America has come a long way since Martin Luther King’s day- but not far enough, it seems.
It has recently come to light that the NYPD is supposedly still keeping Muslims under surveillance. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, political surveillance of Muslims was widespread. This practice was brought to court, resulting in the NYPD being banned from such practices in a landmark 1985 court settlement. The Handschu guidelines arising from that case imposed strict rules and procedures for the NYPD when handling similar matters in future.
A NYPD intelligence unit, the Zone Assessment Unit (formerly the Demographics Unit) has been very proactive recently, and has infiltrated dozens of mosques and groups of Islamic students. The unit allegedly assembled in depth databases on where many Muslims lived, ate, worked and prayed in lengthy surveillance operations often in public places. It is alleged that undercover police infiltrated Islamic groups and monitored sermons, in breach of the Handschu guidelines.
The NYPD has not responded to the allegations and the court filings by civil rights attorneys. Held up as a model police force by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in many respects the NYPD is outstanding. Their efforts in tackling and solving crime are ceaseless and very praiseworthy.
However, sometimes even the police, with their best intentions of fighting crime, can fall foul of Civil Rights. The AP reports on a widespread, lengthy and intrusive surveillance of Muslims in New York City, often without evidence of criminal activities or intent. If proved to be so in court, such actions are contrary to the civil liberties and rights enjoyed by every American.
In such instances, having a good civil rights lawyer is essential. Many Americans are unaware of the full nature of their rights, and how they can challenge the authorities to rectify breaches of those constitutional rights. An experienced civil rights lawyer is very effective in investigating and bringing cases where there has been an infringement of a citizen’s rights. Additionally, a good civil rights lawyer can stand up to protect and enforce the civil liberties that are the cornerstone of our democracy.