A New York federal judge criticized police officials yesterday for the way demonstrators against the war in Iraq were interrogated earlier this year, the New York Times reports. The judge made clear that civil liberties lawyers could seek to hold the city in contempt of court if the police violate people’s rights.
U.S. District Judge Charles S. Haight Jr., who recently eased court-ordered rules on police surveillance of political groups, commented after hearing evidence that the police had asked the protesters their views on the war, whether they hated President Bush, if they had traveled to Africa or the Middle East, and what might be different if Al Gore were president. “These recent events reveal a [New York Police Department] in some need of discipline,” Judge Haight wrote, citing a “display of operational ignorance on the part of the N.Y.P.D.’s highest officials.”
Judge Haight did not impose new restrictions on the police in the wake of the interrogations, which came to light after the New York Civil Liberties Union received complaints from protesters. Nor did he decide the issue of whether the interrogations violated the protesters’ constitutional rights.
Gail Donoghue, special assistant to the city corporation counsel, said, “The city feels that the decision has not adversely impacted on the N.Y.P.D.’s ability to remain proactive in the investigation and prevention of terrorism.”