A federal judge rejected the settlement of a lawsuit over the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslims, saying the proposed deal does not provide enough oversight of an agency that he said had shown a “systemic inclination” to ignore rules protecting free speech and religion, the New York Times reports. In January, Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed to appoint a civilian lawyer to monitor the department’s counterterrorism program to settle two lawsuits accusing the city of violating the rights of Muslims over the past decade. Judge Charles Haight said the settlement did not go far enough for an agency that had become “accustomed to disregarding” court orders.
“The proposed role and powers of the civilian representative,” he wrote, “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.” The decision means lawyers for both sides must either negotiate changes to the settlement or fight the lawsuit in court. Haight acceded to the city’s requests for relaxed rules after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Then-Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said civilian oversight and traditional restrictions on policing made the city less safe. The judge agreed, saying the old rules “addressed different perils in a different time.” He eliminated civilian oversight and gave wide authority to the commissioner and his intelligence deputy. By rejecting the new deal, Haight tacitly acknowleded that he had gone too far in that ruling. It was the authority he granted after Sept. 11, with help from the Central Intelligence Agency, that allowed the city to turn its eyes on Muslim neighborhoods.