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Federal Judge Calls for Greater Protections from NYPD Surveillance

The ruling said the NYPD has a "systemic inclination" to disregard surveillance guidelines. (Delphi234/Wikimedia Commons)
The ruling said the NYPD has a "systemic inclination" to disregard surveillance guidelines. (Delphi234/Wikimedia Commons)
November 2, 2016

NEW YORK - A federal judge has called for strengthening protections against discriminatory surveillance by the New York City Police Department.

The ruling comes in a lawsuit challenging the NYPD's warrantless surveillance of the Muslim community. Based on a report by the city's inspector general, the ruling rejects a proposed settlement, saying it wouldn't protect law-abiding Muslims' constitutional rights.

Albert Cahn, director of strategic litigation for the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, supports the ruling, calling it gratifying to be moving beyond the impulse to sacrifice civil liberties in the name of security.

"Now, even the federal judiciary is making it clear that we've gone too far in surveilling too many for no reason," he said, "and that these practices really need to end."

The ruling calls for strengthening provisions of the 1985 Handschu Consent Decree, which sets limits on NYPD surveillance of political and religious groups.

According to Cahn, the ruling said the NYPD's Intelligence Bureau had "a systemic inclination" to disregard surveillance guidelines.

"The judge found probable cause that the NYPD had exceeded the time limits and restrictions placed on surveillance by the existing consent decree," he said.

One recommendation of Judge Charles Haight, who issued the ruling, is expanding the power and autonomy of the civilian member of the panel that oversees NYPD surveillance.

While the ruling only affects surveillance by New York City police, Cahn said it reinforces evidence of rights being violated across the country, "that there are significant abuses by intelligence agencies that are surveilling the Muslim community whether they be the NYPD, federal agencies or other groups."

Haight indicated that if the parties agree to his recommendations, the court would be inclined to approve the settlement.

More information is online at cair.com. The ruling is at nyclu.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY