NEW YORK: In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department's secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday.
The Demographics Unit is at the heart of a police spying program, built with help from the CIA, which assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed.
According to an AP report, police infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and catalogued every Muslim in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames.
Police hoped the Demographics Unit would serve as an early warning system for terrorism. But in a June 28 deposition as part of a long standing federal civil rights case, Assistant Chief Thomas Galati, the commanding officer of the NYPD Intelligence Division, said none of the conversations the officers overheard ever led to a case.
"Related to Demographics," Galati testified that information that has come in "has not commenced an investigation."
Urdu equals terrorism?
Galati said police were allowed to collect that information because the men spoke Urdu, a fact that could help police find potential terrorists in the future.
"I'm seeing Urdu. I'm seeing them identify the individuals involved in that are Pakistani," Galati explained. "I'm using that information for me to determine that this would be a kind of place that a terrorist would be comfortable in."
He added, "Most Urdu speakers from that region would be of concern, so that's why it's important to me."
About 15 million Pakistanis and 60 million Indians speak Urdu. Along with English, it is one of the national languages of Pakistan.
Poll: New York police have pro-white bias
A majority of New Yorkers believe the city's police department is biased against blacks and Hispanics and in favor of whites, according to a poll Tuesday reported by AFP.
The New York Times poll found that 59 percent see the NYPD favoring whites, while only 27 percent think police treat all fairly.
The most critical view came from black respondents, 77 percent of whom thought that whites were favored by police. Among Hispanics, 68 percent saw the police as biased in favor of whites.
However, among whites, there was an almost even split of 43-41 percent, only the slight majority accusing the police of bias.
Recruitment to the NYPD has created a force that increasingly resembles the city's ethnic make-up. However, upper ranks remain white-dominated and policies such as the stop-and-frisk tactic, which is concentrated in black and Hispanic neighborhoods, continue to cause tension.
In the poll, 48 percent of respondents thought stop and frisk, which is meant to get illegal guns off the streets, was acceptable, while 45 percent said it was excessive.
However, among blacks, those numbers were 35 to 56 percent, while among whites they were reversed to 55-39.