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NYPD Stops Tracking Muslims

  • FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2013, file photo, visitors socialize after a Jumu'ah prayer service outside the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge and mosque in the Brooklyn borough of New York.  The New York Police Department targeted the mosque as a part of a terrorism enterprise investigation beginning in 2003, spying on it for years. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, the NYPD confirmed that it has disbanded the special unit that operated that surveillance program. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2013, file photo, visitors socialize after a Jumu'ah prayer service outside the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge and mosque in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The New York Police Department targeted the mosque as a part of a terrorism enterprise investigation beginning in 2003, spying on it for years. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, the NYPD confirmed that it has disbanded the special unit that operated that surveillance program. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2013, file photo, visitors socialize after a Jumu'ah prayer service outside the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge and mosque in the Brooklyn borough of New York.  The New York Police Department targeted the mosque as a part of a terrorism enterprise investigation beginning in 2003, spying on it for years. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, the NYPD confirmed that it has disbanded the special unit that operated that surveillance program. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2013, file photo, visitors socialize after a Jumu'ah prayer service outside the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge and mosque in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The New York Police Department targeted the mosque as a part of a terrorism enterprise investigation beginning in 2003, spying on it for years. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, the NYPD confirmed that it has disbanded the special unit that operated that surveillance program. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

  • FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2012, file photo, a large crowd leaves the Masjid Omar mosque following afternoon prayers in Paterson, N.J. The Masjid Omar mosque was identified as a target for surveillance in a 2006 New York Police Department report uncovered by The Associated Press. The NYPD announced on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, that it is disbanding the special unit responsible for the surveillance program.  (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

    FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2012, file photo, a large crowd leaves the Masjid Omar mosque following afternoon prayers in Paterson, N.J. The Masjid Omar mosque was identified as a target for surveillance in a 2006 New York Police Department report uncovered by The Associated Press. The NYPD announced on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, that it is disbanding the special unit responsible for the surveillance program. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

  • FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2012, file photo, a large crowd leaves the Masjid Omar mosque following afternoon prayers in Paterson, N.J. The Masjid Omar mosque was identified as a target for surveillance in a 2006 New York Police Department report uncovered by The Associated Press. The NYPD announced on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, that it is disbanding the special unit responsible for the surveillance program.  (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

    FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2012, file photo, a large crowd leaves the Masjid Omar mosque following afternoon prayers in Paterson, N.J. The Masjid Omar mosque was identified as a target for surveillance in a 2006 New York Police Department report uncovered by The Associated Press. The NYPD announced on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, that it is disbanding the special unit responsible for the surveillance program. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

  • FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2012, file photo, a large crowd leaves the Masjid Omar mosque following afternoon prayers in Paterson, N.J. The Masjid Omar mosque was identified as a target for surveillance in a 2006 New York Police Department report uncovered by The Associated Press. The NYPD announced on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, that it has disbanded the special unit responsible for the surveillance program.  (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

    FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2012, file photo, a large crowd leaves the Masjid Omar mosque following afternoon prayers in Paterson, N.J. The Masjid Omar mosque was identified as a target for surveillance in a 2006 New York Police Department report uncovered by The Associated Press. The NYPD announced on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, that it has disbanded the special unit responsible for the surveillance program. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

  • FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2012, file photo, a large crowd leaves the Masjid Omar mosque following afternoon prayers in Paterson, N.J. The Masjid Omar mosque was identified as a target for surveillance in a 2006 New York Police Department report uncovered by The Associated Press. The NYPD announced on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, that it has disbanded the special unit responsible for the surveillance program.  (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

    FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2012, file photo, a large crowd leaves the Masjid Omar mosque following afternoon prayers in Paterson, N.J. The Masjid Omar mosque was identified as a target for surveillance in a 2006 New York Police Department report uncovered by The Associated Press. The NYPD announced on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, that it has disbanded the special unit responsible for the surveillance program. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

  • FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2012, file photo, Ismael el-Shikh stands in a prayer room at the Islamic Culture Center in Newark, N.J. Americans in New Jersey’s largest city were subjected to surveillance as part of the New York Police Department’s effort to build databases of where Muslims work, shop and pray. The special unit that conducted the program has been disbanded, the NYPD confirmed on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. The surveillance program by the NYPD Intelligence Division had come under fire by community activists who accused the department of abusing civil rights. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

    FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2012, file photo, Ismael el-Shikh stands in a prayer room at the Islamic Culture Center in Newark, N.J. Americans in New Jersey’s largest city were subjected to surveillance as part of the New York Police Department’s effort to build databases of where Muslims work, shop and pray. The special unit that conducted the program has been disbanded, the NYPD confirmed on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. The surveillance program by the NYPD Intelligence Division had come under fire by community activists who accused the department of abusing civil rights. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

  • FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2012, file photo, Ismael el-Shikh stands in a prayer room at the Islamic Culture Center in Newark, N.J. Americans in New Jersey’s largest city were subjected to surveillance as part of the New York Police Department’s effort to build databases of where Muslims work, shop and pray. The special unit that conducted the program has been disbanded, the NYPD confirmed on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. The surveillance program by the NYPD Intelligence Division had come under fire by community activists who accused the department of abusing civil rights. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

    FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2012, file photo, Ismael el-Shikh stands in a prayer room at the Islamic Culture Center in Newark, N.J. Americans in New Jersey’s largest city were subjected to surveillance as part of the New York Police Department’s effort to build databases of where Muslims work, shop and pray. The special unit that conducted the program has been disbanded, the NYPD confirmed on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. The surveillance program by the NYPD Intelligence Division had come under fire by community activists who accused the department of abusing civil rights. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2011, file photo, people walk below a New York Police Department security camera, upper left, which was placed next to a mosque on Fulton Street in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, The New York City Police Department announced that it disbanded the unit tasked with monitoring Muslim communities in both New York and Newark, N.J. The program that relied on plainclothes officers to eavesdrop on people in bookstores, restaurants and mosques became the subject of two federal lawsuits. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2011, file photo, people walk below a New York Police Department security camera, upper left, which was placed next to a mosque on Fulton Street in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, The New York City Police Department announced that it disbanded the unit tasked with monitoring Muslim communities in both New York and Newark, N.J. The program that relied on plainclothes officers to eavesdrop on people in bookstores, restaurants and mosques became the subject of two federal lawsuits. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2011, file photo, people walk below a New York Police Department security camera, upper left, which was placed next to a mosque on Fulton Street in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, The New York City Police Department announced that it disbanded the unit tasked with monitoring Muslim communities in both New York and Newark, N.J. The program that relied on plainclothes officers to eavesdrop on people in bookstores, restaurants and mosques became the subject of two federal lawsuits. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2011, file photo, people walk below a New York Police Department security camera, upper left, which was placed next to a mosque on Fulton Street in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, The New York City Police Department announced that it disbanded the unit tasked with monitoring Muslim communities in both New York and Newark, N.J. The program that relied on plainclothes officers to eavesdrop on people in bookstores, restaurants and mosques became the subject of two federal lawsuits. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2014, file photo, a group of people hold signs protesting the New York Police Department’s program of infiltrating and informing on Muslim communities during a rally near police headquarters in New York. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, the NYPD confirmed it disbanded the special intelligence unit that monitored Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2014, file photo, a group of people hold signs protesting the New York Police Department’s program of infiltrating and informing on Muslim communities during a rally near police headquarters in New York. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, the NYPD confirmed it disbanded the special intelligence unit that monitored Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2014, file photo, a group of people hold signs protesting the New York Police Department’s program of infiltrating and informing on Muslim communities during a rally near police headquarters in New York. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, the NYPD confirmed it disbanded the special intelligence unit that monitored Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2014, file photo, a group of people hold signs protesting the New York Police Department’s program of infiltrating and informing on Muslim communities during a rally near police headquarters in New York. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, the NYPD confirmed it disbanded the special intelligence unit that monitored Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2013, file photo, visitors socialize after a Jumu'ah prayer service outside the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge and mosque in the Brooklyn borough of New York.  The New York Police Department targeted the mosque as a part of a terrorism enterprise investigation beginning in 2003, spying on it for years. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, the NYPD confirmed that it has disbanded the special unit that operated that surveillance program. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)
  • FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2013, file photo, visitors socialize after a Jumu'ah prayer service outside the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge and mosque in the Brooklyn borough of New York.  The New York Police Department targeted the mosque as a part of a terrorism enterprise investigation beginning in 2003, spying on it for years. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, the NYPD confirmed that it has disbanded the special unit that operated that surveillance program. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)
  • FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2012, file photo, a large crowd leaves the Masjid Omar mosque following afternoon prayers in Paterson, N.J. The Masjid Omar mosque was identified as a target for surveillance in a 2006 New York Police Department report uncovered by The Associated Press. The NYPD announced on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, that it is disbanding the special unit responsible for the surveillance program.  (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
  • FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2012, file photo, a large crowd leaves the Masjid Omar mosque following afternoon prayers in Paterson, N.J. The Masjid Omar mosque was identified as a target for surveillance in a 2006 New York Police Department report uncovered by The Associated Press. The NYPD announced on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, that it is disbanding the special unit responsible for the surveillance program.  (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
  • FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2012, file photo, a large crowd leaves the Masjid Omar mosque following afternoon prayers in Paterson, N.J. The Masjid Omar mosque was identified as a target for surveillance in a 2006 New York Police Department report uncovered by The Associated Press. The NYPD announced on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, that it has disbanded the special unit responsible for the surveillance program.  (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
  • FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2012, file photo, a large crowd leaves the Masjid Omar mosque following afternoon prayers in Paterson, N.J. The Masjid Omar mosque was identified as a target for surveillance in a 2006 New York Police Department report uncovered by The Associated Press. The NYPD announced on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, that it has disbanded the special unit responsible for the surveillance program.  (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
  • FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2012, file photo, Ismael el-Shikh stands in a prayer room at the Islamic Culture Center in Newark, N.J. Americans in New Jersey’s largest city were subjected to surveillance as part of the New York Police Department’s effort to build databases of where Muslims work, shop and pray. The special unit that conducted the program has been disbanded, the NYPD confirmed on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. The surveillance program by the NYPD Intelligence Division had come under fire by community activists who accused the department of abusing civil rights. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
  • FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2012, file photo, Ismael el-Shikh stands in a prayer room at the Islamic Culture Center in Newark, N.J. Americans in New Jersey’s largest city were subjected to surveillance as part of the New York Police Department’s effort to build databases of where Muslims work, shop and pray. The special unit that conducted the program has been disbanded, the NYPD confirmed on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. The surveillance program by the NYPD Intelligence Division had come under fire by community activists who accused the department of abusing civil rights. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
  • FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2011, file photo, people walk below a New York Police Department security camera, upper left, which was placed next to a mosque on Fulton Street in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, The New York City Police Department announced that it disbanded the unit tasked with monitoring Muslim communities in both New York and Newark, N.J. The program that relied on plainclothes officers to eavesdrop on people in bookstores, restaurants and mosques became the subject of two federal lawsuits. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)
  • FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2011, file photo, people walk below a New York Police Department security camera, upper left, which was placed next to a mosque on Fulton Street in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, The New York City Police Department announced that it disbanded the unit tasked with monitoring Muslim communities in both New York and Newark, N.J. The program that relied on plainclothes officers to eavesdrop on people in bookstores, restaurants and mosques became the subject of two federal lawsuits. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)
  • FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2014, file photo, a group of people hold signs protesting the New York Police Department’s program of infiltrating and informing on Muslim communities during a rally near police headquarters in New York. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, the NYPD confirmed it disbanded the special intelligence unit that monitored Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
  • FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2014, file photo, a group of people hold signs protesting the New York Police Department’s program of infiltrating and informing on Muslim communities during a rally near police headquarters in New York. On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, the NYPD confirmed it disbanded the special intelligence unit that monitored Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

