Ray Kelly’s goodbye

Ray Kelly. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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Outgoing police commissioner Ray Kelly was unusually sentimental as he addressed an incoming class of police recruits at an NYPD graduation Friday morning.

"To our newest members gathered here today let me share with you that 47 years ago I stood in your shoes with my fellow graduates of the Police Academy," Kelly told the crowd packed into Madison Square Garden, where 1,171 recruits graduated from the academy.

"I remember everything that I and my classmates felt that day: the satisfaction of competing the training, the pride as I took the oath to become a full-fledged member of New York's finest, the excitement of knowing I would soon be putting everything I learned into practice on patrol," said Kelly, a former Marine who is about to become a "distinguished visiting fellow" at the Council on Foreign Relations. "No doubt these are some of the same emotions that you are feeling today."

He is the longest-serving police commissioner in city history, having served under Michael Bloomberg for three terms and under former mayor David Dinkins from 1992 to 1994.

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Kelly, who received a standing ovation and thunderous applause during the ceremony, later defended himself against incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio's incessant criticism that he harmed relations with communities by overseeing a drastic rise in stop-and-frisk, primarily among minorities.

"Obviously we have to be proud of the accomplishments of the men and women of the department," he told reporters. "Murders have been reduced by 50 percent … crime's down about 30 percent since that time."

He noted the city became safer while the NYPD's headcount was reduced by about 6,000 officers under Bloomberg's watch.

"I would also submit that our relations with the communities that we serve are stronger now than they've ever been, irrespective of some narratives that have come out during the campaign or lawsuits, and the polls show that," he said.

The 72-year-old commissioner has vigorously defended the controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which de Blasio repeatedly criticized as unfairly targeting minorities. De Blasio has promised to "end the era of stop and frisk."

When asked what parting words of advice he has for his successor, Bill Bratton, Kelly simply replied, "Bill Bratton is a very experienced police executive. I'm sure he'll do a good job."

He said they recently had a meeting and that "the transition is going well."

Kelly and Bloomberg also highlighted statistics that demonstrate a dramatic drop in crime during the graduation ceremony.

The outgoing mayor said 2013 has seen 332 homicides so far, a 20-percent reduction from last year's record low. Murders have fallen nearly 50 percent since 2001, the year before he assumed office, Bloomberg added.

He said overall crime is down 32 percent during the same time span.