President Barack Obama hasn’t officially endorsed anyone just yet to be the next head of the Department of Homeland Security, but he isn’t ruling out New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Less than a week after Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) suggested
that Kelly could fill the shoes of outgoing DHS Secretary Janet
Napolitano, President Obama said in an interview Tuesday with New
York’s Univision affiliate that he doesn’t disagree.
Following praise from Sen. Schumer, Mr. Obama said Kelly would be
“well-qualified” to head the Homeland Security department
and “is one of the best there is” and “an outstanding
leader in New York.”
The president stopped short of saying he’d be doing Kelly any
favors, though, adding that the commissioner “might be very
happy where he is.” Kelly, 71, has been commissioner of the
New York City Police Department under Mayor Michael Bloomberg
since 2002 and previously held that role for two years in the
early 90s. A Vietnam War vet, Kelly also spent two years in the
administration of former president Bill Clinton as undersecretary
of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
The position of Homeland Security secretary has been held by
Janet Napolitano since 2009, but last week she announced that she is leaving that role to
take on a new position as the head of the University of
California school system.
the Department of Homeland Security, who serve on the frontlines
of our nation’s efforts to protect our communities and families
from harm, has been the highlight of my professional career,”
she said upon announcing her resignation.
Days after Napolitano’s statement, Sen. Schumer issued a
statement saying, “Ray Kelly is the man for the job – New
York’s loss would be [the] nation’s gain.”
“There is no doubt Ray Kelly would be a great DHS Secretary,
and I have urged the White House to very seriously consider his
candidacy,” Schumer said. “While it would be New York’s
loss, Commissioner Kelly’s appointment as the head of DHS would
be a great boon for the entire country. Janet Napolitano
has done an outstanding job, and if I had to give her a grade on
her tenure, it would be ‘A+’. We need someone just as good
who can fill her shoes,” Schumer added.
Kelly has not announced any intentions to throw his hat in the
ring, but the president’s latest comments suggest an application
filed by the current NYPD commissioner at DHS headquarters
wouldn’t go unnoticed. Meanwhile, Kelly has also garnered the
support of another longtime lawmaker, Rep. Peter King (R-New
“The NYPD has more than 50,000 officers and civilians, he has
the largest counter terrorism force in the country, he previously
worked in Washington as the head of customs which is an integral
part of Homeland Security,” Rep. King said of Kelly.
Kelly would be bringing with him to Washington a lifetime of
public service which began with a stint as a combat soldier in
the Vietnam War in the early 60s. He’s received a number of
accolades offered by the NYPD and the city itself, but his tenure
hasn’t gone without criticism either. During the Occupy Wall
Street protests that occurred in late 2011, residents of the Big
Apple made a number of calls asking for Kelly to resign amid violent clashes between NYPD officers
and peaceful demonstrators. He has also been at the center of
scandals involving the department’s questionable surveillance
practices used to target Muslim citizens and the stop-and-frisk program that has brought a
handful of lawsuits to the city over the years.
Should Kelly want to stay in New York, there might be options for him there as well. Last year former
Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari said, “We would
like to see him think more seriously about running for top
office,” and urged Kelly to seek to replace Bloomberg with
his third and final term as mayor expires early next year.