A federal lawsuit filed Wednesday by Muslim Advocates - the leading national legal advocacy group working to defend the civil liberties of American Muslims - claims the NYPD's alleged spying program is invasive and discriminatory by targeting civilians based only on their religious identity. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
Imam Abdul Kareem Muhammad said he’s a supporter of law enforcement.
"If there are criminals that’s doing wrong, then we feel as though they should be brought to justice," he said. "They should be brought to justice and we support that. But we are not criminals.”
Indeed, Muhammad and seven other plaintiffs, ranging from an Army reservist to a small business owner, said they’ve been unfairly targeted by an NYPD program, first revealed by the Associated Press, that monitored Muslim communities throughout the northeast.
“To find out that the New York Police Department actually took photographs of our mothers, our children and those individuals that come into our businesses has created an atmosphere where there is certainly undue suspicion that has been cast upon the entire Muslim community,” said W. Deen Shareef, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
On Wednesday, the group announced it had filed suit in federal court in New Jersey, seeking that the program be halted and that any data collected be destroyed.
“We think Commissioner Kelly and his top management have basically have gone too far," said Farhena Khera, the executive director for Muslim Advocates. "They’ve overreached in a way that violates the constitution.”
Kelly pointed out a review by New Jersey officials that found no laws had been violated.
“I would just refer them to the New Jersey Attorney General’s report that found no wrongdoing,” he said.
While the lawsuit pertains to police activity in New Jersey, the department continues to come under fire for its practice of stop and frisk within the city's borders. On Wednesday, the New York Civil Liberties Union unveiled a new phone app designed to better monitor police encounters.
The app allows bystanders to easily record a police stop and send it to the NYCLU. It also alerts users to police stops in their area.
“We’re trying to gather information about specific incidents so that we can bring them to the attention of the NYPD, so that we can tell the public what’s really going on with stop and frisk,” said the NYCLU's Donna Lieberman.
A police spokesman said the app raises concerns about privacy.