Across the Hudson, Different Views on NYPD Surveillance of Muslims

Across the Hudson, Different Views on NYPD Surveillance of Muslims

March 06, 2012 at 4:00 am

U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., speaks at a news conference in front of police headquarters in New York on March 5. King was present with dozens of activists to demonstrate support for the NYPD and their surveillance of Muslim communities. AP/Seth Wenig

Update: On Tuesday, the Star-Ledger reported that many government officials — including current Gov. Chris Christie — were aware to some degree of the NYPD’s presence in New Jersey in the years following 9/11. While most New Jersey officials weren’t told explicitly that the NYPD was conducting blanket surveillance on Muslims communities, according to Hudson County Proescutor Edward DeFazio, it was easy to read between the lines.

On Monday, Rep. Peter King, a Republican from Long Island, was joined by several Muslim leaders at a press conference in support of the NYPD’s controversial surveillance of Muslim college students on campuses across the Northeast. Later in the day, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he was considering revoking two executive orders that allow the NYPD to operate in New Jersey, in response to Associated Press reports of widespread spying by the NYPD on New Jersey Muslim communities.

In recent weeks, the debate over the spying program has been divisive and complex. There is an internal conflict in the Muslim community itself, both in New York and New Jersey, between supporters and opponents of the NYPD operation.

But among elected officials, geography increasingly seems to be destiny. Many of New Jersey’s powerful politicians have denounced the NYPD, while New York politicians have come to their defense.

MetroFocus looked at who’s saying what about the NYPD, on opposite sides of the river.

New Jersey

Jeffrey Chiesa, New Jersey Attorney General

Photo courtesy of the office of Chris Christie.

On Mar. 3, Chiesa told leaders from the New Jersey Muslim community that he was still looking into the NYPD’s operations in New Jersey, but that he could not promise that the surveillance activities had ceased. Chiesa’s spokesperson, Paul Loriquet, told the Wall Street Journal, “We will continue to reach out to the community and keep the communication channels open as we move forward in our fact-finding.”

Chris Christie, New Jersey Governor


On Feb. 29, in response to the revelation that the NYPD had conducted surveillance on New Jersey Muslims, Christie said, “I know they [NYPD] think their jurisdiction is the world. Their jurisdiction is New York City. My concern is this kind of affectation that the NYPD seems to have that they are the masters of the universe.” Now, he wants to revoke the NYPD’s limited authority to operate in his state.

Cory Booker, Newark Mayor

Flickr/Veni Markovski

On Feb. 23, Booker called the NYPD’s investigation “deeply offensive.” NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne said that New Jersey officials knew the NYPD was conducting surveillance in Newark, but Booker retorted that he was led to believe the NYPD was targeting specific terrorist suspects. “If anyone in my police department had known this was a blanket investigation of individuals based on nothing but their religion, that strikes at the core of our beliefs and my beliefs very personally, and it would have merited a far sterner response,” said Booker.

Gary McCarthy, Former Chief of Newark Police

Courtesy of the Office of the Superintendent of the Chicago Police.

Current Superintendent of Chicago Police Gary McCarthy was the head of Newark’s police force in 2007 when the spying allegedly occurred. He said that the NYPD had notified him when they entered Newark while he was chief of police there, but said that none of his officers had participated in the investigation. On March 4, McCarthy vowed that the Chicago Police Department “does not and will not conduct blanket surveillance and profiling of any community in the city of Chicago.”

New York

Eric Schneiderman, New York State Attorney General

AP/Hans Pennink

On Feb.3,  33 Muslim civic organizations sent Schneiderman a letter requesting an investigation into the NYPD in response to reports of spying in the community. On Feb. 24, a spokesperson for the attorney general told Capital New York, “While we share some of the serious concerns raised in the letter, there are significant legal and investigative obstacles that impede our ability to launch a review of this matter at this time.”

Andrew Cuomo, New York Governor


On Feb. 27, after he was asked about the potential for an investigation of the NYPD, Cuomo said, “I don’t believe there is any reason to second-guess the attorney general. I don’t believe there’s any reason to second guess the NYPD’s methods either.”

Michael Bloomberg, New York City Mayor

Flickr/Center for American Progress

On March 2, during his weekly radio program, Bloomberg called Christie and Booker’s complaints about the NYPD “ridiculous.” The mayor apparently denied Christie’s claim that New Jersey officials weren’t informed of the NYPD’s activities, and said that a Newark police officer was assigned to work with the NYPD. Bloomberg added,  “A lot of the World Trade Center terrorists that took 3,000 people went back and forth to New Jersey. To say that the NYPD should stop at the border is a bit ridiculous.”

Ray Kelly, NYPD Commissioner

AP/Kathy Willens

In a speech on Mar. 3, Kelly defended the NYPD’s operations in New Jersey, claiming, “The notion that the Police Department should close our eyes to what takes place outside the five boroughs is folly, and it defies the lessons of history. If terrorists aren’t limited by borders and boundaries, we can’t be either.” Kelly has stood by the his department’s surveillance activities since the first Associated Press story broke in August, pledging that inter-departmental coordination is necessary to prevent  the same mistakes made before 9/11.

Christine Quinn, New York City Council Speaker

AP/Richard Drew

In a statement on Feb. 27, the City Council speaker and likely 2013 New York City mayoral candidate said, “Unless we know that laws were broken or someone’s civil liberties were violated, I do not think the NYPD should stop the practice [of monitoring Muslims],” but added, “However, when one group feels targeted, it’s crucial to make sure that their voices and concerns are heard and that’s why the NYPD must continue its efforts to reach out to all communities.”

On February, 29, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department was beginning a review to decide whether to investigate the NYPD. In the same interview, Holder described NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly as a personal friend, reported the Huffington Post.

WATCH VIDEO: An interview with a representative of the Islamic Center of Passaic County.

In an interview with NJToday, the outreach director of the Islamic Center of Passaic County called for an investigation into the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey. Video courtesy of NJToday.

Mutual of America PSEG


MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, and Judy and Josh Weston.


© 2018 WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019