As part of a landmark settlement of two lawsuits connected to the NYPD's surveillance of Muslim groups following the September 11th attacks, an independent civilian representative is being appointed to help watch over the department's counterterrorism activity. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Without admitting it illegally profiled Muslims, the NYPD settled two major cases, agreeing to make changes.
Faiza Patel of the NYU Brennan Center for Justice says it's long overdue.
"There was certainly a widespread understanding amongst the communities that there were spies amongst them," Patel said. "We had already been hearing from people from out in Queens, out in Brooklyn that there were a lot of informants in their communities."
As a major part of the settlement, Mayor Bill de Blasio will be appointing a civilian observer to sit on the NYPD's Handshu committee. The Handshu guidelines are regulations set by the federal courts on how and when law enforcement can investigate political or religious activities.
"That means when these things are called into question, we have an independent party we can go to whose responsibility it is to watch over those things and to report anything they that they see that doesn't comport with those rules," said John Miller, NYPD deputy commissioner for counterterrorism and intelligence.
The NYPD says it will incorporate policies against religious profiling, set reasonable time limits for investigations and be mindful of the impact an investigation can have on Muslims who are not targets of an investigation.
"It makes very clear that the NYPD should not be investigating people based on religion but, rather, based on facts," Patel said.
"We are, of course, concerned that they feel they were mistreated," said Larry Byrne, NYPD deputy commissioner of legal matters. "But what this settlement is designed to do is to give all members of that community who have these concerns comfort that we are, today and going forward, operating lawfully."
Often a harsh critic of the NYPD, the New York Civil Liberties Union is praising the agreement.
"I think this is the most expansive settlement involving surveillance and political and religious freedom that we have seen, at least since 9/11 and probably ever," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The NYPD will also take a massive document it developed called "Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat" off of its website. Muslims complained that it discriminated against them to justify surveillance.