By Colleen Long
NEW YORK — As he has throughout his tenure as the city's longest-serving police commissioner, Raymond Kelly puts the credit for a record reduction in crime and the absence of a terrorist attack in the dozen years since Sept. 11 on the men and women who patrol the streets of New York City.
"We brought in first-class professionals," Kelly said an interview with The Associated Press days before Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio takes office and brings in a new commissioner to lead the nation's largest police department.
"Our general tactics and strategies have worked, and that's why we see these record reductions," Kelly said.
Kelly, 72, was appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and took office just months after the Sept. 11 attacks. Bloomberg has long touted the department's achievements, saying New York is America's safest big city, and planned to spend the rest of the week speaking about historic crime lows — murders were cut in half since he took office.
Kelly, a former Marine, became the face of the department for more than a decade, and enjoyed a great deal of popularity with New Yorkers. He was touted as a possible mayoral candidate in 2013 but decided against it, a decision he says he does not regret.
But his approval ratings dropped this year as the controversy grew over the department's stop and frisk policy, as well as simmering criticism over the department's surveillance of Muslims. A federal judge ruled this year that the department was wrongly stopping blacks and Hispanics, and ordered major changes; the NYPD has stopped nearly 5 million people in the past decade, mostly black and Hispanic men.
The ruling is being appealed, but Kelly insists the department's reputation has not been tarnished and points to the NYPD's relationship with communities as a great achievement.
"We did what he had to do to protect the city, we did it legally, we did it pursuant to oversight by the district court — and we're still doing it legally and we have sufficient monitoring by our legal cadre," he said.
De Blasio chose former NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, who also has led the Los Angeles Police Department, to be the next commissioner. It is the second time Bratton will replace Kelly; both men held the post for two years in the 1990s.
Kelly steered clear from offering advice for his successors.
"These are experienced people, they know what they're doing, and I wish them well," he said.
Kelly has signed on to give speeches with the Greater Talent Network's speakers bureau and joined the Council on Foreign Relations as a visiting fellow focusing on counterterrorism, cybersecurity and other national security issues.
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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press