A special New York Police Department unit that sparked controversy by tracking the daily lives of Muslims in an effort to detect terror threats has been disbanded, police officials said Tuesday, according to Reuters.
NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis confirmed that detectives assigned to the unit had been transferred to other duties within the department’s Intelligence Division, Reuters reported.
“Our administration has promised the people of New York a police force that keeps our city safe, but that is also respectful and fair,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.
“This reform is a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys,” he added.
The spying program was strongly criticized by civil rights groups. Muslims say the program, known as the Demographics Unit, was a sign that the police viewed their every action with suspicion.
“The Demographics Unit created psychological warfare in our community,” said Linda Sarsour, of the Arab American Association of New York.
“Those documents, they showed where we live. That’s the cafe where I eat. That’s where I pray. That’s where I buy my groceries. They were able to see their entire lives on those maps. And it completely messed with the psyche of the community.”
The Demographics Unit dates to 2003 and was renamed the Zone Assessment Unit in recent years.