NYPD Ends Program to Spy on Local Muslims
'Demographics Unit' remains focus of 2 lawsuits
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 15, 2014 6:09 PM CDT
Supporters of a lawsuit challenging the NYPD's Muslim surveillance program gather in front of New York City Police Department headquarters during a 2013 protest.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

(Newser) – The NYPD is dropping a controversial undercover operation set up in the wake of 9/11 to spy on Muslims in the city, reports the New York Post. Under the Demographics Unit, later renamed the Zone Assessment Unit, plainclothes officers would infiltrate Muslim gathering places to learn what they could. The New York Times offers a snapshot:

  • "Detectives were told to chat up the employees at Muslim-owned businesses and 'gauge sentiment' about America and foreign policy. Through maps and photographs, the police noted where Albanian men played chess in the afternoon, where Egyptians watched soccer and where South Asians played cricket."

After the AP broke the story in 2011, civil rights groups pressured the city to end the program, which never generated a single crime lead. Arab-American groups complained that the only thing it accomplished was to sow distrust between its members and police. The program had been largely inactive since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office this year, and today he announced that it was done for good. “Our administration has promised the people of New York a police force that keeps our city safe, but that is also respectful and fair,” said the mayor. Two federal lawsuits against the city over the surveillance remain in the works.