David Chauvin’s actions as an individual cop did so much damage to the American police profession, I would argue being a cop today in America is tougher than probably any other time going back to the early 70s.
What do you think about that statement? It certainly struck home with us, former police commissioner Bill Bratton, L.A. and New York issuing a powerful rebuke of the anti-crime enforcement sentiment in America right now. This comes as police departments across the country deal with the surging crime and cops are just leaving in droves. The longest-serving commissioner in NYPD history, I would say the greatest, agrees that the state of policing is in real bad shape. But how bad?
Ray Kelly joins us, former New York NYPD commissioner. Commissioner, you heard Bill Bratton. You know him. Did he overstate Derek Chauvin’s impact on your profession?
No, I don’t think he overstated. I think the impact has been tremendous trauma on the policing profession. We certainly haven’t gotten over it and I don’t know when we will if we ever do it, change the public’s view of policing. A lot of people said, aha, suspicions confirmed. This is how cops handle prisoners when no one’s around. It was, you know, a very important moment in the history of policing in this country. We’ll see what happens with the George Flawed in Policing Act in Washington.
It makes major changes to policing. It’s already been passed in the House and the Senate is negotiating now. And one of the big provisions is the elimination of qualified immunity. That is a defense for cops to use in federal court. Now, I know the unions, certainly the national police organizations have really dug their heels in and said that this cannot happen. We’ll see how much clout they have in the Senate and what ultimately comes out. Yeah, but, yeah, it was a very significant moment for America.
The George Floyd, the killing, and the defunding. The funding move is happening all across the country. And the response is, Commissioner, is it a lot of cops are turning in the badge. Have you ever seen this like we’re seeing now? Have you ever seen at this point this reminds you of the 70s, mind you, the 80s.
I’ve never seen anything like this, they have over 5000 New York City police officers who have retired or put their papers in, as they call it, to retire in the last year, year and a half. And this is a national phenomenon. And, of course, it really impacts on recruiting departments throughout the country. Can’t recruit certainly qualified people. They may get some individuals who want to become police officers. The question is, what is the quality of those folks that the hiring?
I’ve never seen anything like this. Cops feel that they’re under siege. Cops feel that they get no support. I talked to a lot of them. They’re backing off from doing sort of the standard police-type work that they did. Was it? But now their careers, their jobs, the family’s well-being is at risk and they’re making the decision not to engage. And that that, of course, ultimately hurts all of us.
Police precincts have been given up in Seattle, given up in Minnesota because the people outside were protesting some of the worst decisions by mayors and others. You can imagine it shows a vulnerability. And we’re seeing this video from over the weekend in Chicago where 50 were shot the other day and they’re jumping on the cop car while it rolls through the street talking and doing this dancing. I couldn’t I can’t imagine even walking up to a cop car and saying something accusatory, let alone doing something like that.
What is your response to seeing this?
Just imagine if those cops did something to get a woman off the car. That would have been a much bigger story. It’s incredible. Cops get no respect anymore. That was shocking to me. And I’ve been around a long time. You see these incidents with people pouring water on cops. There is simply no respect. So they see the world as being pretty much against them. They’re not getting support from management. They’re not getting support from politicians.
And they’re being disrespected. They’re being demonized. They’re being stigmatized virtually every day through the mass media. So it is a very, very difficult time to be a police officer. And this kind of makes you understand why the retirement numbers are as high as you don’t do it. You don’t do it to get rid of the recruiting you do. Right. Eric Adams is leading the race in New York because. Forty-six percent of the people say they’re voting because the person who gets this job will be good at tackling crime, tackling crime.
Eric Adams has a law enforcement background, but you’re not a fan. Why?
Well, I’m not certain he has the gravitas to for a big, big job where you have three hundred fifty thousand employees now says he’s going to be very much a crime fighter. That was never the position that he took during his time in the NYPD and during his time in the state Senate and during your time in Brooklyn, our president. So if he wins, we’ll have to see. We hope that he’s a he’s a man of his word, right.
That he’s going to crack down on crime. But from his track record, you don’t feel that way.
Well, I don’t think he’s shown it so far. And, you know, people can change. People can grow into a job. We’ll have to see what happens if, in fact, he gets elected. It’s a very confusing situation, forced choices, so to speak. There are eight candidates. You actually rank five of those eight candidates. And it’s the first time that’s ever been done in New York City. And it’s just a lot of confusion over it.
So we’ll have to see when the smoke settles. I don’t think we will know who the winner is for probably at least a week or more after Election Day, but the ramifications will felt. It’s hard to imagine us worse off than we are with Mayor de Blasio. For the last eight years, he’s been absolutely awful. And I don’t think you’re going to argue with me on that, Commissioner Ray Kelly. I wish you had run, but I guess you’re smart not to.