City Pols Applaud End of NYPD’s Demographics Unit

Bills de Blasio and Bratton. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Mayor Bill de Blasio today hailed the closure of the NYPD’s so-called Demographics Unit, which used undercover officers to “map” Muslim neighborhoods, and was accused of spying on innocent residents and businesses across the city.

“Our administration has promised the people of New York a police force that keeps our city safe, but that is also respectful and fair. 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,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement.

The New York Times reported this afternoon that the NYPD had abandoned the program, first reported by the Associated Press, which “dispatched plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and built detailed files on where people ate, prayed and shopped.”

The move represents a decisive break by the new police commissioner, Bill Bratton, from his predecessor, Ray Kelly, who maintained–despite sharp outcry–that the department’s actions were Constitutional and necessary to keep the city safe in a post-9/11 world.

Mr. de Blasio said during the campaign that he was troubled by the program, but had not made clear what he would do to address it. Stephen Davis, the department’s chief spokesman, told the Times the officers had since been reassigned.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito also commended Mr. Bratton and NYPD leadership “for taking a strong stand to protect the civil liberties of New Yorkers – while still keeping us safe – by disbanding a program that had drawn strong  and broad criticism, including from the FBI.”

“By disbanding the unit, NYPD reaffirms that profiling based on your religion, the color of your skin or where your family is from is counterproductive and wrong. Commissioner Bratton deserves strong praise for taking this bold action,” she added.