Law prohibits reported use of racial, ethnic profiling by law enforcement officers
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 8/31/2011) — A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today called on the New York City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg to enforce a law that prohibits the use of racial or ethnic profiling by law enforcement officers.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) made that request following new revelations by the Associated Press (AP) that the New York Police Department (NYPD) “maintained a list of 'ancestries of interest' and dispatched undercover officers to monitor Muslim businesses and social groups.”
The revelations are contained in documents that confirm an earlier AP report that undercover NYPD officers in a so-called “Demographics Unit” targeted Muslim communities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut for surveillance and infiltration. After collecting data on local Muslims, the NYPD would “deploy officers in civilian clothes throughout the ethnic communities.” NYPD officials denied the Demographics Unit even exists.
According to the AP: “An NYPD presentation, delivered inside the department, described the mission and makeup of the Demographics Unit. Undercover officers were told to look not only for evidence of terrorism and crimes but also to determine the ethnicity of business owners and eavesdrop on conversations inside cafes.”
The law CAIR seeks to have enforced, Local Law No. 30 Int. 142-B (2004), states in part: “Every member of the police department or other law enforcement officer shall be prohibited from racial or ethnic profiling.”
The law is part of the administrative code of the city of New York. It defines “profiling” as an act “that relies on race, ethnicity, religion or national origin as the determinative factor in initiating law enforcement action against an individual.”
“This law clearly prohibits NYPD officers from targeting American Muslims in the manner described by the Associated Press reports,” said CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas. “We urge members of the New York City Council and Mayor Bloomberg to enforce the clear language of this law.”
Abbas noted that a CIA officer oversaw the spy program “while working with the NYPD on the CIA payroll.” This action by a CIA agent could be in violation of guidelines prohibiting the agency from spying on American citizens.
Last Week, CAIR's New York chapter, along with a coalition of civil rights and advocacy organizations, held a news conference to call on the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation into the initial AP allegations.
At the news conference, more than a dozen concerned leaders — including a state senator, Christian and Muslim religious leaders, and representatives of rights organizations — expressed outrage at the potentially illegal program.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas, 720-251-0425, email@example.com; CAIR-NY Civil Rights Manager Cyrus McGoldrick, 203-206-6883, 212-870-2002, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR-NJ Executive Director James Yee, 908-938-5990; email@example.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, or 202-488-8787, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, email@example.com