During the last few hours of a lengthy tenure atop the New York Police Department tainted by both scandal and success, outgoing-NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly echoed soon-to-be-ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg with big words about the city’s boys in blue.
Bloomberg provoked a fair share of criticism from Big Apple residents in late 2011 when he said, “I have my own army in the NYPD . . . the seventh biggest army in the world.”
Two years later and new comments from Commissioner Kelly might make the same sort of splash.
The increased militarization of the NYPD and other big city police agencies had already caused concern among many by the mayor’s remarks that November, but both Bloomberg and Kelly’s handling of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in Lower Manhattan that autumn and into the winter attracted previously unmatched opposition. Within just a few short months the city had arrested hundreds of peaceful protesters, and tales from Occupiers about being pepper-sprayed by the police became routine over social media.
Two years later, the NYPD’s reputation has not been repaired: the agency’s stop-and-frisk policy remains as controversial as ever, and an award-winning Associated Press report exposed a secretive intelligence-gathering wing of the force that singled out area Muslims for warrantless surveillance.
Now as he throws in the towel after serving as the civilian administrator of the NYPD for 14 of the last 24 years, Kelly has said something that doesn’t shy away from accusations he helped use his police force to make a police-state.
The New York Times was questioning what they called Kelly’s “tight control of the department” when he reportedly looked “pained” and told them, “You can’t win.”
“Obviously, in a quasi-military organization, you need an ultimate decision maker,” he said.
Ominous words about the world’s seventh-biggest army, or an actualization of what the NYPD has become under his command? The New York City blog Politicker was quick to throw Kelly’s quote into a headline for a post they published on Tuesday, and one of the most widely-subscribed Twitter accounts used by Occupy Wall Street linked followers to the Times article by way of Kelly’s quip.
“Oh, so he doesn’t know what ‘quasi’ means,” one Twitter user remarked back.