NEW YORK – New York's police commissioner apologized Wednesday for appearing in a documentary movie about terrorism that Muslim groups have criticized as inflammatory, and said his department acted wrongly when it later showed the film to counterterrorism trainees.
A spokesman for Raymond Kelly had previously denied the commissioner had any participation in the making of the "The Third Jihad," suggesting last year that footage of Kelly was lifted from another source.
But on Wednesday Kelly said he had sat for an interview in 2007 because the filmmaker had "bona fides" in television and with the White House. The movie later was shown on a continuous loop on the sidelines during New York Police Department counterterrorism sessions.
"While it never became part of the Department's curriculum, and was not authorized for any training, regrettably it was shown in a room where officers who were filling out paperwork or on break from actual training had an opportunity to view it over an extended period in 2010," Kelly said in a written statement.
Police stopped playing the film after one of the trainees complained, he said.
"I offer my apologies to members of the Muslim community, in particular, who would find the film inflammatory and its airing on Department property, though unauthorized, to be inappropriate," Kelly wrote.
Some Muslim groups reacted angrily at the news. The admission "marks the blatant bigotry and lack of transparency that permeates the NYPD's approach to New York's Muslim communities," the Muslim Civil Liberties Coalition said Wednesday.
On Tuesday Mayor Michael Bloomberg said police had used "terrible judgment" in showing the movie at its training sessions.
"The Third Jihad," produced by the conservative Clarion Fund, accuses some moderate Muslims of being more radical than they appear on the surface and uses vivid footage of bombings and terror attacks to illustrate the danger of radical Islam. Speakers interviewed in the film warn viewers repeatedly that Western civilization is under attack.
Nearly 1,500 police officers went through the training and may have seen the film, according to police documents obtained by the Brennan Center for Justice, a think tank at New York University.
Muslim activists say they worry that the film teaches police officers to regard all Muslims as suspects. Last year an investigation by The Associated Press revealed the police department has operated a secret surveillance program targeting ethnic neighborhoods.
On Thursday activists planned to call for Kelly's resignation at an event outside New York's City Hall. Some of the activists were those singled out in the film.
The film's producer, Raphael Shore, issued a statement defending his work on Wednesday, saying, "Those that have blasted the film are attempting to stifle an important debate about the internal state of the Muslim community in America, and whether politicized Islam and indoctrination pose tangible security threats."
Kelly appears in "The Third Jihad" three times for a total of about 30 seconds, talking about prison converts, the Soviet Union and the threat of terrorists using nuclear weapons. Other people who appear in the documentary include former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who was in office when Muslim extremists attacked the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, former CIA Director R. James Woolsey and former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.
New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne told reporters last year that he believed the footage of Kelly speaking was lifted from another source.
"The New York Police Department did not participate in its production," Kelly wrote in a March 7, 2011, letter to Majlis Ash-Shura of Metropolitan New York, a Muslim group.
Clarion Fund spokesman Alex Traiman said Kelly spoke on camera for 90 minutes and was fully aware of the movie's focus.
"The commissioner wasn't duped," Traiman said. "If he was unhappy with the line of questioning you'd think he would have broken off the interview before 90 minutes."
He accused Bloomberg and Kelly of bending to the will of Muslim activists.
"People don't want to deal with so much of that pressure; they prefer to cave in to it," he said.
The Clarion Fund, which is based in New York, has produced other movies about terrorism and Iran's nuclear program.
Shore used to work for Aish HaTorah, a network of Jewish education centers, but there is no other link between the two groups, Traiman said.
Associated Press reporters Tom Hays and Colleen Long contributed to this report.