The New York City Police Department shut down its unit that spied on Muslims, a critical step toward easing tension between police and the community said Mayor Bill de Blasio, wrote The New York Times.
In a move to breaking away from some post-9/11 intelligence-gathering tactics born of the Bloomberg administration, the NYPD has abandoned the Demographics Unit, a secretive program that dispatched plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations.
The Demographics Unit was the brainchild of the Central Intelligence Agency officer Lawrence Sanchez, who helped establish it in 2003 while working at the Police Department and while he was still on the spy agency’s payroll.
Plainclothes detectives looked for “hot spots” of radicalization and would-be terrorists in very commonplace locations that might give the police an early warning about terrorist plots. Detectives were told to trike up casual conversation with Muslims at Muslim-owned businesses, soccer games, where people ate, prayed and shopp
However, after years of collecting information, the police acknowledged it never generated a lead.
NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he intends to try to heal rifts between the police department and minority communities that have felt alienated as a result of policies pursued during the Bloomberg administration.
And in a meeting last week, Bratton sat down to talk and mend wounds with some the department’s harshest critics on the policy.
“This is the first time we’ve felt that comfort sitting with them,” said Ahmad Jaber, who resigned from the Police Department’s Muslim advisory board last year in protest of the surveillance tactics.
“It’s a new administration, and they are willing to sit with the community and listen to their concerns.”