The New York Police Department’s surveillance of the local Muslim community constitutes a violation of rules governing the department’s monitoring of political activity, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court.
The Associated Press reported that the suit, filed by a group of civil rights lawyers, accuses the department of breaking from the Handschu guidelines (PDF), established in 1985. The agreement sets rules for how long the department can conduct an investigation, as well as for the types of records it can keep.
The suit seeks an injunction stopping the NYPD from conducting further surveillance without evidence of wrongdoing, as well as the appointment of a court auditor to oversee department activities, saying the actions of the department’s Zone Assessment Unit constituted “substantial persuasive evidence that [the department is] conducting investigations into organizations and individuals associated with the Muslim faith and the Muslim community in New York, and have been doing so for years, using intrusive methods, without a reasonable indication of unlawful activity, or a criminal predicate of any sort.”
A report issued last summer found that the department’s increased surveillance of the Muslim community did not yield any information beneficial to anti-terrorism operations.
The guidelines stipulate that the department’s Intelligence Division may only investigate political activity after obtaining a warrant from a three-person commission, the Handschu Authority. That investigation may not, however, include photographing or filming lawful public gatherings.
According to the AP, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has defended the department’s oversight policy, saying it not only followed the agreement but also answered to the department’s own fail-safes, including the internal affairs department, local district attorneys and the Commission to Combat Police Corruption.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]