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The New York Police Department has agreed to settle a pair of lawsuits that allege it illegally targeted Muslims in terrorism investigations. While the NYPD doesn't concede it did anything wrong, it has agreed to allow an independent monitor to scrutinize the department's counterterrorism efforts and to codify its investigation processes. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston has this report from New York.
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: To hear Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union tell it, today's settlement, if approved by a judge, will protect New Yorkers from police surveillance based on their religion, ethnicity or political activity.
DONNA LIEBERMAN: It will be a win-win for New Yorkers because it will ensure and promote targeted, suspicion-based policing rather than discriminatory policing.
TEMPLE-RASTON: The settlement will, among other things, end a long-standing set of class-action suits which establish how the NYPD can conduct investigations. The lawsuits cite instances in which they allege Muslims became suspects simply because of their religion. And indeed, the NYPD did keep files on ethnic neighborhoods, conducted surveillance on Muslims for years without filing charges and dispatched plainclothes units to their neighborhoods for terrorism investigations. The intelligence unit responsible for that has since been disbanded. The NYPD's Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence John Miller says today's settlement codifies what's already been done.
JOHN MILLER: It actually doesn't change what we're doing now in any way. What it does, if anything, is it better memorializes the standards and best practices that we've been using.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Those standards and best practices now mirror FBI guidelines and they include things like using undercover officers only when other options are impractical or capping the length of investigations. To make sure those changes endure, the agreement will also restore outside oversight. The mayor will appoint an independent monitor. A judge is expected to approve the settlement in the coming weeks. Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.