PLAYBOY: Would you have wanted to work for any of these people?
KELLY: I don’t want to discuss it.
PLAYBOY: We’ll swing back to your plans later, but for now, does criticism over stop-and-frisk disturb you?
KELLY: Look, I can understand the fascination with it, but it’s just one tool in a toolbox that has many other crime-fighting measures in it. What about our Real Time Crime Center, the first centralized technology giving us instant data to stop emerging crime? Or Operation Crew Cut, a successful effort to curtail gang activity, or Operation Impact, a unit that deploys officers to high-risk neighborhoods when there’s a spike in crime? I’d add that over the course of 12 years the NYPD became the most racially diverse department in the nation. We expanded our ranks with officers from 106 countries. We now have more black, Asian and Hispanic officers than white.
PLAYBOY: Are you getting the attention you think you deserve for that?
KELLY: Good news is not news. Bad news sells. Confrontation sells. And that’s what the press is always looking for. Look, I’m not bragging, but I have the highest job-approval rating of any public official in the city. And I’ve had it consistently. The approval rating for the police department is 70 percent. This notion that stop-and-frisk has torn the community apart is false.
PLAYBOY: Many mayoral candidates agreed with the federal judge that stop-and-frisk is unconstitutional and that it must be overhauled.
KELLY: Notice what they never talk about—the lives being saved. During the past 11 years we had 7,363 fewer murders than we had in the 11 years before. Last year the homicide rate was the lowest in at least 50 years. And this year we’re running about 30 percent below that. You haven’t heard one candidate talk about that or what they would do to keep this record going forward. I know we’re saving lives, and I know we’re doing the right thing.
PLAYBOY: Then why, according to an exit poll of Democrats taken on primary day in September, did 59 percent deem the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy excessive?
KELLY: What you have is government by advocacy group. Among the people, there’s no groundswell against stop-and-frisk—certainly not in minority communities. I’m there all the time. They want more proactive policing.
PLAYBOY: You’re basically talking about parents, right?
KELLY: Parents, yes, because they are being victimized. They are the losers in this if their son or daughter is killed. The lives saved are largely those of young men of color.
PLAYBOY: Then why did a federal judge deem the policy unconstitutional?
KELLY: That’s a question for her. In the court case, the plaintiffs’ expert looked at 4.4 million stops and found only six percent were “unjustified.” In the court case, the judge looked at 19 stops and found 10 of them were constitutional.
PLAYBOY: So she made her ruling on——
KELLY: The flimsiest of evidence. And the decision deserves to be appealed.
PLAYBOY: So what are the criteria for a police officer to stop someone on the street?
KELLY: You can be stopped if a police officer reasonably suspects a crime is about to be committed, is being committed or has been committed. Every law enforcement agency does it. It’s essential to policing.
PLAYBOY: So you didn’t invent it.
KELLY: No. There is a 1968 Supreme Court case, Terry v. Ohio, that validates this procedure. Virtually all states use some variation of it.
PLAYBOY: Since 86 percent of the 5 million people stopped in the past 11 years were black or Latino, how is this not racial profiling?
KELLY: What criteria do you use? The federal judge says you look at the census data of a particular neighborhood and at overall crime to determine whether racial profiling is going on. That makes no sense, because half your stops would be women. In New York, 70 to 75 percent of the descriptions of perpetrators of violent crime are black men; the vast majority of the remainder is Latino. And 97 percent of shooting victims are black or Latino. Our stops are 53 percent black and roughly 35 percent Hispanic.
PLAYBOY: On Nightline last spring you stated that African Americans are actually being “understopped.” Do you stand by that?
KELLY: I don’t like the term understopped because it seems pejorative. I would say our stops comport to the population of the perpetrators of violent crime as described by the victims themselves.
PLAYBOY: So you’re not overdoing it?
PLAYBOY: Can you understand how some young men of color who have been stopped for no reason may hate your guts?
KELLY: I don’t agree. The notion of hatred has been stirred up by a small number of advocacy groups that have done a great job at marketing this concept. You might read something snarky on Twitter, but I could take you right now to 125th Street in Harlem and young men will stop me for my picture and give me a very favorable and friendly greeting. They understand that we’re saving lives in their community, that they’re the ones at risk.
PLAYBOY: To be clear, what are the officers not allowed to do?
KELLY: They’re not allowed to stop someone based on their race. They’re not allowed to stop someone based on less than reasonable suspicion.
PLAYBOY: But you focus your efforts in black and Latino neighborhoods.
KELLY: Well, that’s where the crime is. That’s where the shootings are. That’s where the violence is. And that’s where we put our resources.
PLAYBOY: Put yourself in the shoes of a 17-year-old black teenager dressed in a hoodie and baggy pants, earplugs in, listening to music, a can of Coke in his pocket. You’re on your way home and haven’t done anything wrong. Out of the blue, cops stop you. Is that fair?
KELLY: It depends on why he’s being stopped. Was there a description on the radio of somebody committing a crime who looked like that young man? Was somebody fleeing a particular area? Is there gang activity there? Or did they think his can of Coke was a weapon? Stopping him is a legitimate law enforcement function.
PLAYBOY: But he won’t be stopped just because he’s black or because of what he’s wearing?
KELLY: No, absolutely not. You need reasonable suspicion.
PLAYBOY: Are you saying it has never happened that someone was stopped for no reason?
KELLY: I can’t say it has never happened. We have hundreds of thousands of stops a year. But generally stops happen for a legitimate reason, with reasonable suspicion.
PLAYBOY: And the criteria for a frisk?
KELLY: Frisks happen in about half the stops and only when the officer can articulate a fear for his or her safety, and it is a limited pat-down, not a search.
PLAYBOY: What’s the limit on the pat-down?
KELLY: Exterior clothing.
PLAYBOY: They don’t go into private areas.
PLAYBOY: Are there any times you agree the police have been overzealous?
KELLY: Hey, we’re human beings. We have 50,000 employees. We have 7,000 pieces of rolling stock. We have 275 buildings. We have 23 million citizen contacts a year. There are 12 million calls to 911. We effect about 400,000 arrests a year and give out 500,000 summonses. One year we had 680,000 stops. The numbers are big. Can we make mistakes? Yeah. No other agency is scrutinized like the police. Everything we do is in a goldfish bowl. We are not the most popular people in society. We do things like use deadly force; we’re the bearers of bad news. We’re not firefighters, who are viewed as heroic, helping people, with people loving them back. The police have a much more complex and demanding job.