NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly – Not the Man to Head DHS

July 19, 2013

This week, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced her resignation from her cabinet position to preside over the University of California system as president. With the cabinet post up for grabs in September, one name has already appeared as a possible successor: NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.

After Sec. Napolitano’s announcement, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the White House to push Kelly’s name for the job. In a statement released Monday, Schumer said, “There is no doubt Ray Kelly would be a great DHS Secretary. While it would be New York’s loss, Commissioner Kelly’s appointment as the head of DHS would be a great boon for the entire country.”

With the primary responsibility of protecting the U.S. from terrorist attacks, man-made and natural disasters, the Secretary of DHS cannot be someone with a track record of launching programs that infringe on the civil liberties of an entire city and launching widespread surveillance of one faith, ethnic or racial community.

During his 13-year tenure as head of the largest police department, Kelly shattered trust between the NYPD and the very people they are charged with protecting. He is known for a highly controversial track record of dismissing civil liberties, promoting stereotypes and racial profiling and developing controversial widespread surveillance programs as opposed to looking at patterns of behavior.

NYPD’s Stop and Frisk has raised serious concerns over racial profiling, illegal stops and privacy rights. According to NYPD’s own reports, nine out of ten New Yorkers who were stopped and frisked were completely innocent. Moreover, the vast majority of those who are being stopped are African American and Latino. There is no evidence of the program being effective and it has deeply eroded trust between communities and law enforcement, which makes New Yorkers less safe.

The NYPD’s mass surveillance program targeting American Muslims was exposed last year in a series of investigative reports by the Associated Press. Muslim homes, businesses and places of worship were systematically mapped and observed by NYPD officers. The NYPD’s overreach stretched across at least three states throughout the Northeast -- far beyond its jurisdiction.

Subsequently, the mass surveillance of American Muslims included neighborhood cafes, student white-water rafting trips and bookstores. Since 2001, the NYPD spied and collected information on at least 250 mosques, 12 Islamic schools, 31 Muslim student organizations, 10 non-profit organizations and 256 ethnic hotspots. 

Based on a 2007 NYPD report, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” absurd suggestions that increased religiosity, abstinence from smoking or drinking alcohol, growing a beard and wearing religious garb are purported behaviors that could lead to extremism. All of these behaviors are constitutionally-protected behaviors, yet were touted as factors that led to a path to extremism. Riddled with stereotypes and misinformation, the report served as a strategic tool for the department to understand how Muslims might turn to violent extremism. Neither the recommendations from the report nor the massive and invasive surveillance plan have proven effective in any way. Zero terror plots have been prevented because of the NYPD’s surveillance program.

In the name of security, how do these programs protect New Yorkers as opposed to a partnership approach to law enforcement? The Department of Homeland Security, an agency charged with protecting our homeland and borders, should not be led by a man who disregards civil rights, civil liberties, privacy and most importantly, our Constitution. His appointment would not only be an affront to American Muslims, but to minority communities all across the nation who would have to deal with his shameful indifference to the critical importance of building relationships based on trust with communities in order to protect America. 

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