After the closure of a police unit that indiscriminately investigated American Muslims, civil rights groups want the NYPD to eliminate all traces of the operation.
The secretive “Demographics Unit” was revealed by The Associated Press in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles in 2011. It sent undercover police officers to scour places where Muslims were assumed to live, work and socialize, “such as Islamic bookstores and cafes, and taxi companies with Pakistani drivers,” The Guardian reports.
The paper continues:
The NYPD announced on Tuesday night that it was closing the hub of its Muslim surveillance programme, the Demographics Unit (also known as the Zone Assessment Unit) following widespread criticism. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the reform was “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.”
But Muslim leaders and civil rights lawyers are now demanding to know whether similar programmes to monitor communities without suspicion are still active in other parts of the NYPD, and called for an overt change in policy to eradicate any remaining vestiges. The police department is currently facing three lawsuits relating to the surveillance in the New York and New Jersey courts, and activists are vowing to maintain pressure on police commissioner William Bratton until a change of policy is achieved.
“The closure of the Demographics Unit is definitely a positive sign, but we are concerned that this work will carry on within different units of the NYPD. We want the police to establish a new policy that will eliminate mass surveillance of Muslims and other communities for good,” said Ryan Mahoney, head of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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