“A special New York Police Department unit that sparked controversy by tracking the daily lives of Muslims in an effort to detect terror threats has been disbanded, police officials said Tuesday,” Jake Pearson and Tom Hayes reported for the Associated Press.
“NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis confirmed that detectives assigned to the unit had been transferred to other duties within the department’s Intelligence Division.
“An ongoing review of the division by new Police Commissioner William Bratton found that the same information collected by the unit could be better collected through direct contact with community groups, officials said.
“In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, called the move ‘a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys.’
“The Demographics Unit, conceived with the help of a CIA agent working with the NYPD, assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. Plainclothes officers infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and cataloged Muslims who adopted Americanized surnames.
“After a series of stories by The Associated Press detailing the extent of the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims, two civil rights lawsuits were filed challenging the activities as unconstitutional because they focused on people’s religion, national origin and race. . . .”
Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eileen Sullivan and Chris Hawley of the AP won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for their series.