Report: NYPD disbands controversial unit behind Muslim surveillance program

muslim surveillance
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the NYPD’s Demographics Unit behind the controversial Muslim surveillance program was disbanded in favor of more open lines of communications with community members.
Credit: Hamza Giron

The controversial police unit that targeted New York City’s Muslim communities for counterterrorism intelligence has been shut down.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the NYPD’s Demographics Unit, which covertly sent out officers in plainclothes to keep track of activity in and around mosques and Muslim-owned businesses, was disbanded in favor of improved lines of communications with community members.

“In the future, we will gather that information, if necessary, through direct contact between the police precincts and the representatives of the communities they serve,” NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis told the Times.

In operation since at least 2003 and in response to the Sept. 11 attacks, the group of eight officers — also referred to as the Zone Assessment Unit — came under criticism in 2012 when the Associated Press uncovered documents showing that the surveillance program never resulted in actionable intelligence.

Meanwhile, the program did draw the ire of New York Muslims who felt unfairly and unconstitutionally targeted by the NYPD on the basis of their religion. Some members also reported attempts by officers to recruit them as potential informants for police.

Two federal suits were filed against the unit’s activities in October. One of the suits, filed in New Jersey, was tossed out in late February. The second suit in New York City is ongoing.

Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the unit’s dissolution in a statement late Tuesday.

“This reform is a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys,” he said.

Bill Bratton, De Blasio’s police commissioner, also received praise from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who said Bratton took a stand for civil liberties with his decision.

“This reform is a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys,” she said in a statement.

Instated by under former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the program throughout his time in office. His administration attempted to assuage the Muslim community’s concerns with more outward displays of collaboration, creating the department’s Muslim Advisory Council.

A number of that council’s members, however, left in protest in August of after it was revealed that police designated mosques and Islamic organizations as terrorist organizations to justify continued surveillance.

The Times reported that Bratton met with various members and leaders of the Muslim community last week at One Police Plaza to discuss the police department’s decision and to reinforce the administration’s commitment to the policy shift.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.