Why approve someone with this track record?”
Miranda called on President Obama to reject Kelly’s potential nomination and instead nominate “someone who has law enforcement experience but also is sensitive to the civil liberties of individuals and protects the rights of communities.”