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Inspector General Report: NYPD Violated Rules on Surveillance

A new report from the Office of the Inspector General for the New York City Police Department found that the NYPD failed to follow rules that are critical to guarding against open-ended surveillance and abuse.

August 23, 2016

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law welcomes the Office of the Inspector General for the New York City Police Department’s report, released today, on the department’s compliance with rules governing investigations of political activity.

The report found that the NYPD failed to follow rules relating to tasking of informants and continuation of investigations, which are critical to guarding against open-ended surveillance and abuse.

For the sample reviewed by the Inspector General, the police department was found to have met the threshold for opening investigations. It is not known, however, whether that sample included the cases disclosed by a 2011 Associated Press investigation, which triggered calls for reform.

“The NYPD Inspector General’s report provides critical insight into the police department’s Muslim surveillance program and demonstrates, once again, the importance of independent oversight,” said Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “It demonstrates what we have long suspected, that 95 percent of the NYPD’s surveillance activities reviewed were focused on Muslim New Yorkers. It also raises serious concerns about police use of informants and undercover officers, who seem to have been routinely utilized without proper justification. Deploying informants and undercover officers is an extremely intrusive tactic, and its overuse causes damage to communities. We hope that the NYPD will take seriously the Inspector General’s critique and use informants and undercovers only in those investigations where it can establish a clear rationale for them, and implement stricter controls on its investigations overall.”

Ms. Patel also welcomed the Inspector General’s commitment to continuing oversight of the NYPD’s surveillance activities, adding, “Ongoing independent review of the NYPD’s surveillance activities is essential and we look forward to greater transparency and accountability with respect to these programs.”

The office of the Inspector General was established by the City Council in 2013. The Brennan Center had suggested that the office be established in an op-ed for The New York Times and further developed the proposal in a report, A Proposal for an NYPD Inspector General.  

Read more about the issues at stake on the Brennan Center’s ‘The NYPD: A Resource Page.’

Read more about the Brennan Center’s Work on Liberty & National Security.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Naren Daniel at (646) 292–8381 or