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Criticism of NYPD's Muslim Surveillance Mounts as Poll Shows Support for NYPD

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A coalition of interfaith leaders joined the chorus of voices calling for an investigation into what they say is racial and religious profiling by the New York City police department. The protest comes just as a recent Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday shows a majority of New Yorkers believe the NYPD’s surveillance program has been effective in fighting terrorism and is treating Muslims fairly. 

The group of religious leaders submitted a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg calling for an Inspector General to oversee the NYPD, for better training to prevent racial and religious profiling by officers and for a commitment to mend the relationship between police and Muslims in New York

"The practice of racial profiling and of stopping-and-frisking works the same as terrorism works," Reverend Stephen Phelps said Tuesday at Riverside Church, "where you don't actually have to hit every person in the population in order to cause the entire group to feel a terror and to change their behaviors."

New Yorkers have been bombarded by more than six months of news reports scrutinizing the way police have monitored Muslims. Calls have mounted for a thorough federal investigation, for beefed up police policies against racial and religious profiling, for an independent body to oversee the NYPD and for an apology to the Muslim community.  But many New York City residents remain unwilling to take sides.

"I don't know, I can see it from both perspectives, you know?" said Wisdom Omuya, an immigrant from Nigeria who is now a computer science student at Columbia University. "On one hand, the cops have a duty to citizens to make society safer, but still with any kind of profiling, there has to be a level of concern about why you're singling out a particular group of people. What happens to civil liberties?"

Poll Shows Support for NYPD

According to the Quinnipiac poll, 63 percent of New Yorkers approve of the way the NYPD is doing its job, and 58 percent believe the police act appropriately in dealing with Muslims. 

Michael James of Lower Manhattan said he sides with those New Yorkers because he believes the police need to rely on aggressive methods to root out dangerous, fanatical people. 

"Sometimes you have to go into neighborhoods without suspicion, and try to feel them out," said James. "You gotta worry about your homegrown ones. It's not the ones that come from a different country. It's the ones that are here." 

Javon Bell, a student at Hunter College who lives in the Bronx, said the police should be commended in their counterterrorism efforts.

"The cops are just keeping a close eye. I believe if the cops are doing what they're doing now — if they did that maybe around the time of September 11 —  that probably wouldn't have transpired the way it did," Bell said.

That view alarms some of the NYPD's most vocal critics —  like the religious leaders who gathered at Riverside Church on Tuesday.  They say the recent Quinnipiac poll doesn't surprise them, but what's popular isn't necessarily what's right. 

"There have been, throughout American history, times when certain groups of people, because of security situations, have been targeted in exactly the same way," said Rev. Chloe Breyer of Interfaith Center of New York.

Breyer pointed out how Americans remained complicit during the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War Two, and demonized Germans after both World Wars. 

Brittany Barnes of Harlem said that kind of suspicion towards strangers hits home for her.  Every since she moved to Harlem from the Caribbean, she's felt like an outsider in New York.

"I know sometimes how it feels to be stereotyped. You know, you come here, you want to make a home here. You want to feel wanted," Barnes said. "You should have privacy and be able to worship where ever you see fit."

Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has stood his ground. He said gathering this kind of intelligence is necessary to keeping the city safe, and it was done completely within legal guidelines. 

The poll numbers suggest the news reports haven't done a lot to erode his support.  About 64 percent of New Yorkers polled by Quinnipiac say they like the job he's doing.   

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Comments [8]

M. Farid

This society seems to be going in the same direction that Germany took before the isolation and persecution of Jews in the country in the 20th century. Nothing is really different except that, in this case with Black Americans involved, there is less likely to be sympathetic voices raised in dissent. That is because in America it has always been understood, and even openly stated by the highest court, that "the Black man (people) have no rights that the White man is bound to respect."

Mar. 15 2012 06:07 PM
Anna Schwartz from New York, NY

If moderate Muslims care about America and their own safety, they should welcome surveillance, in order to

rout out the terrorists among them.

Mar. 14 2012 12:11 PM
Bruce Rosen from NYC

To paraphrase Harry Truman, the buck stops with the mayor. The Upper West Side - where whites voted overwhelmingly to give MIchael Bloomberg - who bought every pivotal Democrat in sight - a 3rd term - because he wasn't the so-called incompetent black guy - is clearly dead as a liberal bastion. Folks should acknowledge the stench in the civic room is not a case of excess perfume. It has been said all too many times before: People who will sell their liberties - & cheaply at that - don't deserve them. The problem for the rest of us, is how not to drown with them.

Mar. 14 2012 10:42 AM
Gary from Brooklyn

I was looking for the poll on this as mentioned on the air this morning, but no luck.

I am firmly with the majority on this. Reality is, with or without our anguish. The reality is that Muslim extremists are very dangerous and NYC is a prime target. No one can argue with that: so how can the NYPD do their job without surveilling the Muslim community. Wringing your hands doesn't stop terrorists from blowing you up.

Mar. 14 2012 10:39 AM
John from office

Vast majority of Americans want this surveillance. Sorry, you will not be happy until there is another event, so that you can then complain, why were we not prepared!! Why was there no investigations!!

Mar. 14 2012 09:41 AM
Maria from Teanec, NJ

Unfortunately the only way the authorities have been able to contain, stop, or suspend terrorism activities in NY has been by surveillance. Now if the NYC police department is going to mount a surveillance operation to prevent another 9/11 where exactly should they go? to other communities in the NYC/NJ area that had nothing to do with the terrorists attacks on that day or to the community where the terrorists might and I underline might have connections and possible live? I agree with the surveillance by the police department and hope that the surveillance be extended like it is in London. If you have nothing to fear you shouldn't get so hysterical about it.

Mar. 14 2012 09:31 AM
Herb from NTC

Look at WNYC's head line
Criticism of NYPD's Muslim Surveillance Mounts as Poll Shows Support for NYPD
My goodness 'criticism... mounts.' By who a bunch of self appointed 'coalition of interfaith leaders .' WNYC 's noble attempts at balanced reporting gives justification to the wrong people / cultures. I wonder if WNYC would change their tune if they flew a plane into the WTC.

Mar. 14 2012 09:08 AM
Rhende from whitleyville

NYC would do well to observe thae action taken by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, essentially rescending a Memorandum of Understanding(MOU)
between San Francisco Police and the FBIin survellance of criminal and non-criminal elements of the popelation. The rescinded MOU and statements from members of the Board of Supervisors clearly complies with the concept, "If they aren't hiding criminal activies, citizens shouldn't be under surveillance".

Mar. 14 2012 07:36 AM

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