February 22, 2012 — The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union are calling on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to investigate religious and racial profiling by the New York Police Department. In the latest of a series of articles, the Associated Press reports that the NYPD spied on mosques and Muslim college students far outside New York City, without evidence or allegations of criminal activity. The NYPD surveilled mosques and businesses in Muslim and ethnic communities in Newark and on Long Island and monitored college students in Pennsylvania and Connecticut according to documents release by the AP.
“These documents show that the NYPD has run amok, engaging in secret multi-state domestic surveillance of innocent people based on crude religious and racial profiling,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “A society committed to equal justice under the law should be deeply concerned when law enforcement spies on people merely because of their race, ethnicity or national origin. Treating mosques and ethnic businesses as potential criminal enterprises and monitoring Muslim students is not just wrong, it is a waste of law enforcement resources. We are considering every available option to address the NYPD’s actions, including the possibility of litigation.”
The documents show that the NYPD monitored and created maps of communities with high concentrations of Muslim populations, including African-Americans and people of South Asian and Arab origin. It also created dossiers of mosques and businesses located in those communities.
“In directing surveillance against Muslims engaged in perfectly lawful activity, the NYPD has effectively imposed a badge of suspicion on all Muslims and has stigmatized communities of individuals based upon their religious affiliations,” said Arthur Eisenberg, NYCLU legal director. “Mayor Bloomberg, who has demonstrated sensitivity to religious discrimination issues in the past, should take a fresh and hard look at the NYPD’s surveillance practices.”
This is the latest scandal revealing NYPD surveillance of political, religious and ethnic groups beyond New York City’s borders – including protestors coming to the 2004 Republican National Convention as well as Muslims and others. Because of its decades-long history of unlawful surveillance, the NYPD is under court order restricting its surveillance practices and its retention of information about lawful political activity. In addition to possible litigation, the ACLU and the NYCLU are considering other options, including a possible federal investigation and state and local legislation.