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NJ Muslim Leaders, Law Enforcement Officials Hold Meeting On NYPD Surveillance

NYPD Logo (file / credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NYPD Logo (credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey’s attorney general has assured a group of Muslim leaders that a New York Police Department unit that conducted surveillance of Muslims is no longer operating in the state.

A spokesman for Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa confirmed that Chiesa told a private meeting of New Jersey law enforcement officials and Muslim leaders Wednesday that the NYPD’s Demographics Unit had ceased operating in New Jersey.

The meeting was the first session of a task force created after revelations that the NYPD was conducting secret surveillance of mosques and Muslim student groups in New Jersey.

Representatives of the New Jersey State Police and Department of Homeland Security were among those in attendance.

WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reports

The surveillance operations were part of a widespread NYPD program to collect intelligence on Muslim communities inside New York and beyond. Undercover officers and informants eavesdropped in Muslim cafes and monitored sermons, even when there was no evidence of a crime. The result was that many innocent business owners, students and others were cataloged in police files.

The interstate surveillance efforts angered many Muslims and New Jersey officials.

Arab-American leader Ken Abusam told WCBS 880’s Jim Smith that his community felt violated and targeted.

“They feel they’re not being treated right, they’re not being treated fairly,” Abusam said. “We have nothing to hide, our doors are open.”

Gov. Chris Christie, who appointed Chiesa, asked the attorney general to look into the NYPD’s actions, which NYPD officials have repeatedly insisted were justified and legal.

Chiesa’s three-month review concluded in May with the finding that the NYPD had not violated any New Jersey laws.

The findings angered many New Jersey Muslims who felt they had no state recourse to end the spying. Eight Muslims filed a federal lawsuit in New Jersey against the NYPD in June.

The formation of the Muslim outreach committee was announced at the same time Chiesa released his findings on the NYPD. Since that time, Chiesa’s spokesman Paul Loriquet said the attorney general had held monthly briefings with the NYPD to make sure New Jersey law enforcement was aware of the agency’s activities in the state, adding that the NYPD had been “fully cooperative.”

The task force is “intended to enhance a greater understanding and communication between law enforcement and the Muslim community,” Loriquet said.

The initial meeting focused on setting an agenda and schedule and deciding on representatives, Loriquet added.

They’ll aim to convene the group at least once every quarter.

NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who has defended the program, said Wednesday he wasn’t aware of the New Jersey meeting.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)