Vigilance: My Life Serving America and Protecting Its Empire City
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Two-time New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly opens up about his remarkable life, taking us inside fifty years of law enforcement leadership, offering chilling stories of terrorist plots after 9/11, and sharing his candid insights into the challenges and controversies cops face today.
The son of a milkman and a Macy's dressing room checker, Ray Kelly grew up on New York City's Upper West Side, a middle-class neighborhood where Irish and Puerto Rican kids played stickball and tussled in the streets. He entered the police academy and served as a marine in Vietnam, living and fighting by the values that would carry him through a half century of leadership-justice, decisiveness, integrity, courage, and loyalty.
Kelly soared through the NYPD ranks in decades marked by poverty, drugs, civil unrest, and a murder rate that, at its peak, spiked to over two thousand per year. Kelly came to be known as a tough leader, a fixer who could go into a troubled precinct and clean it up. That reputation catapulted him into his first stint as commissioner, under Mayor David Dinkins, where Kelly oversaw the police response to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and spearheaded programs that would help usher in the city's historic drop in crime.
Eight years later, in the chaotic wake of the 9/11 attacks, newly elected mayor Michael Bloomberg tapped Kelly to be NYC's top cop once again. After a decade working with Interpol, serving as undersecretary of the Treasury for enforcement, overseeing U.S. Customs, and commanding an international police force in Haiti, Kelly understood that New York's security was synonymous with our national security. Believing that the city could not afford to rely solely on "the feds," he succeeded in transforming the NYPD from a traditional police department into a resource-rich counterterrorism-and-intelligence force.
In this vital memoir, Kelly reveals the inside stories of his life in the hot seat of "the capital of the world"-from the terror plots that nearly brought a city to its knees to his dealings with politicians, including Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama as well as Mayors Rudolph Giuliani, Bloomberg, and Bill DeBlasio. He addresses criticisms and controversies like the so-called stop-question-and-frisk program and the rebuilding of the World Trade Center and offers his insights into the challenges that have recently consumed our nation's police forces, even as the need for vigilance remains as acute as ever.
You called me.” “No, I didn’t.” “Yes, you did.” There was no such thing as caller ID, but amazingly some of the people recognized each other’s voices because they lived in the same general areas. Sometimes the puzzled people would stay on the line for fifteen minutes, trying to figure out why they were there. It was just the kind of pressure release all of us needed. We found it hilarious. Then, as quickly as the juvenile pranks had started, we all snapped back to the latest emergency on the
Police Academy, which had moved from Hubert Street in lower Manhattan to East Twentieth Street in the Gramercy Park neighborhood. During my time there, however, everything was a little disorganized. The recruits took some of their police academy classes in local armories. When they could, the instructors took us out to the shooting range at Rodman’s Neck in the Bronx. Our training was conducted in little spurts. We kept being sent out to the streets to pump up the force numbers. I knew the
lit social club, we arrested Alphonse Persico, the Colombo mobster known as Allie Boy. On the chair where he’d been sitting, I found a loaded handgun. We arrested priests for pedophilia. We sent teenage girls back home to Iowa. In late-night raids, we’d tear apart a gambling parlor or an after-hours club, dismantling the bar with saws and crowbars, confiscating the liquor and cash, all the while knowing they’d be rebuilding the place by noon. We tried to keep up with the ever-changing fronts and
to death in front of our building—an unsolved murder. One day a kid put a knife to my neck. That fight, like most of them, was quickly broken up by adults nearby, but the knife was scary. There weren’t many guns on the street, but stickball bats were everywhere, as was the gravity knife, which had a blade hidden in the handle. A few people had homemade zip guns. Those shot bullets, though not with much velocity. I looked out our front window one evening and saw my brother Donald walking up
average student at Longwood High School, a Sunday congregant at St. Francis de Sales Church, a dedicated fan of the hapless New York Mets. But then something changed. Vinas’s case vividly emphasized what can happen when even a seemingly normal American kid falls under the influence of radical ideology. Vinas wasn’t the first to walk down this frightening path from American boy to terrorist operative. The short list already included al-Qaeda propaganda chief Adam Gadahn, “American Taliban” John