New York — 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.

NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis confirmed that detectives assigned to the unit had been transferred to other duties within the department’s Intelligence Division.

An ongoing review of the division by new Police Commissioner William Bratton found that the same information collected by the unit could be better collected through direct contact with community groups, officials said.

In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, called the move “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.”

The Demographics Unit, conceived with the help of a CIA agent working with the NYPD, assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. Plainclothes officers infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and cataloged Muslims in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames.

After a series of stories by The Associated Press detailing the extent of the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims, two civil rights lawsuits were filed challenging the activities as unconstitutional because they focused on people’s religion, national origin and race.

Former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had defended the surveillance tactics, saying officers observed legal guidelines while attempting to create an early warning system for terrorism. But in a deposition made public in 2012, an NYPD chief testified that the unit’s work had never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation in the previous six years.

Linda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, said she was among a group of advocates at a private meeting last week with police brass at which the department’s new intelligence chief, John Miller, first indicated the unit — renamed the Zone Assessment Unit — wasn’t viable. She applauded the decision but said there’s still concern about the police use of informants to infiltrate mosques without specific evidence of crime.

“This was definitely a part of the big puzzle that we’re trying to get dismantled,” Sarsour said. But, she added, “This doesn’t necessarily prove to us yet that these very problematic practices are going to end.”