Rep. Peter King said Thursday he thinks that NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly is interested in taking the top job at the Department of Homeland Security.
On the same day that Kelly announced his spokesman, Paul J. Browne, was leaving to take a post at the University of Notre Dame, King (R-Seaford) said Kelly was pleased when the congressman last week publicly supported the idea of New York City's top cop taking the Obama administration job.
"He thanked me for putting his name out there and he didn't tell me to back off," King said.
President Barack Obama this week called Kelly "well qualified" for the DHS post, which became available when Secretary Janet Napolitano last week said she was resigning to run the University of California system.
Browne will become vice president for public affairs at Notre Dame on Aug. 19, the NYPD said.
John J. McCarthy, a senior adviser to and spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will succeed Browne as deputy police commissioner for public information.
The NYPD also announced Thursday the appointment of former top newspaper and publishing executive Valerie Salembier as an assistant commissioner for its media operations.
Browne, a former journalist and chief of staff for the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been the chief NYPD spokesman for more than nine years.
He didn't return telephone calls for comment Thursday about his new post or Kelly.
Kelly and Browne have worked closely together since the 1990s, when both were involved in a U.S. operation to monitor police in Haiti. Kelly has been police commissioner for 12 years under two mayors.
Most of the current crop of Democratic mayoral candidates have said they would either replace Kelly or, as in the case of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, retain him on the condition that he cut back on the NYPD's stop-and-frisk activity.
"I have never thought Ray Kelly would serve under any of the Democratic candidates for mayor," said City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria). "Mayor Bloomberg gave him a lot of autonomy and he used it well. But I don't think that would be the case under any other candidate."
Law enforcement experts think Kelly is ready for a new challenge.
Kelly's "resume is a dream resume for secretary of Homeland Security," said police historian and author Thomas Reppetto. "But more than that, the guy is a very tough administrator."
Reppetto said that the department was conceived in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as an amalgam of nearly a score of federal agencies, with different responsibilities and cultures.
"He would be the ideal guy to take a look at how it runs and shake it up," Reppetto said.