NYPD surveillance of political activism questioned

May 27, 2014

Several groups plan to file a formal complaint on Tuesday seeking an audit of the New York Police Department’s intelligence gathering operations, after recent revelations that the department had been monitoring political activists, sending undercover officers to their meetings and filing reports on their plans.

The groups said the complaint would be the first over surveillance to be filed with the department’s new office of inspector general; it is likely be a closely watched test for the office, whose duty is to oversee the tactics and the policies of the police.

The City Council, despite opposition from former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, created the office last year after complaints about the overuse of stop-and-frisk tactics and surveillance of Muslim communities.

The complaint being filed on Tuesday follows the release of documents by The Associated Press this spring revealing that undercover police officers had attended meetings of liberal political organizations and kept intelligence files on activists.

“We’re cautiously hopeful that the inspector general will pursue his mandate in favor of civil liberties,” said Robert Jereski, a coordinator of a group called Friends of Brad Will.

In a statement, the Department of Investigation confirmed the paperwork was received. It said Eure will review it and “determine appropriate investigative action once the office is staffed.”

NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis said the police department would cooperate with any inquiry.

The complaint was filed by a coalition that includes environmental, human rights, housing rights and animal rights activists. It accuses NYPD of targeting “First Amendment protected activities like political advocacy” that provide “vital nourishment to our democratic system of government and prevents its corruption and atrophy.”

In 2012, the AP disclosed documents detailing how an undercover NYPD officer traveled to New Orleans in 2008 to attend the People’s Summit, a gathering of liberal groups. The officer reported overhearing participants discuss how the Friends of Brad Will was planning demonstrations in Mexico and across the United States to demand the removal of the governor of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Friends of Brad Will — formed after the murder of Will in 2006 while he was working as a journalist in Mexico — has a stated mission of increasing “public awareness about the human rights abuses linked to the ‘war on drugs.’” Since the disclosure about the NYPD’s surveillance, it and other groups have seen a decline in donations and participation, Jereski said.

“It’s chilled the landscape to have the lawless behavior of the NYPD held over us,” he said.

Judge urged to nix NYC law on profiling claims

NEW YORK — A New York City law easing the way for racial profiling claims against police could entangle them in lawsuits over elusive questions about what they were thinking when stopping someone, police unions told a judge Tuesday.

The unions faced off in a Manhattan court against lawyers for the city — now including Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, which has joined in defending a law that his predecessor sued to try to stop.

The 2013 law relaxes some legal standards for claims that the stop and frisk tactic or other police techniques were used in a discriminatory way. The measure reflected concerns about NYPD’s use of stop and frisk tactic its extensive surveillance of Muslims, spying disclosed in stories by The Associated Press.

The city says that the law is valid and valuable.

“The suggestion that the statute was passed to instill fear in the heart of the New York City police department is laughable. It’s ridiculous,” said Andrew Celli, a lawyer representing the City Council. “Good cops have nothing to fear from (the law).”

State Supreme Court Justice Anil Singh didn’t indicate when he would rule.

Mayor Says New York City Will Settle Suits on Stop-and-Frisk Tactics

January 30, 2014

 

The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) today welcomed an agreement proposed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for the city to reach a settlement in its legal battle over the controversial NYPD “stop-and-frisk” policy.
That policy involved stopping, questioning and frisking people in primarily African-American and Latino neighborhoods. Last year, a federal judge found that the police tactic was unconstitutional, calling it “a policy of indirect racial profiling.”

The mayor and the Center for Constitutional Rights announced a deal to drop the city’s appeal of a court ruling and that would accept the remedies ordered by Judge Shira A. Scheindlin including the appointment of outside monitor, Peter L. Zimroth, to oversee reforms.
In making the announcement, which he said he hoped would end a turbulent chapter in the city’s racial history, Mr. de Blasio offered a sweeping repudiation of the aggressive policing practices that had been a hallmark of his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg, but that had stoked anger and resentment in many black and Latino neighborhoods. He essentially reversed the course set by Mr. Bloomberg, whose administration had appealed the judge’s ruling.

“We’re here today to turn the page on one of the most divisive problems in our city,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference. “We believe in ending the overuse of stop-and-frisk that has unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men.”
The judge, Shira A. Scheindlin of Federal District Court in Manhattan, found that the department’s stop-and-frisk tactics were unconstitutional, and that it had resorted to “a policy of indirect racial profiling.” At the height of the program, in the first quarter of 2012, the police stopped people — mostly black and Latino men — on more than 200,000 occasions. A vast majority of those stopped were found to have done nothing wrong.

Judge Scheindlin had ordered the appointment of a monitor to develop, in consultation with the parties, widespread reforms of the department’s “policies, training, supervision, monitoring and discipline regarding stop-and-frisk.” That process will go forward as part of the agreement.

NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/31/nyregion/de-blasio-stop-and-frisk.html?_r=0
Cair.com: http://cair.com/press-center/press-releases/12351-cair-ny-welcomes-mayors-deal-to-end-nypd-stop-and-frisk.html