Friday, January 08, 2016

Settlement Reached In Suit Over NYPD Surveillance of Muslims

In 2013, a suit captioned Raza v. City of New York was filed in a New York federal district court challenging the constitutionality of the New York Police Department's surveillance program directed at Muslim religious and community leaders, organizations, businesses and at mosques. (See prior posting.) The NYPD was already operating under the Handschu Guidelines that grew out of a consent decree in an earlier case on NYPD surveillance activities.  In 2013, a motion was also filed in that case claiming that the consent decree had been violated. A press release from the ACLU yesterday reports that after several months of negotiations the parties have agreed on a settlement in both cases.  The settlement involves court adoption of modifications to the Handschu Guidelines to offer greater protections.  As summarized by ABC News:
Under the deal, the Handschu guidelines will specifically ban investigations based on race, religion or ethnicity. Other provisions require the department to use the least intrusive investigative techniques possible and to consider "the potential effect on the political or religious activity of individuals, groups or organizations and the potential effect on persons who, although not a target of the investigation are affected by or subject to the technique."
The settlement also sets time limits for ending investigations that ultimately fail to turn up threats — 18 months for preliminary investigations, three years for full investigations and five years for terror conspiracy cases. The civilian representative, appointed by the mayor, will attend monthly meetings of police officials and NYPD lawyers who review the investigations and will have authority to report any suspected violations of the agreement to City Hall or a federal judge.
The full text of the guideline modifications are set out as Exhibit B to the January 7 Notice of Motion for Approval of Settlement in the Handschu case. A Memorandum of Law in support of the motion was filed by plaintiffs.  A Joint Motion Seeking Entry of Settlement was also filed in the Raza case, as was a Stipulation of Settlement.  Under the settlement, the NYPD will also remove a controversial report titled Radicalization in the West from the NYPD website, and the city will pay $1.671 million for plaintiffs' attorneys' fees.