NEW YORK – A federal judge rejected on Monday, October 31, a settlement of lawsuits charging that the New York police department illegally targeted Muslims for surveillance, saying the deal did not provide sufficient protection for the religious minority.
“The proposed role and powers of the civilian representative do not furnish sufficient protection from potential violations of the constitutional rights of those law-abiding Muslims and believers in Islam who live, move and have their being in this city,” US District Judge Charles Haight in Manhattan wrote in an opinion, New York Times reported on Tuesday, November 1.
Following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the department pursued an aggressive surveillance program that sent undercover officers into Muslim neighborhoods, organizations and mosques.
The tactics, which became widely known after a series of reports by the Associated Press, were criticized by civil rights advocates as unconstitutional.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who campaigned in part on reining in police excesses, ended the program soon after taking office in 2014.
The proposed settlement required modifications to the Handschu guidelines, which were loosened after the Sept. 11 attacks, and called for at least a five-year term for the civilian representative.
Haight suggested a series of alterations, including clarifying the authority of the civilian representative to ensure the NYPD’s compliance with the Handschu guidelines and requiring that the representative report periodically to the court.
The decision means lawyers for both sides will have to negotiate changes to the settlement or fight the lawsuit in court.
Jethro Eisenstein, a civil rights lawyer in the case, said he and his colleagues planned to discuss the ruling with city lawyers.
“To the extent that the court’s decision is based in part on an inspector general’s report containing findings with which both the city and class plaintiffs’ counsel variously disagree, we are disappointed that the settlement was not approved as the parties originally proposed,” a spokesman for the city’s Law Department, Nick Paolucci, said.
“That said, we will explore ways to address the concerns raised by the judge.”
If the two parties reached a settlement, it could result in new policing rules. It would also resolve a separate lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union over the surveillance programs.