The New York Police Department has shut down its controversial Muslim surveillance program.
The New York Times reports the decision, announced Tuesday, comes amidst two federal lawsuits against the NYPD's secretive Demographics Unit, and is the first major indication Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is distancing himself from some of the post-9/11 tactics established by his predecessor, former commissioner Ray Kelly.
“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.”
In January, a federal judge ordered the NYPD to begin handing over investigative documents pertaining to the controversial program, which had plainclothes officers eavesdropping on Muslims in New York and New Jersey.
"The Muslim community is concerned about the attentions being paid to it by the NYPD. That concern is natural and reasonable," U.S. District Judge Charles Haight Jr. wrote in his ruling.
Since The Associated Press reported on the Demographics Unit in 2011, civil rights advocates have called for its disbandment, maintaining that officers unlawfully discriminated against Muslims, which then fostered a fear of law enforcement officials in Muslim communities.
NYPD officials later admitted that the broad intelligence program failed to produce any significant terrorism leads.
The move comes just weeks after the first inspector general was appointed to serve as a watchdog for the department.