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Plan calls for civilian watchdog to monitor NYPD surveillance of Muslims

Settlement would appoint civilian attorney to safeguard civil rights.
Demonstrators protest NYPD monitoring of Muslim New Yorkers, Sept. 11, 2011.Debra Sweet/Creative Commons

A proposed policy to protect Muslims from unconstitutional surveillance would place a civilian watchdog at the heels of the NYPD.

The proposal filed Monday is a revision of one filed in October 2016 that a federal judge rejected for being insufficient protection from potential violations.

The arrangementis part of a settlement to address lawsuits alleging the city infringed on the rights of Muslims after 9/11. Several suits were filed after The Associated Press reported that the NYPD planted officers in student organizations and recruited informants at mosques in order to spy on Muslims.

Last January, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would pick a civilian attorney who would monitor the NYPD’s anti-terrorism operations. The mayor’s commitment coincided with the NYPD’s agreement to prohibit investigations based on religion, race or ethnicity.

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The civilian watchdog would sit on a monthly NYPD committee that discusses surveillance programsand would communicate any concerns about the constitutionality of new or ongoing activities.

"This agreement shows that we can have effective law enforcement that protects us from extremist violence — without demonizing any religion or group,"attorney Jethro Eisenstein told the Daily News."That is a critical lesson in the current political climate."

Eisenstein was one of the lawyers who worked on the case since its inception.

The presiding Judge Charles Haight also required that the civilian lawyer needs to ensure the NYPD abides by the 1985 “Handschu Guidelines” that govern monitoring of political or religious activity.

The settlement’s terms advised by civil rights attorneys and the city stipulates that the sitting monitor cannot be removed from the position without a court approval.

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