Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly: I Won't Step Down Over Anti-Muslim Film
Friday, January 27, 2012
Police commissioner Ray Kelly said Friday he has no plans to resign following calls for him to step down after it was revealed that nearly 1,500 officers were shown an anti-Muslim film in which the city’s top cop appears as an interviewee.
Kelly said he saw the controversial film "The Third Jihad" for the first time on Tuesday and found it “inflammatory” and “a little much.” He noted that his appearance was no more than 20 seconds in the film and that others, such as former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, also sat for the film.
The screening of the film was the work of a “well meaning” sergeant, he said, who played the film on a loop in an area where officers “could take a break.” It was no approved for training, and the sergent was not a member of the counterterrorism division.
Kelly began his remarks Friday commending the NYPD’s relationship with the city’s Muslim community, saying the department interacts with the community “very well.”
Kelly said there are no plans to retrain the officers who might have viewed the film. The officials who responded to the FOIL request could not confirm whether each of those thousand or so officers actually saw the film.
When the request to interview came from the film producers, Kelly said he was impressed with the credentials of the producer and that "it was a normal request you get on this job," but he didn't clearly answer whether he felt misled by the producers.
The makers of the film, Clarion Fund, claimed the Muslim community was unfairly targeting Kelly because of his “aggressive” counter-terror strategies, which includes surveillance of Muslim communities.
"When we called up Ray Kelly, we didn’t anticipate this situation four years later," said spokesman Alex Traiman. "You know, we just thought ‘Here’s the head of one of America’s most forward-thinking counter-terror organizations in the world. Wouldn’t it be great if he’ll be in our film?’ And we were fortunate that he said, 'Yeah.'”
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, said that blaming the Muslim community for the controversy was "utter nonsense." He noted that the organization brought its concerns about the film to the NYPD a year ago, and it's taken that long for the details to come out. "It's never the crime, it's the cover up," he said.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne, who previously said clips of Kelly in the film were cobbled together from interview online, now says he was approached by the film’s director in 2007, and that he recommended Kelly be interviewed.
"I agreed, and regret that considering I thought that somebody with those credentials would have produced a more objective production and that turned out not to be the case," Paul Browne, deputy commissioner for the NYPD, told WNYC's The Takeaway on Wednesday.
The film shows TV images of Hezbollah rocket attacks, children being held hostage by Muslim militants and a woman it says was arrested in Iran for wearing immodest clothing.