NEW YORK: New York police said yesterday that they had disbanded a deeply controversial and heavily criticised unit that sent undercover officers to spy on local Muslims.
Civil liberty groups welcomed the move, but called on New York authorities to address the damage exerted by unjustified spying based solely on religion.
The decision by America’s largest police force is the first sign that new commissioner William Bratton is moving away from some of the post-9/11 intelligence-gathering practices of his predecessor, The New York Times reported.
Police said that the Zone Assessment Unit, previously known as the Demographics Unit, had been largely inactive since January and that personnel had now been reassigned to other duties within police intelligence.
“Understanding certain local demographics can be a useful factor when assessing information regarding potential threats coming to the attention of the New York City Police Department,” it said in a statement.
“It has been determined that much of the same information previously gathered by the Zone Assessment Unit may be obtained through direct outreach by the NYPD to the communities concerned,” it added.
Bill de Blasio, who in January took office as New York’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years, welcomed the move.
“This reform is 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,” he said.