The New York City Police Department has announced that it will be ending its monitoring of everyday activities of Muslims. On Tuesday, the department confirmed the dismantling of the anti-terrorism plan known as the Demographics Unit.
The anti-terror program is getting a hard look from Commissioner William Bratton. Protocols for when and how to conduct surveillance in the hunt for terrorists are also under review.
Bratton, who has been in office for three months, was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, a liberal Democrat, and given a sweeping mandate to ease tensions between the 35,000-officer department and the city’s minorities.
Over the past few years, Bratton’s predecessor Ray Kelly and then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg vehemently defended what has become the nation’s largest intelligence-gathering, anti-terrorism operation outside the federal government, saying the lack of any major attack on the city since 9/11, and the lowest overall crime rate in a generation, are proof it is working.
But Bratton and his allies say the unit-by-unit review of the NYPD’s intelligence and counterterrorism operations is necessary to eliminate possible inefficiencies, better deploy resources and respond to criticism that the department has trampled on civil rights.
The review is expected to make how the department gathers intelligence less secretive. It will also place tighter restrictions on the practice.
Under the Demographics Unit, police sent plainclothes officers to mingle with Muslims in bookstores, restaurants and mosques to listen for terrorist plots. The secret program was revealed by the Associated Press in 2011.
Lawsuits and allegations against the program soon surfaced, charging it with violating Muslims’ civil rights and sowing mistrust in the community. In 2012, a high-ranking NYPD official acknowledged that the unit had never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation in the previous six years.
Should the program had been dismantled sooner?
How can we prevent such programs that unfairly profile diverse communities from being developed?
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