In Shift, Police Say Leader Helped With Anti-Islam Film and Now Regrets It

In Shift, Police Say Leader Helped With Anti-Islam Film and Now Regrets It
Published: January 24, 2012

The New York City police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, through a top aide, acknowledged for the first time on Tuesday that he personally cooperated with the filmmakers of “The Third Jihad” — a decision the commissioner now describes as a mistake.
Enlarge This Image

The film, which says the goal of “much of Muslim leadership here in America” is to “infiltrate and dominate” the United States, was screened for more than 1,400 officers during training in 2010.

Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne told The New York Times on Monday that the filmmakers had relied on old interview clips and had never spoken with the commissioner.

On Tuesday, the film’s producer, Raphael Shore, e-mailed The Times and provided a date and time for their 90-minute interview with the commissioner at Police Headquarters on March 19, 2007. Told of this e-mail, Mr. Browne revised his account.

“He’s right,” Mr. Browne said Tuesday of the producer. “In fact, I recommended in February 2007 that Commissioner Kelly be interviewed.”

In an e-mail, Mr. Browne said that when he first saw the film in 2011, he assumed the commissioner’s interview was taken from old clips, even though the film referred to Mr. Kelly as an “interviewee.” He did not offer an explanation as to why he and the commissioner, on Tuesday, remembered so much of their decision.

The Police Department’s admission suggests a closer relationship between it and the provocative film, which has drawn angry condemnation from Muslim and civil rights groups, than officials had previously acknowledged.

Mr. Browne said that the director of the film, Erik Werth, whom he described as part of an “Emmy-nominated ‘Dateline NBC’ team and Clinton administration staffer on security matters,” asked to speak to the commissioner for a cable film on “foiled terrorist plots and the current threat matrix.”

Mr. Shore, in a follow-up e-mail, cast doubt on this explanation. “Mr. Browne,” he said, “was informed that the interview was for a documentary on radical Islam.”

In any case, Mr. Browne said, the commissioner was not pleased.

“Commissioner Kelly told me today that the video was objectionable,” he said, “and that he should not have agreed to the interview five years ago, when I recommended it.”

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Tuesday that whoever showed the film to city police officers during training “exercised some terrible judgment.”

“I don’t know who,” he said. “We’ll find out.”

Much about the film remains mysterious, from its financing to how it ended up in a police training center. Tom Robbins, a former Village Voice columnist, first reported in January 2011 that the film was being shown to police officers. At that time, Mr. Browne described it as “wacky” and said it had been shown “a few times” to a relative handful of officers.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School filed a Freedom of Information request in April 2011 seeking the release of internal Police Department memos concerning the training. The department responded to part of this request in the last few weeks.

The film, according to these memos, was shown on a “continuous loop” for between three months and a year to officers receiving antiterrorism training. The film, amid images of assassinations, bombings and executions, portrays many mainstream American Muslim leaders as closet radical Islamists, and states that their “primary tactic” is deception.

Mr. Shore, the producer, says that one of the more inflammatory images, of a black and white Muslim flag flying over the White House, was taken from an Islamist Web site.

Police officials stated in the internal memos that the movie apparently was obtained from a midlevel Department of Homeland Security employee, or a contractor for that agency. But although the Brennan Center has requested it, the Police Department has released no information on who made the decision to show the film. Nor has the department divulged how materials are chosen for training, and who vets them.

A version of this article appeared in print on January 25, 2012, on page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: In Shift, Police Say Leader Helped With Anti-Islam Film and Now Regrets It.