Why Isn’t Ray Kelly’s Job Approval Rating Lower?

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Kelly. Photo: Michael Stewart/WireImage

That's the question posed by Reid Pillifant in Capital New York. After all, it hasn't been the best of times for the NYPD, making Kelly's sparkling 81 percent approval rating as of May a bit of a surprise. There was the "rape-cop" controversy, along with another recent rape, allegedly committed by a member of the force.

Just this last weekend, the NYPD got in trouble for arresting an African-American city councilmember and a top Bill de Blasio aide at the West Indian parade; footage later surfaced of white officers "menacing" him. The AP revealed the existence of a secret NYPD unit that models itself after the CIA and plays fast and loose with civil liberties. There's also the matter of the force's controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which has drawn criticism for resembling racial profiling a little too closely. It's a policy that Kelly worked hard to put in place, and then pressured Governor Paterson to protect under the law. So why doesn't any of the criticism of the department seem to stick to the boss? Pillifant theorizes that it's plain old-fashioned good personal PR: "aggressive, self-assured outreach, combined with Kelly’s personable affect." Yet it's a different brand of aggression than that practiced by Guiliani, who perhaps lacked the tempering likability that Kelly has in spades.

For instance, here's one of the men arrested at the West Indian parade:


“Let me just say it wasn’t a police commissioner who threw me to the ground and shoved my face into the grass,” said Foy, who was shown being tripped by an officer in a video distributed by the public advocate’s office. “It was a rank-and-file police officer. So somewhere there’s a disconnect. Ray Kelly is a man of honor, he’s a man of good character. And somehow that’s not trickling down, not getting down to the rank-and-file. And that’s where the problem is. The leadership on the rank-and-file level is not mimicking the leadership at the top.”

And yet many of the criticisms of the force, particularly when it comes to civil liberties violations, are of top-down policies. Still, even the force's sharpest critics don't question Kelly qua Kelly, precisely. Councilwoman Letitia James, not a fan of Kelly's policies, explained rather succinctly why he hasn't seemed damaged by any negative press — quite the opposite, in fact, since he's polling first for the mayoral race he hasn't given any indication he'd like to join.

"I think it’s because he’s a nice guy," said James. Guess they don't always finish last?

Earlier: Ray Kelly Is the Front-runner for the 2013 Mayoral Race
The gentleman commissioner: Why NYPD controversies never seem to touch Ray Kelly [Capital New York]