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State FBI head speaks outs on NY police operationsState FBI head speaks out on NY surveillance of Muslims, says public trust damaged
NEWARK, New Jersey (AP) ' The New York Police Department's clandestine surveillance of Muslims has damaged the public's trust in New Jersey law enforcement and jeopardized some relationships that agents had sought to build in the community since the 2001 terror attacks, the head of the FBI in New Jersey said Wednesday.
Michael Ward, agent in charge of the FBI's Newark division, said Muslims have become less cooperative in investigations.
"It hinders our ability to have our finger on the pulse of what's going on around the state, and thus it causes problems and makes the job of the Joint Terrorism Task force much, much harder," Ward said at a news conference.
The NYPD's intelligence division operations in neighboring New Jersey have come under criticism after a series of reports by The Associated Press detailing the department's monitoring of mosques, Muslim-owned businesses and college campuses across the U.S. Northeast. Muslim leaders in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and elsewhere have requested investigations into the NYPD's activities.
Ward said those types of activities risk undermining a key aspect of law enforcement: the ability to enlist the public's trust and cooperation.
"People are concerned that they're being followed, they're concerned that they can't trust law enforcement, and it's having a negative impact," Ward said.
Ward told reporters he was aware that officers from the NYPD's intelligence division were working in the state, adding that it was known to most New Jersey law enforcement officials who work on counterterrorism issues. But he said that although he met with NYPD intelligence officials on a bimonthly basis, he wasn't briefed on the extent of the NYPD's operations outside the task force.
In response to the criticism, a NYPD spokesman said police ties with the Muslim community remained strong.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said that ongoing relationships with Muslims in the region have led to the arrest of several suspected terrorists in New Jersey and elsewhere, and he pointed to several cases that his department had worked on with New Jersey law enforcement.
Associated Press Writers Colleen Long in New York and Angela Delli Santi in Trenton, N.J. contributed reporting.
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