The NYPD is trying to safeguard all New Yorkers
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS editorial Monday, June 23, 2014

Bill Bratton and John Miller are playing it straight with Muslims. / JULIA XANTHOS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Bill Bratton and John Miller are playing it straight with Muslims. / JULIA XANTHOS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Speaking with smart candor, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has begun to explain to New York Muslims why the NYPD is properly focusing on their community in the battle to protect the city from terrorism.

Bratton and Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence John Miller gathered with Muslim leaders last week during the department’s annual pre-Ramadan conference. They recounted the conversation in a meeting with the Daily News Editorial Board, where they also provided welcome insights into the department’s intelligence gathering, said they were determined to open a dialogue with Muslim leaders and vigorously called on them to form anti-terror partnerships with the department. All good.

Bratton said he had spoken “very frankly about why we still have to have a focus on Islamic activities and we are not going to apologize for that. When we were investigating the Mafia, we didn’t have to apologize to Italian-Americans that we were investigating the Mafia. That was where the crime was.”

Miller elaborated: “I don’t have a lot of IRA terrorists. The FALN, the Puerto Rican independence group, stopped laying bombs down 20 years ago. I don’t have the Croatians bombing the Yugoslav mission. The Cuban Omega 7 group isn’t dropping pipe bombs at 37th and Lex. What we have is a group of people who have developed a pretty strong narrative that are asking young Muslim men to join this fight.”

Although Bratton and Miller expressed the obvious truths that Islamist radicals have targeted New York and America, and that the threat is growing with the upheavals in Syria and Iraq, civil rights advocates and many Muslim leaders charge that the NYPD has unfairly subjected the community to unwarranted scrutiny based only on religion.

The accusations largely followed a propagandistic series of Associated Press articles that depicted the NYPD Intelligence Division as improperly spying on Muslims. In an Op-Ed article [on the same page], two representatives of the Brennan Center for Justice offer a baseless variation on that theme in attacking a standard NYPD policy of seeking to develop informants among criminal suspects. [The Op-Ed concludes:”How long will it be before Muslims are treated like everyone else in this city?” accusing the NYPD of bias.]

Asked whether he had found evidence that the Intelligence Division had gone beyond bounds under former Commissioner Ray Kelly and then-intelligence chief David Cohen, Miller responded, “I wouldn’t say questionable legality or constitutionality.”

Much of the criticism aimed at the Intelligence Division stemmed from a Demographics Unit that mapped ethnic communities that had heavy concentrations of Muslims. A report that Bratton had disbanded the unit prompted Mayor de Blasio to declare in April that the reform “is a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve.”

Helpfully setting the record straight, Miller said that the once-16-member unit had been reduced to two detectives by the time he took over. They’ve been shifted to other duties and the Intelligence Division will collect similar data by deploying detectives as needed.

“In sum and substance, there really was nothing to disband,” Bratton said, with Miller adding that the department will publish a handbook on intelligence gathering after letting Muslim leaders and civil rights advocates review the document.

Most vigorously, Bratton and Miller stressed the need for Muslims to publicly counter jihadist recruiting and radicalization. Miller said he drew an analogy to law-abiding citizens of housing projects who press their children to go to school and grow up to be successful adults while gang members lure them into crime.

“I said, ‘We are facing the same thing in your community. I have Anwar Awlaki videos, 80 of them, on YouTube. I’ve got Inspire magazine cranking out a new edition quarterly, lionizing Jose Pimentel for building a pipe bomb in Washington Heights.

“I have people saying, ‘You can live a life of adventure by going to Syria and fighting now. You can be a secret operator by building a bomb in your town and blowing it up here in the United States. Here is the recipe for a car bomb and how to do it in New York.’ And these are powerful voices.”

He added: “Where is the anti-Awlaki? Where are the voices in the community saying the narrative coming out of these publications and social media is wrong, and remember those voices are competing for the lives of your children.”

Where indeed are those voices?

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