Several names have been floated as potential candidates to become the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But to the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Representative Peter T. King, a Republican of New York, one name stands above the rest: Raymond W. Kelly.
“To me, he is clearly the best person for the job,” Mr. King said last week of Mr. Kelly, the commissioner of the New York Police Department.
It is not just that Mr. King’s father, Peter E. King, was a New York City police officer who trained Mr. Kelly while he was a recruit in the department’s Police Academy. Nor is it that the two men occasionally dine together.
Mr. King, in surveying the landscape of American law enforcement, says he believes that Mr. Kelly, 69, would be best to succeed Robert S. Mueller III because of Mr. Kelly’s commitment to counterterrorism.
“He has done more for counterterrorism as police commissioner than anyone else in the country, at any level of government, he really has,” Mr. King said. “I am not that crazy about the thought of losing him here in New York; he has done a phenomenal job; but over all, for the country, I think he is so focused on terrorism.”
Mr. King shared his views in a lengthy interview at a time when there has been intense speculation about Mr. Kelly’s future. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has said that the man he chose as his police commissioner would be perfect in the White House — as president.
“Commissioner Kelly would make a great president,” Mr. Bloomberg said recently in response to a question on the topic.
For his part, Mr. Kelly consistently parries questions about his future by lauding his present occupation, which he says is the best job in the world.
Still, Mr. King said he hoped that Mr. Kelly was “being very strongly considered” by the Obama administration to be F.B.I. director once Mr. Mueller’s decade of service comes to an end on Sept. 4. The new director would have to be confirmed by the Senate.
Mr. King said Mr. Kelly had not asked him to advocate on his behalf with federal officials. He said no one from the White House had sought his opinion. He said he did not believe Mr. Kelly was actively campaigning for the position. But he agreed that the candidate would probably emerge “by May or June,” as it will require “a lot of looking at by the Senate.”
What senators and the public would find in Mr. Kelly, according to Mr. King, is someone who has held senior positions on the local and federal levels. He was first named police commissioner in 1992, then went to Washington, and returned for a second tenure as police commissioner in 2002, when Mayor Bloomberg was first elected after 9/11.
In Washington, in 1996, he was appointed under secretary of the treasury for law enforcement, with responsibility for the Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the law enforcement arms of the Internal Revenue Service and the United States Customs Service. In 1998, he was named the commissioner of the customs service.
“Since becoming police commissioner, after 9/11, he has to deal with the federal government on a regular basis,” Mr. King said. “By having officers posted overseas, he also deals with foreign governments, and deals closely with the British intelligence and Jordanians. There is no one I see out there who has this depth of experience at so many different levels and also has the innovative thinking.”
Police agencies are notoriously resistant to change, but Mr. King said that when Mr. Kelly came back in 2002, he “changed the culture of the N.Y.P.D.,” specifically by adding layers of civilian workers to mix with experienced police professionals. The result has been a valuable mix of theory and operational experience, Mr. King said.
Mr. King said that Mr. Kelly might meet “with some resistance” from within the F.B.I., and “some might think of him as an enemy because the N.Y.P.D. is so aggressive.” But, he said, “I think you need that thinking. It is good to have someone come in who is willing to be innovative.”
Mr. King outlined some of the benefits of having an operational law enforcement veteran at the helm of the F.B.I., rather than someone who has been a prosecutor. Prosecutors, he said, press cases for a long time to gather enough evidence in the hopes that the charges will hold up in court or because they want to snare as many people as possible. But a police commander might put more focus on stopping something even if it is so early that “no one gets arrested,” he said.
Of course, Mr. King noted that this kind of theoretical argument does not mean someone with a law enforcement background would not seek to strike a balance.
“It is not all one or the other,” he said. “But, it is about what your instincts are, and I would rather have someone whose career is based on stopping it, if someone is reluctant to take action unless there is enough to convict. I think Ray, if he feels there is not enough to get a conviction, he would take action to disrupt.”
Of course, Mr. King is not the only one who would like to see Mr. Kelly lead the F.B.I. The topic came up when President Obama traveled to New York last week to visit ground zero.
“Almost anytime I am with him, anyplace with him, they come by and say, `Ray, you should be the head of the F.B.I.’” Mr. King said. “At ground zero, some political people were saying that to him.”
Honoring 100 Years of Motorcycle Patrols
A programming note: Police officers have been using two-wheeled vehicles, or motorcycles, to patrol the city’s streets for a long time. The city’s Police Museum is acknowledging that service with an exhibit, “The N.Y.P.D. Motorcycle Squad: A Century of Service to New York City.”
The exhibit, scheduled to open Monday, “explores the fascinating history of one of the most storied units in the New York City Police Department,” said Elba Luna, a museum official. “The motorcycle squad was introduced under Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo in 1911 and has led the way ever since in highway patrols, street-bound crime fighting, maintaining the peace in public places, and carrying out high profile escorts.”
The exhibition will feature some used vintage motorcycles, including a late 1940s-model Indian motorcycle and a 1960s model Harley-Davidson, as well as photographs and film footage.
It will be on view through Jan. 9, 2012.
Al Baker, police bureau chief for The New York Times — and the son of a police lieutenant — brings you inside the nation’s largest police force every Thursday. Mr. Baker can be reached at [email protected]