Originally posted July 23, 2013.
In New York City murders are down 29% from a 50-year low in 2012. Focused intelligence is the reason for the NYPD’s success as commissioner Ray Kelly points out here.
Since 1985, the police department has been subject to a set of rules known as the Handschu Guidelines, which were developed to protect people engaged in political protest. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, we were concerned that elements of the guidelines could interfere with our ability to investigate terrorism. In 2002, we proposed to the federal court that monitors the agreement that it be modified. The court agreed.
Handschu entitles police officers to attend any event that is open to the public, to view online activity that is publicly accessible and to prepare reports and assessments to help us understand the nature of the threat.
As a matter of department policy, undercover officers and confidential informants do not enter a mosque unless they are following up on a lead vetted under Handschu. Similarly, when we have attended a private event organized by a student group, we’ve done so on the basis of a lead or investigation reviewed and authorized in writing at the highest levels of the department, in keeping with Handschu protocol.
Anyone who implies that it is unlawful for the police department to search online, visit public places or map neighborhoods has either not read, misunderstood or intentionally obfuscated the meaning of the Handschu Guidelines.
The NYPD has too urgent a mission and too few officers for us to waste time and resources on broad, unfocused surveillance. We have a responsibility to protect New Yorkers from violent crime or another terrorist attack—and we uphold the law in doing so.
As a city, we have to face the reality that New York’s minority communities experience a disproportionate share of violent crime. To ignore that fact, as our critics would have us do, would be a form of discrimination in itself.