NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Muslim civil rights groups demanded the resignation of New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly on Wednesday amid a controversy over the repeated screening of an offensive video.
Kelly said he regretted cooperating with the makers of “The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision for America,” which shows footage of suicide attacks and says “the true agenda of much of Muslim leadership here in America” is to “infiltrate and dominate America.”
Kelly came under fire following reports that the video had been screened many more times than previously acknowledged. When the video first came to light a year ago, police said it had been screened only a few times.
In fact, it was shown to more than 1,400 officers over a period of months, the New York Times reported on Tuesday based on documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a prominent Muslim civil liberties organization, said Kelly had disqualified himself to head the country’s largest and most prominent police force.
“As leaders of the nation’s largest police department, Commissioner Kelly and Deputy Commissioner (Paul) Browne’s actions set a tone for relations with law enforcement that impact American Muslims nationwide,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement. “It’s time for change.”
CAIR and other civil liberties groups set a news conference for Thursday at New York City Hall.
The controversy comes as Kelly, who is closely aligned with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was restoring the police department’s strained relations with the Muslim minority.
“Somebody exercised some terrible judgment,” Bloomberg told reporters on Tuesday, referring to the film. “As soon as they found out about it, they stopped it.”
“The Third Jihad” ran on continuous loop on a TV in a Brooklyn police location that officers used to fill in paperwork during down time, Kelly’s spokesman and deputy, Paul Browne, said. He said the film was not used in training sessions and was never shown at the Police Academy.
In addition, police now admit a spokesman helped arrange an interview the filmmakers did with Kelly that appeared in the film. Previously, police had said Kelly was not involved in the making of the film and that the interview was taken from an archive.
Browne said on Wednesday the commissioner finds the finished product “objectionable” and regrets taking part.
The filmmakers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kelly has navigated difficult times with Muslims, having come into office shortly after the September 11 attacks of 2001, which led to an unprecedented security crackdown that drew the ire of civil libertarians.
Kelly and Bloomberg have since won praise for prosecuting hate crimes against Muslims and defending the right to build a mosque near the site of the September 11 attacks. But there have been periods of tension, more recently over the department’s role in secret operations at New York area mosques.
Editing by Daniel Trotta and Sandra Maler