The New York Police Department's top official reiterated his defense Monday of the department's aggressive intelligence-gathering operations, saying there's no need to apologize for keeping tabs on some Muslims if that's what it takes to protect the city.
"Not everybody is going to be happy with everything the Police Department does. That's the nature of our business," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. "But our primary mission, our primary goal, is to keep this city safe, to save lives. That's what we're engaged in doing."
Kelly's comments to reporters Monday were the latest in a recent string of public statements in response to reports by the Associated Press about the NYPD's surveillance on Muslims across the Northeast, including at the University at Buffalo, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
On a radio show, Kelly said some local politicians and potential candidates to succeed Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg who have criticized the counterterrorism efforts were pandering because of the upcoming election season.
In a newspaper column in the New York Daily News, Kelly said the criticism was a knee-jerk reaction by some New Jersey lawmakers to news that the NYPD had done surveillance in Newark.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and Newark Mayor Cory Booker were wrong to question the department, he said. The elected officials were responding to the recent disclosure that officers devoted several months in 2007 to surveillance of Muslim communities in New Jersey's largest city. The result was a 60-page guide to Newark's Muslims, which was obtained by the Associated Press.
Kelly said he had no plans to apologize.
Christie has called the report "disturbing," and his spokesman said Monday he had nothing to add. A spokeswoman for Booker said he wasn't available to comment Monday. A spokeswoman for Menendez did not immediately respond to a request to comment. Both have called for investigations into the department's actions.
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he didn't see any reason to second-guess the NYPD's methods. He was responding in Albany to a letter sent by a civil rights group demanding a meeting to discuss the attorney general's decision not to investigate the department.
"I don't believe there is any reason to second-guess the attorney general," Cuomo said.