NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Days before he was set to step down, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly talked about his career and what he and many others have said was the success of his policies.
Kelly appeared on “CBS Sunday Morning” in an interview with Erin Moriarty of “48 Hours.” He will step down along with Mayor Michael Bloomberg at midnight Wednesday morning.
He noted the dramatic drop in crime in the city recent years – from 2,245 homicides in 1990 to a projected total of “about 300” this year.
“There are still pockets in the city where there are problems – no question about it,” Kelly said. “But just a few years ago, people were afraid to come out of their houses; afraid to go into Midtown. That’s a bygone era.”
The falling crime has transformed the city and has drawn new residents in, Kelly said.
“So we can blame you for the higher rents in this city?” Moriarty asked.
“Yeah, right, exactly,” Kelly said with a laugh. “We’re sorry for that.”
Richard Aborn, president of the nonpartisan Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, said the decline in crime under Kelly’s watch is remarkable – particularly given the poor economic conditions of the past several years.
“What has really dropped is the crime that we all most fear, and that’s the random crime – that sense of when you’re walking down the street, somebody’s going to rob you; somebody’s going to assault you; somebody’s going to shoot at you — and that’s an enormous, enormous achievement,” Aborn said.
Kelly, 72, is a former U.S. Marine who holds both a law degree and a Masters in public administration.
He was appointed the police force in 1963, and left for three years for an active tour of duty in the military – including a combat tour in Vietnam. He returned in 1966 and graduated at the top of his class at the Police Academy.
Kelly has held the top at the NYPD job twice. From October 1992 through the end of 1993, he served as police commissioner under Mayor David Dinkins and led the investigation of the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
When Mayor Rudolph Giuliani defeated Dinkins and took over as mayor in 1994, Kelly was replaced by William Bratton – who will again take his place as NYPD Commissioner under Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio effective Wednesday.
At the time of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Kelly had left the NYPD and was working in the private sector. But when Mayor Bloomberg offered the opportunity for him to return as top cop, he immediately jumped at the chance.
“I wanted to get back in the game,” he told Moriarty. “After the events of 9/11, you felt a little bit helpless not being in government.”
And in the years since the attacks, Kelly has faced challenges that many of his predecessors never imagined in fighting international terrorism.
He set up the NYPD Counterterrorism Unit – the first of its kind – which is sometimes described as a miniature CIA, Moriarty reported. Officers monitor 4,000 cameras throughout the city, track calls that come in, and monitor crime as it happens.
“You go to other cities and you’ll see rooms that look like this, but it doesn’t do what we do here,” Kelly said.
On top of that, the NYPD has officers stationed in nine countries outside the U.S. – Canada, the Dominican Republic, the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Israel, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore. All of the foreign units answer to Kelly rather than federal agencies.
Kelly said his team has averted as many as 16 planned attacks, Moriarty reported. And while federal agencies were not all necessarily thrilled by the NYPD’s expansion, Kelly said it was the right move regardless.
“Everybody was not happy, but you know, that’s life. You have to be able to break some eggs and do the thing that you believe is right,” he said.
But Kelly has also been the face of controversies that have been making headlines for years. Muslim leaders called for a federal investigation after undercover officers were sent into mosques to conduct surveillance and attempted to plant informants on the boards of mosques and at least one prominent Arab-American group in Brooklyn.
The American Civil Liberties Union and two other groups also sued, saying the Muslim spying programs are unconstitutional and make Muslims afraid to practice their faith without police scrutiny.
Kelly also has become the face of the stop-and-frisk policy in New York and nationwide.
In October, Kelly had been ready to give a lecture at Brown University in Rhode Island, only to be shouted down by protesters who were shouting about stop and frisk and racism during the talk.
The Brown Daily Herald said the protesters “shouted chants in unison, and individuals stood and shouted about personal experiences with racism and racial profiling.”
“After about half an hour, Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Margaret Klawunn and Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations Marisa Quinn told audience members the event was canceled and had the room cleared,” the Brown Daily Herald said.
But Kelly told Moriarty he had no doubts about his policies, and said the claims that they were tools of profiling were false.
“I’ve said all along that this is a false narrative, that we have very good relationships with the communities that we serve, and it’s a tool in the tool box that, I think, has to be kept available for officers to use,” Kelly said.
When asked if he was apologetic about the policies, Kelly replied, “No, I’m not apologetic at all when we’re saving lives.”
Looking toward the future, Kelly is expected to go on the lecture circuit to discuss urban policing, where he says technology will continue to play a big role.
Kelly will also be joining the Council on Foreign Relations with his expertise in counter-terrorism and cybercrime, Papa reported.
And as one of his final acts before leaving the position, Kelly recently went where it all began — the police academy, where he will preside over a class of more than 1,100 at a graduation ceremony.
Check Out These Other Stories From CBSNewYork.com: