NYPD Dissolves Unit That Spied on Muslims, But Is the Spying Really Over?

Categories: Islam, NYPD

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Police Commissioner Bill Bratton
Yesterday, the New York Times was first to report that the New York Police Department has abandoned its Demographics Unit, also known as the Zone Assessment Unit, a program that spied on Muslims in their mosques, student groups, neighborhoods, and homes, and which was the subject of two separate lawsuits.

Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association of New York told the paper that she and other community leaders had met with new-old Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and other senior NYPD officials last week. "She and others in attendance," the paper writes, "said the department's new intelligence chief John Miller told them that the police did not need to work covertly to find out where Muslims gather and indicated the department is shutting the unit down."

It's interesting news, and perhaps an indication of a different and, dare we say, less blatantly discriminatory, approach to law enforcement. But lawyers for spied-upon Muslims have just one question: Is the spying actually going to stop?


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Dennis Guerra, NYPD Officer Lost in Coney Island High-Rise Fire, "Did Not Die in Vain"

Categories: Arson, NYPD

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C.S. Muncy
Fellow NYPD officers carry Dennis Guerra's casket into St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church
On Monday morning, members of the NYPD filed quietly into the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn. They were there to mourn one of their own: Dennis Guerra died five days earlier of severe smoke inhalation. He was 38 years old, a father of four, and the first New York police officer to lose his life in the line of duty in more than two years.

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The FDNY and the NYPD's Annual Charity Hockey Game Turned Into A Giant Brawl

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Screenshot via Instagram user the1andonly_dj
This time yesterday, Police Commissioner William Bratton was filed with boyish excitement over the New York Police Department's annual charity hockey match with the FDNY at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island:

He hasn't sent out a follow-up tweet celebrating the NYPD's 8-5 victory, probably because everyone is busy talking about the enormous, bench-clearing brawl that broke out between the two teams in the second half.

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NYPD "Celebrates" Women's History Month With Incomprehensible Video

Categories: NYPD

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New York Times, 1912
Isabella Goodwin
The New York Police Department is celebrating Women's History Month with a video in which no words are spoken, and the words that are written are completely illegible.

The 4 minute and 50 second film shows a timeline...We think? We can't be entirely sure because at its normal size, the video's print is too small to make out and, at any larger size, too pixelated and blurry. It could really just be excerpts from sexual harassment lawsuits filed against the NYPD over the years -- the latest of which includes the claim by a 29-year-old officer that a sergeant in her precinct "called her his 'work p----'" -- and no one would be able to tell the difference.


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Bratton Cracking Down On Grave Subway Menaces: Acrobats, Sleepers and Churro-Selling Ladies

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Photo by Flickr user Ken Stein
A woman brazenly sells churros underground.
It's been two months since new-old New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton was sworn in, and much of the press coverage so far has focused on the NYPD's renewed interest in jaywalkers as part of Vision Zero, the initiative to end traffic deaths. But as the New York Times reports, much of that has focused on walkers, not drivers: jaywalking tickets are up eightfold over the same time last year. That's been sort of a mixed bag from a public relations perspective, with the nadir being 84-year-old Kang Chun Wong, who says he was beaten up by police officers trying to give him a citation.

As it turns out, Bratton's sick of talking about jaywalking and most especially Wong's alleged beating, which he calls "an isolated event." Instead, he'd rather discuss the other big plans he's got to make your city even safer, starting in the subway. Capital New York points us to a delightful interview Bratton did with WPIX yesterday morning where he laid out his plans to tackle the biggest menaces of the underground: sleepers, panhandlers, churro-sellers, and the "It's showtime!" dudes.

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Federal Judge Throws Out Lawsuit Against NYPD For Spying on Muslims, Rules It Was Legal

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Image via Muslim Advocates
Lead plaintiff Syed Hassan, center, at a press conference on the lawsuit last year.
A federal judge in New Jersey has dismissed a lawsuit brought against the New York Police Department by a group of Muslim individuals and community groups, a suit that had alleged that the NYPD's surveillance of them infringed on their constitutional rights. In a decision released yesterday, New Jersey U.S. District Judge William J. Martini ruled that the spying itself was legal, that the plaintiffs had no standing to bring the case, and that even if they did, they couldn't prove that the NYPD had acted with the intention of discriminating against Muslim Americans.

