KELLY: Yes, and obviously I was in active combat.
PLAYBOY: When you saw some of your fellow marines killed, how did it affect you?
KELLY: It was not as traumatic or as jolting as I thought it would be. It was almost like “that’s what’s supposed to happen here.” I think certain life experiences sort of toughen you up.
PLAYBOY: Or crush you.
KELLY: Or crush you, yes. Or make you stronger. Virtually everything I learned about leadership traits and core values, I learned in the Marine Corps. To this day, I keep a list of the traits in a little black book, 14 of them, including integrity, justice, bearing, enthusiasm, endurance—all indicators you aspire to when you’re a leader.
PLAYBOY: As a dad, what was the most challenging thing you faced?
KELLY: I remember my son Greg had pneumonia when he was just four. I still have a clear picture of him in the hospital. It was around the time my mother passed away suddenly from a stroke. It was the first death in the family and very traumatic. It all seemed to come down on us. I remember feeling quite burdened at that time.
PLAYBOY: She never lived to see you become police commissioner. Would you say it’s only with the death of a parent that you feel completely——
PLAYBOY: Is that what it is? Some say that when you have a mother or a father to talk to, you’re always their child. But without them, you’re fully grown up.
KELLY: You’re always trying to impress your parents regardless of how old you are. And when they’re gone, there’s nobody to impress. But I think they’d be proud. My father has been gone for 30 years, and by the time he passed away, I was a lawyer. I hope he would be impressed.
PLAYBOY: With all your accomplishments, and with a new mayor about to be inaugurated, what are you going to do next?
KELLY: Well, I’ve told a lot of people I want to be a greeter at Walmart.
PLAYBOY: What are your qualifications?
KELLY: [Laughs] I like people.
PLAYBOY: You could retire.
KELLY: Oh no, I’m too active for that. I don’t ever see myself retiring. Not now, certainly.
PLAYBOY: But after 12 years, don’t you feel depleted?
KELLY: No. I feel absolutely energized, not tired at all. I haven’t had a vacation in 12 years. I can lift as much weight as I lifted 20 years ago. I don’t feel the pressure.
PLAYBOY: With all that energy, could you see yourself accepting an appointment as police commissioner again in January?
KELLY: I would find it unlikely.
PLAYBOY: You’ve had enough?
KELLY: I wouldn’t put it that way. I’ve been the longest-serving police commissioner in the history of the department, but it’s time in my life to move on. I’m ready for new adventures, new challenges.
PLAYBOY: Like climbing a mountain or competing on Dancing With the Stars?
KELLY: [Laughs] Yeah, that kind of stuff.
PLAYBOY: How about becoming homeland security secretary?
KELLY: [Laughs] Would I have to move?
PLAYBOY: Maybe. Hours after homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano announced her resignation, Senator Charles Schumer was pushing for you to replace her. Obama said you are “very well qualified.” Do you want that job?
KELLY: I’m obviously flattered by what the president and Senator Schumer said. I appreciate that.
PLAYBOY: Are you more or less optimistic, cynical, philosophical or just more tired?
KELLY: No, I’m not tired. And I think I’m generally optimistic.
PLAYBOY: What’s your view on mortality?
KELLY: It’s going to happen.
PLAYBOY: You don’t think about it much?
KELLY: No. I don’t at all. It’s true that some people really dwell on it. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing to think about it, but I really don’t.
PLAYBOY: So what drives you?
KELLY: Well, I think it’s been this job. Being in this administration, we have a lot of things to be proud of. I think it’s fair to say the police department has saved a lot of lives. That’s been our overarching goal.
PLAYBOY: As your 12 years as commissioner come to an end, you really have no regrets?
KELLY: Not really. I probably should think about it, but I really haven’t. I try to sit back and make a determination of what is the right thing to do—not the easiest or most convenient thing.
PLAYBOY: Once you make up your mind, you stick with it.
KELLY: Yes, I do.
PLAYBOY: Even if you get criticized.
KELLY: Oh yes. And in this job you get criticized for virtually everything you do or don’t do.
PLAYBOY: Do you worry the controversy about stop-and-frisk might mar your legacy?
KELLY: No, I never think of the word legacy. It doesn’t mean anything. You do the right thing, in my judgment, and things will work out. That’s what drives me. I’m not looking for legacy or history books or whatever. I know what we’ve done here has saved a significant number of lives. The burden is not on me. It’s on the politicians who made the decisions to limit what we’re doing. They’re the ones who are going to pay a price, in my judgment, if crime significantly increases.