Washington: New York Police Department has disbanded a controversial surveillance unit started after the September 11, 2001, attacks to catalogue information on Muslim businesses and mosques across the New York region.
Developed with the CIA's help after 9/11, the so-called Demographics Unit-or Zone Assessment Unit-has been the target of controversy and civil lawsuits.
"Understanding certain local demographics can be a useful factor when assessing information regarding potential threats coming to the attention of the New York City Police Department," the department said in a statement Tuesday.
But "it has been determined that much of the same information previously gathered by the Zone Assessment Unit may be obtained through direct outreach by the NYPD to the communities concerned," it said.
Muslim Advocates and the Centre for Constitutional Rights, two advocacy groups that filed a lawsuit challenging the unit and its activities in 2012, said they were pleased it had been disbanded but want to ensure the surveillance stops.
Welcoming the dismantling of the unit "as a long overdue step towards reining in the unconstitutional excesses of the NYPD" they said in a joint statement, "what has to stop is the practice of suspicion-less surveillance of Muslim communities, not just the unit assigned to do it."
"We will continue to work, through litigation and advocacy, to ensure the NYPD is fully and finally respecting the rights of the Muslim community."