The New York Police Department (NYPD) announced Tuesday that it has disbanded a clandestine unit of plainclothes detectives who ran detailed, invasive spying operations targeting the city’s Muslim communities.
The surveillance program by the NYPD Intelligence Division had come under fire by community activists who accused the department of abusing civil rights.
The program relied on plainclothes officers to eavesdrop on people in bookstores, restaurants and mosques.
The Demographics Unit, as the surveillance squad was known, operated in various neighborhoods both inside and outside the city, analyzing and mapping religious institutions, social clubs, recreational facilities and events, and all-around everyday life.
A series of articles by the Associated Press news agency, in 2011, revealed the systematic spying by the New York police as part of a broad effort to watch communities where terror cells might operate. Individuals and groups were monitored even when there was no evidence they were linked to terrorism or crime.
Since then, the Muslim community and various civil rights groups have demanded the program be stopped.