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Former New York police commissioner to lead Homeland Security

By Brian Knapp

News Wire

2004-11-22


President Bush picked former police commissioner Bernard Kerik, the former military man who helped New York get back on its feet after the Sept. 11 terror attack, to head the department of Homeland Security.

"Bernie Kerik is one of the most accomplished and effective leaders of law enforcement in America," Bush said in nominating Kerik to be the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. "In every position he has demonstrated a deep commitment to justice, a heart for the innocent and a record of great success."

Kerik said what he witnessed in the days after the attacks would be etched in his mind if he were confirmed to lead the department. "I know what is at stake," Kerik said.

"On Sept. 11, 2001, I witnessed the very worst of humanity, and its very best," said Kerik. "I saw hatred claim the lives of 2,400 innocent people, and I saw the bravest men and women I will ever know rescue more than 20,000 others."

"Both the memory of those courageous souls and the horrors I saw inflicted upon our proud nation will serve as permanent reminders of the awesome responsibility you place in my charge," Kerik said.

Kerik would replace the man who helped establish the department, Tom Ridge, who resigned.

Bush paid tribute to Ridge.

"As the department's first leader, Tom oversaw the largest reorganization of the government in nearly a half century; He met urgent challenges with patience and purpose, and because of this service our country is safer," the President said. "He is one of the great public servants of our generation."

A military policeman in South Korea in the 1970s, Kerik also served as a paid private security worker in Saudi Arabia. He joined the New York Police Department in 1986, first walking a beat in Times Square.

He eventually was tapped to lead the city's corrections department, and was appointed police commissioner in 2000.

It was in that position that he became known to the rest of the country, supervising the NYPD's response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Kerik helped rally a department that lost 23 members and became a steady presence for a population deeply shaken by the attacks.

Kerik inherits a new and sprawling bureaucracy. The creation of the department in 2003 combined 22 disparate federal agencies with more than 180,000 employees and a combined budget of $36 billion. The organization is still learning to work together and faces criticism over aspects from the coordination of finances to computer systems.

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