New York City settles lawsuits after police illegally target Muslims

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SHAFAQNA – America’s largest police department has been forced to agree that it would not conduct surveillance based on religion, race and ethnicity after it was accused of illegally monitoring Muslims in New York City.

The city has settled two civil rights lawsuits for illegally monitoring its Muslim community following the September 11 attacks. The settlement — which did not require the city to admit any wrongdoings — will appoint a civilian to monitor the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism unit. Additionally, officials were not required to agree to any other specific changes in their practices.

Prior to Thursday’s agreement, undercover officers were sent to mosques across the city to record sermons, build records on worshipers and document the politics of people in attendance, theNew York Times reports.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday that the city’s Muslim residents “are strong partners in the fight against terrorism, and this settlement represents another important step toward building our relationship with the Muslim community.”

“Our city’s counterterrorism forces are the best in the world, and the NYPD will continue working tirelessly to keep our city safe in the fight against terror while respecting our residents’ constitutional rights.”

The Demographics Unit, the NYPD conducted the investigations in question, was disbanded in 2013.

“Not one single piece of actionable intelligence ever came out of that unit in its years of existence,” NYPD Commissioner William Bratton told reporters when asked why Mayor de Blasio had ended the programme.

“I’m tired. This keeps coming up over and over again in the tabloids. Let’s get real about the issue,” Commissioner Bratton told reporters in November 2015. “It’s urban legend. It’s urban myth.”

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project and council for one of the plaintiffs,applauded Thursday’s announcement on Twitter.

“This watershed settlement puts constraints on law enforcement’s discriminatory and unjustified surveillance of Muslims.“

Syed Farhaj Hassan, a US Army reservist, said that he previously stopped attending his mosque after it was targeted by police.

“The American Muslim community was victimized by the New York Police Department and their warrant-less surveillance,” hetold CBS News. “There’s no reason that that should stand to continue.

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