Editorial: Let Kelly speak — and respond

Monday, October 28, 2013

This Tuesday, the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions is hosting Raymond Kelly, the New York City Police Commissioner known for the controversial stop-and-frisk policy, for its Noah Krieger ’93 Memorial Lecture. The lecture is entitled “Proactive Policing in America’s Biggest City,” and the event description lauds Kelly for implementing “strategies that have enabled the New York City Police Department to drive crime down more than 30 percent since 2001.” But it fails to note that this past August, U.S. District Judge Shira Sheindlin ruled stop-and-frisk an unconstitutional “policy of indirect racial profiling” and ordered it changed. Students have been circulating a petition including, among other conditions, a demand to cancel the lecture.

The Taubman Center erred in its use of laudatory language in the event description, but Brown has hosted controversial speakers in the past, and the center is not compelled to cancel Kelly’s lecture just because many students oppose his views. Rather, students seeking to protest Kelly’s practices should attend the event and question him in a civil and intellectual manner.

The numbers behind the program prior to this summer’s ruling are astounding — between January 2004 and June 2012, city police conducted 4.4 million stops. While New York City is just over 50 percent black or Hispanic, an unbelievable 83 percent of cases implicated individuals from these two groups. The vast majority of the stops — 88 percent — resulted in no further action, and weapons were discovered in only 1.5 percent of frisks. It is wholly unsurprising, then, that Sheindlin ruled that “the policy of singling out ‘the right people’” is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the United States Constitution. During the trial, a state senator told the court he had heard Kelly say the purpose of this policy was to “instill fear” in young black and Hispanic men, to teach them that “every time they leave their home, they could be stopped by the police.” While Kelly has disputed this statement, the judge “credited the account” of the senator making the allegations.

It is understandable that many students oppose Kelly’s policies and the language of the event announcement, but it is counter-productive to demand that the University cancel the lecture. Kelly should be given a platform to speak, and students who oppose him should be given the opportunity to ask questions and present counter-arguments. The evidence against the stop-and-frisk program is incontrovertible — and we are certain that students who challenge Kelly on factual grounds will meet greater success than those who focus on trying to keep the event from taking place at all.

Stop-and-frisk created a culture of fear in New York for certain groups who witnessed and experienced discrimination on the part of city officials and law enforcement officers. In this climate, marginalized groups were systemically excluded and their voices were minimized. We have an opportunity to demonstrate to the man behind this culture that it is possible to create a climate in which opposing views can be expressed, debated and analyzed. We urge students to attend the lecture, listen carefully to Kelly’s words — and speak back.


Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editor, Rachel Occhiogrosso, and its members, Daniel Jeon, Hannah Loewentheil and Thomas Nath. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.



  1. Thank you editorial board for defending free speech.

  2. Disappointed Student says:

    This article is misinformed – students are not demanding that the Taubmen Center cancel Kelly’s talk “just because many students oppose his views”. We are demanding the talk be cancelled because of the way in which the Taubmen Center decided to invite Kelly. When was the last time the Taubmen Center invited people who were fighting racial profiling and police brutality to speak with an endowed lecture? Why didn’t the Taubmen Center created this event as an actual debate or a dialogue? Is the Taubmen Center actually neutral in their opinion – and if not, what kind of message does this send to the greater Brown community?

    Kelly, as the NYC Police Commissioner, already has a platform (or many platforms) for the justifications of his policy. Organizations fighting against racial profiling do not. Young black and Latinos who were being targeted by police on a daily basis do not. Victims of police brutality do not.

    • Frustrated Student says:

      Your comment is misinformed–it’s the TaubMAN center. Do you even know what the Taubman Center is? The public policy department at Brown. And this talk was a privately funded lecture about a public policy. So how are you in a position to “demand” anything? If you didn’t want to listen to what he had to say, you shouldn’t have gone.

  3. Sam Davidoff-Gore says:

    While I disagree with Kelly’s policies, I agree with the editors that public discourse on the issue is important and that cancelling the lecture would be counter-productive. No matter the way in which Kelly was invited or the nature of his performance in his job, his ideas do not exist in a vacuum and he is not the only person in the world to have them. This editorial hits the point spot on. If you disagree with Kelly, go to the lecture, ask a question, start a debate.

    • You mean the 10 second question to which Kelly can give a b.s answer and glide happily along ?

      • thank you for deciding whom I may or may not listen to ..I am unable to make critical judgements on my own behalf and need you to protect me from people that YOU label on my behalf

  4. Kyle Albert '15 says:

    Do y’all legitimately believe that allowing students to ask questions at the end of a lecture is in any way equivalent to the platform that Kelly is being given? Do you realize that you’re asking students of color whose bodies have been criminalized by this man to calmly debate him?

    I’m so disappointed that the BDH’s consistent response to students critical of speakers who literally contribute to, or in this case, enact, oppressive policies and discourse is to “speak back,” but only in a polite, neoliberal way desired by the organizers. Students of color have no obligation to be civil to this racist man or the institution who invited him.

