A New York Times story Sunday calling attention to the New York Police Department’s policy of seeking intelligence from Muslims its officers arrested won’t affect the program, Commissioner William Bratton said Tuesday.
“Not at all,” Bratton said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post. “[T]his is an essential element of policing. I created this policy back in 1994, in New York City last time I was commissioner where every person arrested was interviewed by detectives about not necessarily the crime they committed but do they have information about other crimes and is there an ability to develop these people into confidential informants.”
The Times story, which ran above the fold on Sunday’s front page, cast the program – which also tries to enlist suspects to be informants – as a form of inappropriate policing.
Iran’s Press TV was quick to publicize calls for a Justice Department investigation from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “It is chilling to note that any Muslim who comes in contact with the NYPD will either be spied on or will be pressured to become a spy,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. “Seeking information about crimes and criminals is appropriate. Coercing people who have no knowledge of criminal activity to spy on law-abiding members of their faith is not.”
But Bratton and Deputy Commissioner John Miller sounded unmoved. “We have to get back to planet Earth for a minute,” said Miller, who runs the NYPD’s intelligence division. “If you don’t talk to people you don’t get good intelligence,” Miller said. Any controversy “is driven by how the program is characterized” more than its execution. That’s because “the basic tenant of policing is that when you take people into custody you try to get information from them, this is how we take guns, this is how we seize narcotics this is how we solve murders every single day.“
Bratton’s comments underscore what Patrick Dunleavy pointed out Monday. Using suspects to try to learn about other crimes and conspiracies is an everyday police practice, has been for years, and simply is common sense. The Times tried to make that a scandal.