The Center on the Administration of Criminal Law (CACL) hosted a “Conversation on Urban Crime” with New York City’s Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly (LL.M. '74) on November 18. CACL Executive Director Anthony Barkow introduced Kelly by noting that he has presided over “what has rightly been called a Guinness Book of World Records crime drop.” Kelly, said Barkow, “is truly a living legend in law enforcement.”

Kelly spoke about the strategies the police force (NYPD) is using to keep driving crime down during a time when the risk of terrorism has escalated and the economy has deteriorated. And he noted that crime has continued to drop in recent years even though the police force has 6,000 fewer officers than it did in 2001. While some may think that a dramatic crackdown on crime would result in a surge in the prison population, Kelly said the opposite is the case: incarcerations have dropped significantly.

One of the NYPD’s most controversial crime suppression tactics is what’s known as “stop and frisk.” Critics claim it leads to racial profiling and that minorities are stopped and patted down at an inappropriately high rate. Kelly directly denied that and vigorously defended the approach. “I believe there is a direct relationship between the stops we conduct and the fact that last year we recorded the lowest level of crimes [since 1963].” The stop-and-frisk policy, he said, “is nothing short of life saving.”

After his remarks, Kelly took questions from the audience, a number of which focused on stop and frisk. One audience member was United States District Judge John Gleeson, who presides in the Eastern District of New York. Gleeson, who is also an adjunct professor at the Law School, praised Kelly for the huge strides the NYPD has made in adding minorities to its ranks.

Posted November 22, 2010