The New York Police Department will increase safeguards against illegal Muslim surveillance in covert investigations under the surveillance terms in two civil rights lawsuits.
Under the settlement, NYPD is restricted from launching investigations based purely on a suspect’s religion or ethnicity. Moreover, the police agreed to changes like placing a civilian representative on an advisory board that will monitor the investigations under the terms of the settlement — a position that was eliminated after 9/11.
The two complaints were filed against the NYPD by Muslim student associations, mosques and businesses after the nation’s largest police department sent undercover cops to join Muslim communities as part of a secret operation based on racial profiling.
The settlement adds restrictions on surveillance set by Handschu law that was implemented in response to illegal monitoring used against war protesters in 1960s. However, after 9/11, the decree was relaxed to allow police to freely investigate political activities in public.
In 2013, a civil rights group accused the NYPD of discriminating against Muslims and breaking the Handschu rules. Soon after, mosques, a charity organization and community leaders filed a suit in Brooklyn federal court, charging the department with the same.
The agreement also called for ending investigations that fail to turn up threats in a specific timeframe — an 18-month time limit for preliminary investigations, three years for full investigations and five years for terror conspiracy cases.
The NYPD did not admit any wrongdoing and the city will only pay $1.6 million in plaintiff fees.
"We are committed to strengthening the relationship between our administration and communities of faith so that residents of every background feel respected and protected," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.