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Muslims Hopeful but Cautious about NYPD Surveillance Agreement

The New York Police Department agrees to reforms of its surveillance practices as part of a recent settlement. (ramzi hashisho/freeimages.com)
The New York Police Department agrees to reforms of its surveillance practices as part of a recent settlement. (ramzi hashisho/freeimages.com)
January 11, 2016

NEW YORK - Some Muslim New Yorkers are cautiously optimistic about a settlement involving the New York City Police Department. The force has agreed to reforms following two lawsuits accusing it of unfairly targeting Muslims after 9-11.

CUNY law school professor Ramzi Kassem heads the police accountability group Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility (CLEAR), which was part of one of the suits. He says this is a good first step among more changes the Muslim community wants to see.

"What the settlement aims to do in part is to emphasize the importance of bias-free policing," says Kassem. "To sort of redirect the intention and the resources of law enforcement away from ideology, away from race, religion, what faith you practice and towards concrete indication of criminal conduct."

The agreement includes an independent civilian who will monitor the NYPD's surveillance program. Aber Kawas, youth lead organizer of the Arab American Association of New York, sees it as a victory but says Muslims want to see how the new guidelines are enforced.

"This was us making sure that they are taking the right protocol and they're aware of our community and they're aware of our concerns about all of this," says Kawas. "But there's still a lot more to do and we're really looking into the details to see how this settlement is actually going to be implemented."

The NYPD has also agreed to several other changes to the rules designed to protect First Amendment rights during criminal investigations. The settlement has been submitted to a judge for approval.

Nia Hamm, Public News Service - NY