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NYers split on whether to keep top cop Ray Kelly, amNewYork-News 12 poll finds

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kelly Photo Credit: NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly (Getty)

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has long enjoyed strong popularity, but there is a near-even split between New York voters who would like him to remain top cop under the next mayor and those who want to see him replaced, an amNewYork-News 12 poll finds.

Keeping Kelly, 72 — the longest-serving commissioner in the NYPD’s 168- year history — was favored by 45% of likely voters, the poll conducted by Penn Schoen Berland found. Almost as many — 44% — wanted to see someone else, such as former commissioner Bill Bratton, a leading contender if Democrat Bill De Blasio is elected mayor. Republican Joe Lhota says he’d keep Kelly.

View the full results amNewYork-News 12 poll here and see highlights from the poll here.

In a Kelly vs. Bratton matchup, the poll found 45% for the current commissioner, 20% for Bratton and 24% who would like to see someone else.

Bratton, who ran the NYPD for Rudy Giuliani from 1994 to 1996, likely is not as well-known as Kelly among today’s electorate.

Lhota credits Kelly with keeping city crime at record lows.

De Blasio faults Kelly for what the Democratic candidate views as the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk excesses.

African-Americans voiced strong sentiment for someone else — 47% — compared with 23% favoring Bratton and 21% for Kelly.

Fifty-nine percent of white voters would keep Kelly. Forty-nine percent of Latinos chose Bratton or someone else, while 38% stood with Kelly.

De Blasio has said he would consider Bratton, 66; Philip Banks III, 50, who is the city’s highest-ranking uniformed officer; and others he has not named.

Bratton has openly voiced interest in the job. Banks has not commented.

The amNewYork-News 12 sample on the Kelly vs. Bratton question had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

The margin is higher for subgroups. The poll was conducted Oct. 15-19.

Since 2002, when he became the only police commissioner Mayor Michael Bloomberg would have, Kelly has enjoyed high popularity.

His approval rating in a January Quinnipiac poll was 75%. Some Republicans tried to recruit him to run for mayor.

As recently as June, a Marist poll found that 54% of registered voters wanted to keep Kelly, and 34% wanted someone else. (That poll didn’t list Bratton as an alternate choice, so comparisons with the amNewYork-News 12 results require caution.)

The commissioner’s support is still twice that of his would-be new boss, Lhota. “We’re done with Bloomberg,” said pollster Mike Berland. “We’re not so sure we’re done with Kelly.”

But Kelly’s stop-and-frisk policy has come under relentless assault from de Blasio and other Democrats throughout the mayoral campaign, and on Aug. 12 a federal judge found it to be unconstitutional racial profiling.

Before the campaign, “there was no debate about him,” said Kenneth Sherrill, Hunter College emeritus professor of political science. “Once a serious debate began about the policies of the police department, public opposition crystallized in a way that it hadn’t before.”

Poll respondent Paul Stremel, 37, a Republican from Whitestone, Queens, who’s voting for Lhota, said in a follow-up interview that he thinks that Kelly “absolutely should stay.”

“When I go to Manhattan, I think it’s as safe as ever. You don’t walk around with that fear in the back of your head like something’s going to happen,” Stremel said. “In fact, I would have voted for him for mayor if he ran. He should have.”

 Tricia Bayman, 65, a Democrat on Staten Island who was polled, wants Kelly to move on. “He’s the one that’s responsible for stop and frisk,” she said.

Through a spokeswoman, Kelly declined to comment.

According to the amNewYork-News12 poll, Kelly is extremely unpopular with black New Yorkers and extremely popular with registered Republicans: Only 21 percent of black respondents said they want Kelly to stay, 23 percent want Bratton and 47 percent want someone else entirely. Among Republican voters, 76 percent want Kelly to stay, 10 percent want Bratton and an identical number want someone else.

De Blasio has said he would consider Bratton, who served as Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s police commissioner from 1994 to 1996, and Philip Banks III, who is now the city’s highest-ranking uniformed officer under Kelly.

Banks has not commented, and Bratton, who’s met with de Blasio, has expressed interest in a second tour at 1 Police Plaza, calling himself “a glutton for punishment.”

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