NEW YORK — Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio told a group of Muslim supporters Wednesday that they won’t have to live in fear of being under constant surveillance if he’s elected mayor.
As WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported, de Blasio, the front-runner in the Nov. 5 general election, said that, on his watch, NYPD surveillance tactics would only be authorized to follow up on specific leads and that the police force would be under the supervision of a new inspector general.
“The efforts of surveillance have to be based on specifically specific information, and obviously you need to go through a careful vetting process,” de Blasio said during a rally at Columbus Park in Downtown Brooklyn.
Based on internal NYPD reports and interviews with officials involved in the programs, the NYPD has conducted wholesale surveillance of entire Muslim neighborhoods, chronicling daily life including where people eat, pray and get their hair cut, according to a series of reports by The Associated Press. Police also reportedly infiltrated dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups.
In addition, the NYPD secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorism organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing, according to the AP.
The NYPD has said its investigations target individuals suspected of criminal activity and are constitutional.
Repeating remarks that he has used during his campaign to justify curbing the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy, de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, said it’s imperative to restore trust between police officers and the communities they serve. Doing so would make the city safer because the police force could better gather intelligence from residents.
“Not only are we going to be safe, but we’re going to be safe in a manner that is, again, consistent with our values and our constitution,” de Blasio said.
Linda Sarsour, head of the Muslim Democratic Club, said surveillance on the community is weighing on the minds of voters. “Yes, it’s bringing people out to the polls,” she told Smith. “People are tired of a mayor that unequivocally stands behind the (police) commissioner and says that everything we’re doing is right.”
Earlier this month, Republican mayoral hopeful Joe Lhota questioned the AP’s reporting about Muslim surveillance, saying evidence he’s seen suggests that the investigations targeted individuals and that gathering such intelligence keeps the city safer.
See also “Muslims rally for Bill de Blasio”, Politicker, 17 October 2013