Tearing Apart New York Top Cop Ray Kelly's Shameless Lies About the NYPD's Racist Policies
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But if he’s going to bring it up: It is perhaps not wise for the commissioner of a police department that has been proven to have illegally arrested hundreds of protesters — after extensively spying on them — to crow about his department’s careful adherence to rules governing the treatment of political protesters.
Handschu entitles police officers to attend any event that is open to the public, to view online activity that is publicly accessible and to prepare reports and assessments to help us understand the nature of the threat.
The use of the word “threat” in this context in inappropriate, considering that the NYPD was not engaged in the investigation of specific threats when it went “mosque-crawling”and surveilled Muslim-owned businesses in New Jersey. They were simply gathering as much information as they could about American Muslims accused or suspected of no crimes whatsoever. “In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques,” the Associated Press reported last year, “the New York Police Department’s secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony….”
As a matter of department policy, undercover officers and confidential informants do not enter a mosque unless they are following up on a lead vetted under Handschu. Similarly, when we have attended a private event organized by a student group, we’ve done so on the basis of a lead or investigation reviewed and authorized in writing at the highest levels of the department, in keeping with Handschu protocol.
But former and current law enforcement officials either involved in or with direct knowledge of these programs say they did not follow leads. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the secret programs. But the documents support their claims.
Officials say that David Cohen, the deputy commissioner for intelligence, was at the center of the efforts to spy on the mosques.
“Take a big net, throw it out, catch as many fish as you can and see what we get,” one investigator recalled Cohen saying.
Anyone who implies that it is unlawful for the police department to search online, visit public places or map neighborhoods has either not read, misunderstood or intentionally obfuscated the meaning of the Handschu Guidelines.
While the NYPD has indeed repeatedly been guilty of violating the law under Kelly’s tenure, the suggestion is less that the department’s extensive surveillance of American Muslims is illegal than that it is inappropriate and ineffective. The fact that innocent targets of NYPD surveillance have no legal recourse is itself a scandal.
The NYPD has too urgent a mission and too few officers for us to waste time and resources on broad, unfocused surveillance. We have a responsibility to protect New Yorkers from violent crime or another terrorist attack—and we uphold the law in doing so.
If it is true that the NYPD is stretched so thin that that broad, unfocused surveillance is a waste of scarce department resources, the department should perhaps not engage in broad, unfocused surveillance. The detailed cataloging of every Muslim-owned fried chicken joint in Newark did not prevent any terrorist attacks.
The department, though, is not quite as strapped as Kelly seems to imply. Kelly does not mention that federal grants helped pay for at least some of the surveillance operation.
As a city, we have to face the reality that New York’s minority communities experience a disproportionate share of violent crime. To ignore that fact, as our critics would have us do, would be a form of discrimination in itself.