This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," July 27, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," with New York City's murder rate on track to hit new lows, charges of racial profiling persist. New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is here to answer his critics.
Plus, President Obama pivots to the economy again. What's behind the move and what does it say about his record so far?
And labor leaders cry foul after the Motor City files for bankruptcy. Does Detroit deserve a bailout? And could your city be next?
Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
First up this week, some good news from the Big Apple where so far in 2013 murders are down almost 30 percent from last year's all-time low. The city has seen its fewest shootings in two decades. Despite the progress, the New York City Police Department has come under fire for its Stop, Question and Frisk policy, which opponents say it is tantamount to racial profiling. Last month, the city council passed two bills that could restrain the controversial program, a move my guest this week says it will be a setback for the city.
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is here.
Thank you for being here.
RAY KELLY, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT: Good morning, Paul. Good to be with you.
GIGOT: Tell us how Stop, Question and Frisk works in practice and why you do it.
KELLY: It is a practice that is integral to policing throughout America and indeed throughout the world. Police officers are authorized by statute and also validated by a Supreme Court decision Terry v. Ohio in 1968. They are authorized to stop and question someone who they reasonably believe has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. It is a fundamental to policing that officers are given the right to inquire as to what is going on.
Now, people sort of lump together Stop, Question and Frisk. In New York City less than half the stops resulted into a frisk. What is a frisk? It is a limited pat-down to give the officer some sense of safety --
GIGOT: Looking for a firearm, for example.
KELLY: Looking for something that could endanger the officer. Only 9 percent of stops here result in a full-blown search.
GIGOT: Now, what about those people that say the -- I think the figure is 52 or 53 percent of the stops are actually of African-Americans and so this is tantamount to racial profiling. How do you respond?
KELLY: Certainly, something we have been concerned about. In 2006, we had asked the Rand Corporation to come in and take a look at this issue. They said that the most meaningful indicator of whether or not racial profiling is taking place would be the description of victims of violent crimes. They said that census data makes no sense because then you'd be -- half the people stopped would be women. They said that arrests records or arrest data make no sense because it could be biased in and of itself. So they said the most meaningful determinate is the description of victims.
Now in New York City, reality is that roughly 70 percent of the people described as committing violent crimes are described as being black by the victim. And as far as the stops are concerned, we stopped about 52 percent of -- our stops are African-Americans. Roughly 24 percent of the -- of the people identified as committing violent crimes are identified as Hispanic.
GIGOT: But do you put any safeguards on it? When you instruct your police officers to go out on the beat, do you put any safeguards to make sure --
GIGOT: -- that you are not stopping people just because they happen to be black or Hispanic?
KELLY: Absolutely. It's an ongoing program. Every day officers go up to our police range. They're trained by attorneys and they're trained by experienced officers. They are given a test at the police academy before they leave. They have to get 100 on the test --
GIGOT: Do you dismiss people that show a record of bias?
KELLY: Certainly, if we see a record of bias we will discipline people. And we have. And it is an ongoing process.
GIGOT: Here's one of the other criticisms we hear often, which is that the crime rate in New York -- you have had -- this your second tour as police commissioner has -- for your sins -- has start declining in the early 1980s. And therefore, it preceded Stop, Question and Frisk, and you really -- it's really important to the reduction in crime.
KELLY: First of all, we have had Stop, Question and Frisk since the beginning of the police departments in America. And in 1990, we had 2,242 murders. And we had a population in the millions fewer than we have now in the city, 7.3 million versus 8.4 million now. So what you see is a dramatic decline --
GIGOT: So you think it is central --
KELLY: I'm sorry?
GIGOT: You think it's central to the crime reduction.
KELLY: It is central to policing. It is all over America. It is a function that -- that's what you pay your police officers for. You see something of a suspicious nature, and what you -- you get out of the car and intervene as we gather some information as to what is happening. What happened here -- and this has been 15 years of litigation. The Center for Constitutional Rights brought a case in 1999, but continues. One case ends and they just turn papers in and it continues to go forward. We have been criticized because the number is -- they claim to be so high to turn, 680,000 two years ago is now down to 530,000 last year. And that's -- that seems to be, you know, a very high number. But it really amounts to less than one stop a week per patrol officer. We have 23 million citizen contacts a year between the police and citizens of the city. Everything is bigger here.
GIGOT: 20 years now. You have first Rudy Giuliani for eight years, then Mike Bloomberg for 12. You are going to get a new mayor next year. All of the Democratic candidates are, in one way or another, criticizing Stop, Question and Frisk, and what you are doing. What is behind that? Presumably, they don't want it just dangerous streets.
KELLY: Well, I think what's behind it is this notion that in order to get a win in the Democratic primary here, you have to go way out to the left. And they are catering to, in my judgment, those extreme groups. And in New York City, you have almost a 6:1 differential between registered Democrat voters and Republican voters. So that is the concept. You get way out there and you get the nomination of the Democratic Party driven by what I would call some extremist views. And then, of course, because there's an overwhelming majority of Democratic voters here, you win the election.
GIGOT: Do you want to be secretary of Homeland Security? You've been mentioned.
KELLY: Well, I'll just say it's very flattering on the part of the president. He made some very positive comments. I appreciate it. But I'm not going to comment on it.
GIGOT: All right.
Thank you, Commissioner Kelly.