The NYPD has finally shuttered a program that, among other things, monitored Muslim people and neighborhoods in and around New York City. The New York Times's scoop on the development could indicate a change of tone from the NYPD's brand-new commissioner William J. Bratton. Former police commissioner Ray Kelly repeatedly defended the program after it was exposed in a 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning AP series (written by one of the two reporters behind today's New York Times story).
After the program became public knowledge, its tactics prompted two lawsuits and countless complaints from civil rights advocates. As part of the program, officers would track Muslim communities all over the northeast, in and out of New York City, working in collaboration with operatives from the CIA. Plainclothes detectives were sent to Muslim shops, mosques, and other gathering places to eavesdrop. The "Demographics Unit" was part of an extensive national security initiative following the September 11 attacks.
According to the Times, several Muslim leaders met with Bratton last week to discuss the program, and told them they were going to shut it down. It's been largely inactive since Bratton took over after Kelly left his post. Here's what the NYPD told the paper about the change, though spokesperson Stephen Davis:
“Understanding certain local demographics can be a useful factor when assessing the threat information that comes into New York City virtually on a daily basis. 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.”
The former "Demographics Unit" officers will be reassigned. According to the AP, it failed to produce a single terrorism lead in its first six years of existence.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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