This suit, filed in December 2012, was the first brought by Muslim groups against the NYPD for their surveillance program, uncovered by the Associated Press in 2011. (A second suit was filed in New York in June of 2013 by the American Civil Liberties Union.) The lead plaintiff in the New Jersey case was Syed Farhaj Hassan, a Shi'a Muslim and Iraq war veteran. The suit's other plaintiffs included a students' association, a council of imams in New Jersey, a beef sausage company, and several other individuals, including the principal of a grade school for Muslim girls. The suit was filed by lawyers from Muslim Advocates, a San Francisco-based group, and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, neither of whom are very happy with the judge's ruling.

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Daughter of Eric Glisson, Wrongfully Imprisoned for 17 Years, Sues City

Categories: Lawsuits, NYPD

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Wikimedia Commons
State Supreme Court in the Bronx.
On October 24, 2012, Eric Glisson was released from prison--15 years after he was wrongly convicted of murder and a decade after the true perpetrators of the crime confessed.

Yet despite the admissions, Glisson's freedom became a reality only after he contacted the federal investigator who had questioned those perpetrators for an unrelated case. Local law enforcement officials had never recognized the connection.

Last week, Glisson's daughter, Cynthia Morales, took steps toward a lawsuit, filing a notice of claim against the city, the New York Police Department and the Bronx District Attorney's Office. The complaint, filed last Friday in Bronx Supreme Court, charges that officers and prosecutors failed to acknowledge evidence of Glisson's innocence.

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John Miller's New NYPD Gig and the Terrible Revolving Door

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John Miller
Three times John Miller has jumped from reporter to an institution he covered as a reporter.

Here's a brief timeline:

1973-1994: Journalist, including 10 years as an investigative reporter for New York's NBC affiliate.

1994-1995: Law enforcement official, as deputy police commissioner for the NYPD.

1995-2002: Journalist, as a correspondent for ABC's 20/20.

2003-2005: Law enforcement official, as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department's Counterterrorism and Criminal Intelligence Bureau.

2005-2011: Law enforcement official, as the FBI's assistant director for the Office of Public Affairs.

2011-2013: Journalist, as a senior correspondent for CBS News, including reporting for 60 Minutes.

2014-present: Law enforcement official, as NYPD's deputy commissioner of intelligence.

That so many respectable employers have hired Miller indicates his competence. Perhaps he will make New Yorkers even safer during his tenure at One Police Plaza. By taking that pursuit, though, he's done a disservice to journalism.

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Which Neighborhoods Had the Biggest Increase in Murders in 2013?

Categories: Crime, NYPD

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Wikimedia Commons
Departing NYC police commissioner Ray Kelly.
Another year, another drop in the city-wide murder rate. Down 20 percent, from 419 in 2012 to 329 through Sunday. But like so many of New York City's improvements in recent decades, the year's crime drop did not sweep through each neighborhood equally.

Some precincts oversaw a significant reduction in murder rate. In the 81st, which patrols the eastern half of Bed-Stuy, there have been six murders this year, compared to 16 in 2012. In the 113th of southeast Jamaica murders dropped from 16 to seven. The rate in East Harlem's 25th sank from 10 to 3. And half of the Bronx's 12 precincts boasted notable decreases--eight to two in the 41st (Hunt's Point), 18 to nine in the 43rd (Soundview), 16 to nine in the 47th (Williamsbridge), nine to three in the 48th (Tremont), seven to two in the 49th (Morris Park), and six to two in the 50th (the borough's northwest corner).

Many neighborhoods, however, didn't fare as well. Of the city's 77 precincts, 23 have had more murders in 2013 than in 2012.

Here's that list, complete with any other notable crime stats (2013 numbers through December 22). For historical context, we've included each precinct's 2001 murder rate. All data are from the NYPD's Compstat reports.

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Police Officers Can Testify on Victim's Description of Attacker, High Court Rules

Categories: Courts, NYPD

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Wikimedia Commons
New York State Court of Appeals in Albany
On Tuesday, New York's highest court ruled that police officers can testify about a victim's description of a perpetrator.

The Court of Appeals decision addressed not just the purpose, but the potential unintended effects of allowing such evidence.

On one side, the police account helps demonstrate the reliability of the victim's identification of the assailant immediately after the crime. On the other side, the mere act of officers repeating a witness statement may prejudice jurors into giving the identification more weight than it may deserve. The six-justice majority concluded that the testimony is admissible, with the subjective caveat that "it does not tend to mislead the jury."

"Evidence as to how a witness described the offender when the witness's memory was fresh is much more likely to advance than to hinder accurate fact-finding," Judge Robert Smith wrote for the majority.

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