Written by Don Byrd
Neither the NYPD nor the City of New York admitted to any wrongdoing, but the settlement reached today in a lawsuit arising out of law enforcement’s targeted surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey includes payments to individuals and businesses that were victims of the spying operation. Hassan v. City of New York was the last of three suits challenging the practice, which was first exposed by Associated Press reporting that would win the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting.
NJ Advance Media reports on the reactions to the settlement:
“Today’s settlement marks a monumental victory for American Muslim communities far and wide who have demanded fair and equal treatment by law enforcement,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, the organization that filed suit on behalf of the Muslim-American plaintiffs.
“The message to police departments from coast to coast is loud and clear: you cannot treat someone as a suspect based on their faith,” she said in a statement.
Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said in a statement that the department was ready to change and would become more transparent about its practices within the intelligence bureau.
“Forging partnerships and maintaining the confidence of all communities is an essential element in fighting crime and terrorism,” he said.
The case was revived by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in 2015. In 2014, Police Commissioner William Bratton announced an end to the controversial program, which included spying on mosques, and maintaining files on individual houses of worship. The Baptist Joint Committee joined other religious and civil liberty advocates in calling on the Justice Department to investigate the surveillance program, saying in a letter that the practice was “rooted in ignorance and bias.”
Today’s settlement closes a particularly ugly chapter of post-9/11 religious scapegoating. Here’s hoping it helps heal the wounds of profiling and stigma. No person in America should be presumed more likely a criminal because of their faith.