Linda Sarsour's Testimony for the NYC Council Committee on Public Safety HearingBelow is Executive Director Linda Sarsour's testimony for the New York City Council Committee on Public Safety Hearing on October 10, 2012.
Bay Ridge, Brooklyn where I live and work is home to the largest Arab American community in the state of New York, an area heavily targeted by NYPD and other federal law enforcement agencies. Our businesses, mosques, coffee shops, civic associations all monitored by the Demographics Unit of the NYPD and mentioned in secret documents revealed through reports by the Associated Press. Young college students who recognized their individual names, emails they sent and events they organized. Our previous Imam, Sheikh Reda Shehata and our mosque Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, were listed amongst those monitored. A mosque, a sacred haven, a place where community members escape to find serenity and deepen their relationship with God. This is the same mosque that has invited and hosted NYPD officials on dozens of occasions, opened our doors to them, broke bread with them and extended our hand in partnership and cooperation. It is these same NYPD officials that have been authorizing the surveillance and monitoring of our entire community, not based on evidence or probable cause but based on ethnicity and religion. Its not just about statistics - the number of mosques, cafes or number of informants – its about the wounded psyche of an entire community. Trauma, mistrust, alienation.
The targeting and profiling of any group based upon race, ethnicity and national origin not only reflects bias but also is completely ineffective means for law enforcement to prevent crime. The Arab and Muslim communities in New York are guilty until proven innocent which goes against everything our constitution and our country stands for.
NYPD officials including Commissioner Kelly who oversaw these initiatives that clearly violate the civil rights of New Yorkers must be investigated and held accountable for their actions and a process must be expediently implemented to safeguard that such abuses will never be justified by NYPD policy. This process is the passage of the Community Safety Act and more specifically the NYPD Inspector General Act. An inspector general would provide transparency thus allowing the Mayor and the City Council to better exercise their oversight responsibilities and increase public confidence in policing. The inspector general would have the mandate, expertise, and perspective to make sure that as NYPD works to keep our communities safe they do so consistent with our constitutionally guaranteed liberties.
“I could tell you that I have never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a Demographics report and I'm here since 2006, I don't recall other ones prior to my arrival." These words are not my words they were said by Assistant Chief of NYPD Thomas Galati in a June 28 deposition. No leads translate to an ineffective program. In light of a weak economy we should ensure that our tax dollars are spent efficiently this includes education, healthcare, infrastructure, transportation. We owe it to New Yorkers to do the right thing and the right thing is to pass the Community Safety Act.