New York's top cop said Monday that the city's mayoral candidates hadn't adequately articulated their plans to keep the city safe from terrorism and that none of them had asked for his input, an oversight that he said deserved more public scrutiny.
"The threat of terrorism is as great, if not greater, today than it was before the World Trade Center was destroyed," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told a breakfast gathering of the Association for a Better New York and the Council on Foreign Relations. "Yet, I can tell you that none of the candidates has requested a briefing from the department on this topic. I believe the public has a right to ask them some important questions."
Kelly, who has declined requests to run for mayor himself, has still been a central figure in the race to replace Mayor Bloomberg, but has so far mostly refrained from commenting on it. He is, for many, the face of New York's historic reduction in crime, and the controversial tactic of stop and frisk.
Both issues have been debated intensely during the campaign, with many Democrats saying it is possible to continue to cut crime while ending stop and frisks. Republican candidates have sided with Kelly, saying they disagree with a federal judge's recent ruling that stop and frisks are unconstitutional.
The primary is Tuesday, the day before the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Kelly defended the NYPD's tactics during his Monday morning remarks. He also enumerated several instances in which his department had helped thwart potential terror attacks in the past year. Then he returned to the election, and what he described as a lack of clarity from the mayoral candidates on what they'd do to maintain the city's security.
"There are few questions more important than what the next mayor will do to protect the city from terrorism," Kelly said. "What do the candidates have to say? Will they devote the resources and manpower required for the task? Will they retain the programs and strategies that have kept the city safe, or do they have a different approach? We simply don’t know."
One of the Republicans, Joseph Lhota, said through a spokeswoman that he had indeed requested a meeting with Kelly after Tuesday's primary elections. The request was made through Kelly's deputy commissioner for intelligence, David Cohen.
"The official nominees should be briefed and that's been the standard protocol in the past," the spokeswoman, Jessica Proud, said in an email.
A campaign spokesman for Democrat Bill de Blasio, who is the city's public advocate, deferred comment to de Blasio's government office.
A spokesman for the public advocate's office said the agency had requested a "briefing from the NYPD on the city's counter-terror efforts" on Aug. 29, after President Barack Obama's remarks on Syria. The request was made "through City Hall," the spokesman, Wiley Norvell said.
Bloomberg's office said the public advocate's office was given a reply. After Kelly's statements Monday, de Blasio's office "asked for a broader briefing on the department's counter-terrorism efforts."
The mayor's office is working with the NYPD to arrange that, a spokesman said.
A representative for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the Democratic candidate "has conversations and briefings regularly with the NYPD on everything from crime to counter terrorism" and had frequently consulted with department officials during her campaign.
"She knows the single most important responsibility for the mayor of New York is keeping the public safe," Quinn spokesman Mike Morey said.
Democrat John Liu, the city comptroller, said in a statement that Kelly is "doing as all commissioners are doing for Mayor Bloomberg, insisting that the current administration knows best about everything."
Democrat Bill Thompson said he found it "a little strange" that Kelly inserted himself into the campaign on the eve of the primary.
"If the commissioner would have indicated that he was willing to do that before, I would have been happy to sit down with him," Thompson said.
He added that he'd be happy to have his choice of commissioner meet with Kelly to be briefed.
Other candidates did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
--Tom Winter contributed to this story