President Barack Obama has said New York City Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly would be "very well-qualified" for the job of Department of Homeland Security director, but did not confirm that he was actively considering nominating him. The president is searching for a replacement for current DHS head Janet Napolitano, who announced last week that she would be stepping down to take a position as head of the University of California system.
"I think Ray Kelly is one of the best there is, so he's been an outstanding leader in New York," Obama said. "Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is. But if he's not, I'd want to know about it."
Several of New York's members of Congress have also endorsed Kelly, including Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who called the White House to suggest Kelly for the open position. Kelly previously served in Washington as the commissioner of U.S. Customs Service from 1998 to 2001.
"The Department of Homeland Security is one of the most important agencies in the federal government," Schumer said in a statement. "Its leader needs to be someone who knows law enforcement, understands anti-terrorism efforts, and is a top-notch administrator, and at the NYPD, Ray Kelly has proven that he excels in all three."
But not all of New York's congressional delegation supports Kelly as a potential director of DHS. Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said the police commissioner's stop-and-frisk policy shows he doesn't see the difference between effective law enforcement and respect for civil liberties:
He's been a good administrator, and perhaps I could even support his potential appointment to this position in the absence of the massive aggressive stop-and-frisk program that he's run, and the unconstitutional Muslim surveillance program, but that's kind of like saying, I had a good year, if you don't count the winter, spring, and fall.
The legality of New York's stop-and-frisk policy, which allows police to stop, question and pat down people they believe could be carrying weapons or drugs, is being challenged in federal court. Civil rights groups say the policy leads to racial profiling because out of the 532,911 stops conducted in 2012, 87 percent of them were of blacks or Latinos. Nine out of 10 people stopped were found not to be guilty of any crime.
New York City will be electing a new mayor this fall, and several Democratic candidates have said they would not ask Kelly to remain in his post if they were to win the race. Kelly has not said whether he would consider accepting the position at DHS.
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