NJ Wants Heads Up From Out Of State Cops [AUDIO]
One phone call from a building superintendent at an apartment complex near the Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick led to a chain reaction fo revelations that let the entire world know that the New York Police Department (NYPD) was secretly spying on Muslims groups not only in the college town, but elsewhere in New Jersey too.
The full Assembly has passed a bill that would require out-of-state law enforcement to properly notify law enforcement officials in New Jersey of intended counter-terrorism investigations in the state.
The legislation requires out-of-state law enforcement entities to inform the prosecutor of the county - where they intend to conduct counter-terrorism activities of their intentions 24 hours prior to entering the county. Notification should include, but would not be limited to the nature, purpose and scope of the counter-terrorism activity that the out-of-state entity intends to undertake in the state.
"No doubt we must protect our country against the threat of terrorism, but not at the expense of civil liberties," says bill co-sponsor Assemblyman Charles Mainor. "The (State) Attorney General's review into the NYPD surveillance operation found no laws were broken, but a line was definitely crossed. This bill helps dictate that surveillance in our backyard by other states, without our knowledge and adequate justification, cannot happen again."
The measure also sets guidelines that should be followed if and when a New Jersey law enforcement agency or officer learns of counter-terrorism activities being conducted in the state by an out-of-state law enforcement agency. Under the bill, the officer or agency is required to notify the county prosecutor, who must then notify the New Jersey State Police within 24 hours of receiving the information that an out-of-state law enforcement entity has entered or intends to enter the state.
The secret surveillance of Muslim businesses, mosques and student groups in New Jersey by the New York Police Department sparked the ire of many including Governor Chris Christie. The operations were part of a widespread program by the NYPD to collect intelligence on Muslim communities inside New York and beyond.
Undercover officers and informants eavesdropped in Muslim cafes and monitored sermons, gathering information on people based on their language and ethnicity, even when there was no evidence of a crime. The unit that conducted the surveillance did not generate a lead or case in the six years the program has been in place. The unit has since ceased its operation in New Jersey.
"It's troubling how the people responsible for the safety of our residents were kept in the dark about this. It's not only a matter of respect and good will between law enforcement agencies, but a matter of public safety," says bill co-sponsor Assemblywoman Annette Quijano. "We support all efforts to quell terrorism, but we must also make sure that the rights and well-being of our residents are not jeopardized in the process."
If an out-of-state law enforcement agency does not comply with the notification requirements under the bill, the Attorney General or a county prosecutor may seek and obtain a temporary or permanent injunction prohibiting the agency from conducting counter-terrorism activity in the state.
The legislation was approved 76-3 by the full Assembly. The measure does not have a sponsor in the State Senate yet.