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.
told his people, “let’s acknowledge the incredible commitment of our mayor.” Then, speaking to his predecessor directly, the new mayor said: “To say the least, you led our city through some extremely difficult times. And for that, we are all grateful. Your passion on issues such as environmental protection and public health has built a noble legacy.” It was a weird, uncomfortable display all around, especially for a new mayor’s first public event. No one could credibly argue that Michael
enacting Operation Hercules, putting critical response resources onto the street, building vast new data and technology components—no one could possibly say we didn’t throw ourselves into the fight. We relied constantly on the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies—local, state, federal, and international—as well as people from the private sector. We took help and guidance wherever we could find them and recruited some of the nation’s top counterterror experts to
city’s first Republican mayor in a generation. It was a hard-fought race, and Giuliani ran an impressive, disciplined campaign. However, much of what happened next was set in motion by David Dinkins. Murders were down again in 1993, dropping to 1,946. When 2,800 new police officers hit the streets in January 1994, he wasn’t mayor anymore. Giuliani was. Others, many others, took the credit. The new mayor appointed his own police commissioner, William Bratton. CHAPTER SIX Haitian Heat I had
armed robber, and hit man. There wasn’t much he wouldn’t try—or at least claim he’d tried. “I don’t hold up the police station only because they get paid by check,” he supposedly once said. How did we know all this? That’s hard to say. But it was common knowledge in the neighborhood, and no one doubted a word of it. On July 23, 1952, Trigger got into a fistfight with a local hoodlum called Squeeky, who ended up in a puddle of pain on the floor in McGlade’s. When Trigger kept beating him while
despite the fact that most of us were underage and unlicensed. We drove around the parking lot and, occasionally, outside it. After a summer of car parking, my friend Tommy Reichel and I passed the lifeguard test. Lifeguard was a big step up from parking attendant. Among the lifeguards were two new friends, Sammy Latini and Frank Ruddy, who provided endless laughter and fun times. Lifeguarding, I guess you could say, was my first experience in law enforcement, stopping kids from diving off the