The past few days have resulted in a series of shameful, though not surprising news reports about the NYPD leadership's role in the making, showing, and cover-up of a blatantly racist and inflammatory anti-Muslim film, The Third Jihad. Given the serious implications of these reports, the participation of Commissioner Kelly in such a film, and the refusal of the NYPD to be forthcoming or honest with their answers despite the good faith efforts of Muslim communities, DRUM (Desis Rising Up & Moving), as a membership-based organization of 1,200 low-income South Asian, mostly Muslim, immigrants, workers and youth directly affected by NYPD policies, are calling for the resignation of NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and NYPD spokesperson Paul Browne.
Starting in January of 2011, DRUM, the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC), and the broader NYC Muslim communities have tried to engage with the NYPD about its role in the making and showing of this film. Two letters from the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition, a meeting with NYPD representatives from the Community Affairs Bureau, and a press conference with elected officials and community allies only yielded evasive, dismissive, and apparently dishonest responses.
It is incredibly alarming that the Commissioner of the Police Department of New York City, which has an estimated 800,000 Muslims in its jurisdiction, would participate in the making of such a hate-mongering movie by agreeing to be interviewed. When asked about the commissioner's appearance in the film, NYPD spokesperson Paul Browne responded that the interview was lifted from old clips, and he maintained this line for well over a year. Never once did the police commissioner feel the need to explain himself or publicly distance himself from an offensive film for which he was officially credited as an "interviewee," despite the public outcry. In a letter dated March 7th and signed by the commissioner himself, he stated that the "New York City Police Department did not participate in its production." As of last week, following details from the film's producer, Browne has suddenly remembered that the commissioner did in fact knowingly participate in the interview, and in fact did so at the recommendation of Browne himself. Furthermore, the film's producer has confirmed that the filming took place at One Police Plaza, and that the NYPD was informed beforehand exactly what the film was about.
While there are serious concerns about the use of this film, its impact on the officers who have seen it, and who is responsible for approving the film, we are struck by how blatantly and repeatedly the NYPD, including Paul Browne and Commissioner Kelly, have fabricated the truth to the media, to public officials, and to the general public.
What we have is a rogue police department that is completely out of control with no sense or obligation of transparency or accountability to anyone but themselves. This police department is engaging in a long list of highly inappropriate activity from extensively spying on mosques, entrapping into terrorism plots, stop and frisks, corruption scandals, fudging crime statistics, the Schoolcraft scandal, racial profiling, and brutalizing people engaged in expressions of free speech and dissent such as Jazz Hayden, journalists, and the Occupy movement.
Perhaps most importantly, it is disconcerting that the commissioner knowingly participated in the making of this film that offensively smears Muslims. In fact, for during more than a year of controversy over the film, he never even felt the need to apologize or distance himself from it. It begs the obvious question; are we are regarded as equal members of this city and this society by the NYPD, and by elected officials? Would the commissioner participate in a similarly outrageous film about other communities? Would he be allowed to pass with such a weak and reluctant apology? We have one example in East Haven, Connecticut to compare.
There must be an end to this. Seeing that Commissioner Kelly does not deem NYC Muslim communities worthy of the respect he would accord to other communities, it would appear that he has lost the ability to fulfill his duty of serving all New Yorkers equally, and should hereby resign. We also demand the resignation of NYPD spokesperson Paul Browne for having repeatedly and willfully misleading the public and the media on this issue, and many other issues, as well. We join many other communities in demanding that a police department that is funded by tax payer dollars should be under community control, and have an independent and well-funded oversight mechanism with subpoena powers instituted by the City Council based in consultation with NYC communities.