The New York Police Department settled two lawsuits on January 15, 2016 that alleged discriminatory surveillance of Muslims. The New York Police Department did NOT agree to stop surveilling Muslims or mosques and did NOT compromise on the core issue of investigation in the settlement agreement.
An Al Jazeera America news report expressed disappointment over the settlement terms. Aviva Stahl wrote an article on January 16, 2016 titled “Islamophobic surveillance is here to stay.” The subtitle stated “A new settlement in New York – although important – will not reform an unrepentant police force." Aviva’s article stated in part “In short, even with the strengthening of the Handschu Guidelines and the creation of some oversight, New Yorkers will still fundamentally entrust the NYPD to regulate its own use of these invasive investigative techniques. That’s concerning, given the NYPD’s apparent efforts in recent weeks to minimize and obscure the full extent of the spying that happened at Brooklyn College.”
Florida Family Association sent out several email alerts entitled Mosques' and Muslims' lawsuit trying to stop NYPD from surveilling mosques and censor public safety reports regarding Jihad. Mohammad Elshinawy, Asad Dandia, Masjid At-Taqwa, Masjid Al-Ansar, Muslims Giving Back and Hamid Raza sued (Raza et al v. City of New York et al) the City of New York in an attempt to stop the New York Police Department from surveilling them and their mosques. The lawsuit also sought to force the New York Police Department to remove their report titled Radicalization in the West: The Home Grown Threat.
Florida Family Association’s email alerts encouraged people to send emails urging the three judges overseeing the case and New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio to put public safety first by preserving the New York Police Department as the first line of defense against terrorism in America.
More than 22,000 people sent emails through the Floridafamily.org server to the three judges and Mayor DeBlasio.
The settlement agreement. The New York Police Department:
• Did NOT agree to stop surveilling Muslims or mosques. The mayor will appoint a civilian representative to the NYPD advisory committee; that representative is to be an attorney who is bound by confidentiality rules. NYPD says it has made standard practice in recent years, including one that bars officers from pursuing investigations in cases in which "race, religion, or ethnicity is the substantial or motivating factor."
• Did NOT compromise on the core issue of investigation. Page 13 of the settlement agreement states "Class Counsel and Raza counsel did not get everything that had been sought, but the settlement did address each of the goals identified above, and in the view of counsel in both cases, what was achieved is meaningful protection for the members of the plaintiff class."
• "Did not admit any wrongdoing, and the city won't pay any damages other than about $1.6 million for the plaintiff's legal fees. The department instead agreed to codify civil rights and other protections required under the court-ordered Handschu decree, which was put in place in response to surveillance used against war protesters in the 1960s and '70s. The decree was relaxed after the Sept. 11 terror attacks to allow police to more freely monitor political activity in public places." US News & World Report.
• Agreed to remove their report titled Radicalization in the West: The Home Grown Threat from their website.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said in response to the proposed settlement. "Our city's counterterrorism forces are the best in the world, and the NYPD will continue working tirelessly to keep our city safe in the fight against terror while respecting our residents' constitutional rights." NPR reports.
Florida Family Association is not content with the removal of the report or payment of plaintiffs' attorneys' fees. However, by settling this case with the terms in the proposed settlement agreement, the New York Police Department avoided being ordered to stop surveilling these and other mosques. Extended litigation and a trial could have resulted in a restraining order, punitive damages and increased legal fees. The only certainty about litigation is no one is certain of the outcome given judge and jury demographics.
The New York Police Department has led the country for years in the fight against terrorism. In many cases the New York Police Department has been the first line of defense for the country.
Thankfully, it appears that Millions of Americans, not just New Yorkers, will be able to continue to depend upon the New York Police Department to keep them safe from terrorism.