Nassau County officials reached out to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly recently to see whether he was interested in their top cop job -- a proposal he quickly rejected, law enforcement sources said.
Kelly, 72, the longest-serving leader in NYPD history, will turn over the reins of the country's largest police department to Bill Bratton in January. He expressed appreciation for Nassau's interest in him when contacted about the job, the sources said, but graciously declined to pursue it.
"He essentially said 'Thanks, but no thanks,'" said one of the sources, a city law enforcement official. "He was gracious, and a gentleman about it."
Kelly was contacted about the Nassau job last week in the wake of a politically charged court case that led to the ouster of Commissioner Thomas Dale, the sources said. The contact was made before Kelly's deal with the public speaking agency Greater Talent Network was announced, the sources said.
Kelly served his first stint as city police commissioner from 1992 to 1994, and took the helm again in 2002 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
During his tenure, violent crime in the city fell to record lows and a number of terrorist plots were thwarted. The NYPD under Kelly has been criticized for its stop-and-frisk policy and surveillance in Muslim communities.
Experts on police administration said they would have been surprised had Kelly made the move to Nassau.
"To go from running the largest police agency to a much smaller one would probably be very hard for him to do," said Joseph Pollini, a former NYPD homicide investigator and deputy chairman for the Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. "It would have been kind of a backward step."
Nassau has a track record of turning to the city for its police leaders. Dale, as well as former Police Commissioner James Lawrence, who held the post from 2002 to 2007, were both NYPD chiefs before coming to Nassau.
Several current high-ranking NYPD officials are believed to be in contention for the Nassau commissioner job, the sources said.
James Carver, president of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, has called on County Executive Edward Mangano to hire from within the department.
"The NYPD is fertile ground for Nassau because they tend to have the best and most experienced personnel," Pollini said. "And Nassau's a place where an NYPD chief can get the chance to run their own department close to home."
Mangano's office declined to officially comment on whether Kelly was contacted about the job. The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.
Mangano has said he wants an outsider and a disciplinarian for the job.
Whoever steps into the permanent commissioner role in Nassau will face a slew of challenges, including keeping crime low and employee discipline.
Taking the reins in 2012 after several police scandals, Dale had promised to reassert the authority of the commissioner and other top officials to discipline rogue cops.
County legislators in May 2012 broadened his authority to impose discipline by firing bad employees, rather than have police trials -- internal hearings to determine what happens to cops who break the rules -- go to a mediator.
"Kelly has bigger fish to fry, but this could be the perfect chance for someone else from the NYPD to swoop in and have a big impact right away," the city source said.