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Councilmembers Call for Greater Oversight of NYPD

Thursday, October 06, 2011

NYPD in Times Square following the killing of Osama bin Laden NYPD in Times Square following the killing of Osama bin Laden (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Some New York City Council members are calling for more oversight of the New York Police intelligence operations, after they were not informed of department programs that subjected Muslim neighborhoods to surveillance and scrutiny.

An Associated Press investigation revealed the department's intelligence unit scrutinized Muslim neighborhoods, not because of wrongdoing, but because of ethnicity.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly faced tough questioning from city officials about the surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods at a City Council meeting Thursday. It was his first appearance since media reports on the NYPD intelligence programs.

Kelly said NYPD officers were only following leads and that the department wasn't examining ethnically, but geographically.

Peter Vallone, the chairman of the Public Safety Committee, has said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly privately informed him about some of the NYPD's tactics, but Vallone said they are too sensitive to be discussed at council meetings.

But Brooklyn councilman Brad Lander, who was one of the members calling for more oversight of the NYPD, said, "There's got to be a balance between law enforcement and oversight,"

None of the council members who called for greater oversight are members of leadership or committees that oversee the NYPD.

The council controls the police budget, but since the September 11, 2001 attacks, has done little to oversee the department as it undertook domestic intelligence work. The department has sent plainclothes officers to eavesdrop in those communities, helping police build databases of where Muslims shop, eat, work and pray.

The NYPD has also investigated hundreds of mosques, Muslim student groups and Muslim leaders who have worked with the NYPD. Recent reports also indicate the department maintained a list of 28 countries that it labeled "ancestries of interest," and planned to build databases for other ethnic groups.

Many of these programs were part of an unprecedented relationship with the CIA. A senior agency officer was the architect of these programs while on the CIA's payroll and the agency trained an NYPD detective in espionage tactics.

The CIA's inspector general is investigating whether that relationship was improper.

With the Associated Press

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