A Manhattan federal judge has refused to approve a proposed settlement of claims that the NYPD conducted illegal surveillance of Muslims, calling for increased powers for a civilian representative who would monitor compliance with rules on police probes of political activities.
In addition to increasing the scope of NYPD actions the representative could monitor to include use of undercover informants, U.S. District Judge Charles Haight said he would require regular reports to the court on police compliance and require the mayor to seek court approval before abolishing the post.
Without those changes, Haight said, he would disapprove the settlement because it “does 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.”
The settlement by the city and lawyers representing Muslim plaintiffs, announced in January, was designed to resolve separate suits filed in Brooklyn and Manhattan federal courts following reports that the NYPD had engaged in widespread spying on Muslims and infiltration of mosques.
The New York Civil Liberties Union, which represented some of the Muslim plaintiffs, said they would happily go along with the changes proposed by Haight, saying they would “further strengthen the settlement’s ability to protect New York Muslims.”
“The court’s ruling highlights safeguards we sought to secure but the NYPD refused to accept, and we hope it convinces the NYPD to establish additional protections against unwarranted surveillance,” the group said in a statement.
The city, which does not have to go along and could insist on going to trial instead, said it was preparing a statement.