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The New York Times


Ray Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security?

July 22, 2013

By Heather Mac Donald

Ray Kelly may well be the most qualified potential Homeland Security secretary, but the chance that President Obama will actually nominate him for the position is virtually zero. The current furor over the Trayvon Martin homicide and Obama’s recent call for more action on racial profiling all but guarantee that the misinformation campaign against Kelly for police profiling of blacks and Hispanics will doom his candidacy. This is unfortunate, because Kelly is an expert manager, and the bloated D.H.S. desperately needs a strong dose of accountability and efficiency.

For the record, however, the charge that Kelly has condoned racial profiling in the New York Police Department’s stop and frisk program is specious. Enforcement activity in the N.Y.P.D. is driven by two considerations only: crime patterns and community demands for police assistance. Commanders deploy their officers to where people are being victimized the most; race has nothing to do with strategic or tactical decisions. Given the incidence of crime, however, police cannot target their resources to where people most need help without producing racially disparate stop and arrest data. Crime is highest in minority neighborhoods, and blacks are overwhelmingly both the victims and perpetrators of that crime, committing upwards of 80 percent of all shootings in New York City, 70 percent of all robberies, and 66 percent of all violent crime. Whites, by contrast, commit between 1 and 2 percent of all shootings, 4 percent of all robberies and 5 percent of all violent crime, though they are 35 percent of the city’s population. It is the inevitable outcome of such disparities in the distribution of crime that blacks make up 53 percent of all police stops, though they are only 23 percent of the city’s population.

Every city police force that is successfully targeting crime produces similar enforcement activity; few agencies, however, document and publicize their stop and arrest data with the thoroughness of the N.Y.P.D.

Kelly’s insistence that his commanders work round the clock to bring the same degree of safety to residents of poor neighborhoods that affluent New Yorkers take for granted in theirs has produced the longest and steepest crime drop in the recorded history of American policing. That is an accomplishment that any head of a federal agency would be proud to match.

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