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NYPD settles lawsuits on Muslim surveillance

By Madina Toure

The city announced plans to provide additional guidance to police officers as part of a settlement of 2013 lawsuits accusing the NYPD of improperly investigating Muslim groups.

The city did not admit to engaging in improper practices but said the changes are a way to provide more thorough guidance to NYPD personnel with the existing Handschu Guidelines, a set of rules that shape investigations of terrorism and other potentially unlawful political activity.

The Handschu Guidelines were implemented after a class action suit in 1971. They were modified after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and will be changed as part of a resolution of two cases brought against the city in 2013.

The two cases were Raza v. City of New York, a lawsuit alleging “suspicion-less surveillance” of Muslims, and Handschu v. City of New York, a motion alleging the guidelines violations brought by class counsel in the Handschu litigation.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the changes represent the latest step in ongoing efforts to foster and maintain trust within the city’s Muslim community and with all New Yorkers.

“The Handschu Consent Decree has long represented a clear set of rules for conducting investigations into certain unlawful activity,” Bratton said in a statement. “Incorporating existing NYPD practices into the Handschu Guidelines makes it easier to maintain best practices in intelligence gathering and investigations.”

The changes include clearly incorporating police policies against religious profiling, adding a provision for considering the effect investigations have on people who are not targets of investigations, creating reasonable time limits for certain investigations and adding a civilian member to an internal NYPD Handschu Committee.

As part of the settlement, the NYPD also agreed to remove the 2007 report “Radicalization in the West” from its website, saying it does not and never has depended on the report to open or extend investigations.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is committed to strengthening the relationship between his administration and communities of faith so that all residents “feel respected and protected,” praising the city’s counterterrorism forces.

“New York City’s Muslim residents are strong partners in the fight against terrorism, and this settlement represents another important step toward building our relationship with the Muslim community,” de Blasio said in a statement.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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