    • moral absolutist says:

      ah and the fangs of moral relativism come out to bite. So two wrongs make a right? Regardless of his policies, we always have a responsibility to be civil and listen. the logic in ur argument is akin to argument that the 9/11 bombers used to kill innocent civilians…

      • Just Sayin' says:

        Or we could have just not invited him in the first place. Are the students here asking to brutalize Kelly’s body like policemen under his orders and leadership have done in the past? NO! They are civilly asking that he not be welcomed and paid to come on campus as promoting “sound policy.” How dare you suggest students on campus want to harm him – they simply, and honestly quite civilly, want to rescind his invitation.

      • You know what the funniest thing about this is? Literally last week a kid wrote an article huffing and puffing about how outrageous it was someone had written an opinion piece using the word “censorship”. The entire campus turned up in the comments section to say how inappropriate the word “censorship” was to describe their own total intolerance. Just DAYS LATER the radical nut jobs are back to trying to censor people they disagree with.

        I mean, it’s not like this is a totally out of bounds policy debate. Friggin BLOOMBERG is behind it.

      • What, did Kelly get pepper sprayed, beaten, and hauled off the campus in plastic cuffs AND I MISSED IT?

        Oh no, he just got shouted at a lot and couldn’t find it within himself to actually respond. So he just left, tail between his legs.

        Like most cops will behave, when they can’t use force to get compliance.

    • ‘Students of color have no obligation to be civil to this racist man or the institution who invited him.’

      What a joke. If you are a student at the institution, you should be held to an obligation to conduct yourself within standards set by the institution. Or get the boot. Being ‘of color’ shouldn’t get you any special privileges.

      • What, Kelly is still getting far batter treatment than he gives out in his job. Why doesn’t he have to conduct himself within the same standards?

        It’s called karma, and in this case it’s really been extremely gentle.

        • OK so you would like to transition from the Rule of Law to the Rule of Karma as meted out by disruptive mobs.

          If you think he caused so much harm/violence/racism/whatever, how about getting a coherent argument together and suing him?

          • Booing someone off the stage is against the law now? Care to cite?

            As for suing him, that case is ongoing, if you’ll recall.

          • Not against the law, but I’m pretty sure disrupting a lecture on campus is a violation of code of conduct. This is not state or federal criminal code but rules and regulations that allow the university to function. (Have you ever been a student at Brown? What do you think would the consequences of standing up and shouting down a lecturer in class? Or an address by the university president? )

          • Oh, you looked up the lawsuits and figured out you’d been chumped on that score, eh? XD

            So now you’re going from the “Rule of Law” to the “Rule of Rules?” Lulz. Your lousy examples aside, looks like you’re just moving the goalposts now. 😀

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      Do students “not of color” have an obligation to be civil?

  5. just a single example? anyone? says:

    show me one person who stop and frisk has sent to jail who hasn’t broken the law.

  6. Free Speech says:

    “Free speech” is what the students who are protesting will be practicing. Ray Kelly is being paid, probably quite handsomely, for his talk today. Let’s be clear about what “free speech” actually is. Kelly is doing a job, for which he will be paid. He is not debating, protesting, or bringing attention to an issue for the sake of advocacy. He is, very simply, self-promoting. The students protesting today will be practicing free speech. Ray Kelly will be paid to perform a “service.”

    • Yes, good point. They will be practicing free speech…to advocate silencing someone else’s view.

      This makes them even more obnoxious than I had originally thought.

  7. The protesters are simply stupid. Think for a second. What good do you think your little protest does, in light of a federal court case against stop and frisk and marches down manhattan? All they’ll do is shut him off and make him less receptive to criticism or open discussion, and give off an image that Brown students refuse to listen to non-liberal speakers. I think his policies are racist. I think N.Y. is a worse place because of them. But I’d rather take the opportunity to bring an issue to campus discussion and address it without resorting to such childish tactics. It’s plain selfishness to do a walk-out or anything like it. It’s forsaking open discussion so some spoiled kids can make a scene.

  8. Re: "Open dialogue" says:

    Quick clarification: “Commissioner Kelly’s Speech ‘Proactive Policing in America’s Biggest City’ was originally set to be 50 minutes followed by a 10 minute Q&A session. To quote the director of the Taubman Center, Marion Orr the event was “not designed for debate.” Only after persistent student prodding/protest (including the calling of several meetings), was the structure officially changed to a 20 minute speech followed by 40 minutes of Q&A.”

  9. embarrassed alum says:

    Clearly, the leaching of critical reasoning skills at Brown has greatly declined in the last 30 years. The editorial page board professes to find the racial makeup of suspects searched by the NYPD “astounding.” Perhaps the board would not have been so astounded if they had bothered to examine whether the suspect population reflects the racial makeup of the victim and perpetrator populations. Such an examination requires only a few taps on a keyboard to discover: http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/analysis_and_planning/crime_and_enforcement_activity_jan_to_jun_2012.pdf which demonstrates that the NYPD is stopping suspects that closely match the racial and ethnic makeup of the known perpetrators. Oh! the outrage! Quelle horruer! Members of sociologically and economically disadvantaged populations prey on members of their own groups, in their own neighborhoods. Astounding! Shocking! Oh, the progressive angst!

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