9:45 am Jan. 26, 2012
Yesterday, a city councilman called for the resignation of NYPD spokesman Paul Browne over the departments handling of "The Third Jihad," an inflammatory movie about radical Islam that, contrary to Browne's initial statements, was shown to nearly 1,500 police officers and featured an authorized appearance by police commissioner Ray Kelly.
The controversy has compelled Kelly to issue an apology for his appearance in the film, but has yet to prompt any elected officials to seek his ouster.
Kelly is a broadly popular commissioner, whose standing among elected officials and the public has, to a remarkable degree, remained perfectly undisturbed by department-related controversies over his long tenure. Part of the reason for that—and, presumably, for the fact that relatively little of the anger over "The Third Jihad" is being directed at him, personally, despite the fact that he is in the movie—is that Kelly has a history of doing outreach to communities and individuals who aren't normally supportive of the police. His management of past controversies has also been characterized by an ability to separate himself from the mistakes of the department, even as the public continues to identify him with the department's successes in keeping crime rates low.
Capital's Reid Pillifant looked at the phenomenon late last year, at the start of what turned out to be a lengthy stretch of unflattering news coverage for the NYPD. (It's still pretty instructive in terms of what's happening right now, if you haven't read it.)
So far, the mayor has said that showing "The Third Jihad" was a huge mistake, and most of the elected officials looking to replace Bloomberg in 2013 have criticized Kelly and his spokesman. But none have said Kelly should resign over this.
Bill Thompson, the former comptroller and 2009 Democratic mayoral nominee, said it was "simply astounding that the NYPD would cooperate" with the film, and called it "discourteous, unprofessional and disrespectful behavior," playing off the department's motto: Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio told NY1 last night he found it "totally troubling" that the film was shown to officers.
"I think there needs to be an investigation into how it happened and certain people in the police department need to make a much clearer statement here about how this ever took place and make sure it doesn't happen again," he said.
Local newspaper publisher (and declared candidate) Tom Allon emailed to say that Kelly "made a mistake in cooperating with this film and his department made an even bigger mistake in showing it to officers in their training."
Allon noted that Kelly has apologized and said "that is enough for now."
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and City Comptroller John Liu have yet to speak out on the controversy, and didn't respond to my requests for comment.
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