Racial Profiling Muslims: NYPD is Violating Civil Liberties by Spying on Religious Groups

The NYPD is faced with an ugly legal battle on the grounds of racially profiling the Muslim community. Civil rights attorneys have filed complaints that the NYPD has accessed public surveillance of places where Muslims gather. While the police department has actively denied these allegations for years now, there is substantial evidence that suggests a thorough and unethical investigation has occurred on racial profiling. These new complaints provide insight into how the NYPD, an organization intended to protect the freedoms of Americans, has completely violated the civil liberties of the Muslim community.

These complaints add fuel to the fire of an on-going investigation launched by the Associated Press on the NYPD. In the post 9/11 era the NYPD has focused significant energy into fighting terrorism. However it appears they have taken their mission a bit too far as they have essentially spied on Muslims and kept notes on their behaviors. According to the new complaints filed by civil rights lawyers, the police department has violated the Handschu Guidelines; a set of requirements the police must adhere to when monitoring groups.

The Handschu Guidelines were enacted in 1985 after lawyer Barbara Handschu along with a panel of lawyers claimed the NYPD was unlawfully spying on them. They settled the case and established the guidelines, which call for a three-person operation when the police are conducting surveillance investigations. The three people must include a civilian and two NYPD members, so that there can be oversight in the event police officials are conducting corrupt practices. 

The NYPD has certainly violated the Handschu rules in that they were retrieving surveillance of Muslims without the grounds to do so. The guidelines also require that surveillance investigations can proceed if and only if the police have information already suggesting a lead to a previous or future crime. Profiling ordinary Muslim citizens is certainly outrageous so it comes as no surprise that the NYPD would want to cover up these corrupt practices.

The AP also uncovered a story that involved a 19-year-old Bangladeshi police informant who was paid by the NYPD to bait Muslims into discussing terrorism. This is just one of many examples of how the police department has robbed the Muslim community of their civil liberties. Civil liberties are the freedoms that are inherent under the Constitution such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to vote. The most obvious civil liberty that has been stripped from Muslims is their right to privacy. There is no doubt that the NYPD has a job to do, and that New York City has been forever changed by the 9/11 terrorism attacks. However, spying on American Muslims opens numerous doors to criticism and puts this powerful institution in a negative light. Although the NYPD continues to deny the allegations, it is clear that the department will need to come forward and provide some further explanation.

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Shawna Gillen

Shawna is currently studying Political Science and Psychology at Marist College. She has a passion for politics and is an aspiring lawyer. In her spare time she likes to play club women's rugby, and contributes as the Co-News Editor for Marist's student newspaper.

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