Civil Rights Groups Oppose NYPD Chief Kelly to Head DHS
By Sunita Sohrabji, Staff Reporter
New York Police Chief Raymond Kelly has been hinted as a possibility to head the Department of Homeland Security. (Getty Images)
Several civil rights organizations have announced their opposition to the possible nomination of New York Police Chief Raymond Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security.
Former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano resigned in June to head up the University of California system. President Barack Obama has not yet announced his nomination of Kelly to fill the vacated post, but hinted at his intentions in a July 16 interview with Univision, a nationally-broadcast Spanish language television station.
â€œMr. Kelly might be very happy where he is, but if heâ€™s not, Iâ€™d want to know about it because obviously, heâ€™d be very well-qualified for the job,â€ said Obama, adding that the police chief was â€œan outstanding leader.â€
Kelly told MSNBC he was flattered by Obamaâ€™s comments, but did not comment whether he would consider the post.
The NYPD came under fire last year when the Associated Press revealed that its officers were spying on Muslim students on several college campuses across the East Coast. The NYPD acted far outside their jurisdiction by investigating Muslim students at campuses as far away as New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, said AP.
Campuses including Yale, Rutgers, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania were being monitored daily online, primarily through their Web sites, blogs and even e-mails.
In one instance, an NYPD agent accompanied several New York University students on a whitewater rafting trip, recording conversations into the studentsâ€™ files and instances of praying during the day-long trip, reported the AP, in a series of Pulitzer-Prize winning reports.
Civil rights organizations are also concerned about an NYPD initiative known colloquially as â€œStop and Frisk,â€ which allows police officers to detain anyone they deem suspicious and search them for weapons. Critics say the program has disproportionately targeted minorities.
â€œItâ€™s pretty clear that the Muslim and civil rights community would oppose this nomination,â€ Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council of American Islamic Relations, told India-West. â€œWe want someone whoâ€™s going to make our nation safer, but also assure civil liberties at the same time,â€ he stated.
Hooper said the NYPD campus program was â€œso pervasive and produced absolutely nothing of value.â€ He noted that the Congressional Black Caucus was proposing Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee from Texas to head the DHS. Jackson Lee, who has served in Congress since 1995, is the ranking member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.
Haris Tarin, office director of the Muslim Public Affairs Councilâ€™s Washington, D.C. office, told India-West that MPAC was also opposed to Kellyâ€™s possible nomination to head DHS.
â€œThe NYPD campus surveillance project has had a chilling effect on the Muslim community. Students are fearing attending events on college campuses,â€ stated Tarin. â€œWe have not seen leadership from the NYPD or (New York Mayor Michael Bloombergâ€™s) office to answer our communityâ€™s concerns,â€ he said, adding that the department has not notified the Muslim community about whether the surveillance program has been stopped.
The National Coalition of South Asian Organizations, a network of more than 35 organizations coordinated by South Asian Americans Leading Together, sent an undated letter to Obama, opposing Kellyâ€™s impending nomination.
â€œCommissioner Kelly placed tens of thousands of Muslims under surveillance, collecting intelligence on at least 250 mosques, 12 Islamic schools, 31 Muslim student organizations, 10 non-profit organizations, and 263 â€˜ethnic hotspotsâ€™ since 2011. The methods for obtaining this information were very invasive on the everyday lives of Muslim Americans as they often involved undercover officers and paid informants spying on individuals in places of worship,â€ wrote the Coalition in its letter to Obama.
â€œCasting suspicion on entire communities undermines these relationships and takes the focus away from individuals that might pose a real threat,â€ wrote the NCSO.
Kelly responded to the attacks on his leadership at the NYPD in a July 28 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. â€œIn the 11 years before Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office, there were 13,212 murders in New York City. During the 11 years of his administration, there have been 5,849. Thatâ€™s 7,383 lives savedâ€”and if history is a guide, they are largely the lives of young men of color,â€ said Kelly.
He also addressed charges of unwarranted spying, noting that a 1985 rule entitles police officers to attend any event that is open to the public, or to view online activity that is publicly accessible. In practice, however, Kelly said he has modified the nearly three-decades old rule by allowing his force only to follow up on thoroughly-vetted leads.