My father, of blessed memory, would have loved New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Commissioner Kelly is sensitive to the need to preserve and protect civil liberties, but he also recognizes that a society must first and foremost ensure the safety of its citizens. My dad used to say that political correctness takes open mindedness to the extreme — where people’s brains fall out and they stop thinking rationally. He was also devoted to the safety of his family, which he taught me; being alert, observant and lucky.
In the wake of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack by two young radicalized Muslim men, the NYPD’s surveillance of web sites, campuses, etc. frequented by a similar demographic is beginning to look prophetic. Yet, some would have the NYPD pick up their proven tools and rely on Federal officials alone who seem to have missed assorted leads from the Russians and Saudis that might have prevented the attack.
Commissioner Kelly and his team recognize that they are the buffer between New Yorkers (and visitors to our city) and those who would do to us what was done to the victims of the Boston tragedy. Scores of them are still in the hospital and beginning the long road to rehabilitation; they could have been any of us or our loved ones.
It is difficult for many of us who are blessed and live in this amazing democracy to recognize that we have to see not just the good in people, but realistically come to terms with the evil that lives among us. As much as we want to be optimists, we have to prepare to live as though the pessimists are right. It takes some degree of introspection for anyone to try to go into the mind of someone who is prepared to take innocent lives the way the Tsarnaev brothers did. However, the horrendous act helps us to realize just why we need to be more vigilant – and more importantly, ensure that the NYPD gets the benefit of the doubt, not criminals and terrorists.
For a lengthy period of time, the brothers had to be scouting out locations, acquiring the equipment, preparing their cover stories and perhaps even testing miniature versions of the bomb. These two (and any accomplices they may have had) were visualizing the carnage, fantasizing how many lives lost and destroyed and day-dreaming of how this made them into heroes to enemies of freedom and monsters of terror.
Every New Yorker who lived through the 1960s and 1970s here — eras of growing crime and violence in the streets when it seemed the police were powerless to stop it — understands just how important an effective police department can truly be. The turnaround that has brought about a safe and secure City began when Mayor David Dinkins recognized the failings of his police department and appointed Ray Kelly as Commissioner. They were continued and refined during the Giuliani Administration. Nearly 12 years ago, Mayor Bloomberg empowered Ray Kelly to be the most creative and innovative Police Commissioner in New York history just months after the 9/11 terror attacks.
Commissioner Kelly said that we have been incredibly lucky to prevent a terror act. Terrorists only have to get lucky once, we have to be lucky and effective 100 percent of the time. Commissioner Kelly’s effectiveness, with God’s help, will continue to make us fortunate.
William Rapfogel is executive director of the Met Council on Jewish Poverty.