Dear Mr. Bloomberg:
As diverse New Yorkers taking active roles in our communities, promoting partnership in civic and interfaith engagement, we are shocked to learn that after many months of denials and evasions, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and the Deputy Commissioner of Public Affairs Paul Browne have finally admitted their deeper level of collusion with the production of The Third Jihad.
This reprehensible film was shown to nearly 1500 officers during police training, as revealed by the Brennan Center’s FOIL request for documents. We agree with your comments so far regarding the “terrible judgment” to screen the film but must also express our deep disappointment with the profound and consistent lack of candor exhibited by top NYPD officials.
Community groups have been asking for explanations, only to be brushed aside. We understand that in early 2011, our Muslim colleagues in MACLC contacted the NYPD regarding reports about the use of The Third Jihad in cadet training, only to have the NYPD minimize its role. However, police documents recently obtained by a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request after a long legal struggle now reveal how extensively the film was used. Saturated with sensationalist imagery and inaccurate information, The Third Jihad portrays Muslims as engaged in a “1400 year war” to “infiltrate and dominate America.”
We also note that it was only after the film’s producer identified for the New York Times the date on which Kelly was interviewed for the film, did Mr. Kelly and Mr. Browne change their public explanation and admit direct participation in the film.
It has taken many months for the truth to emerge and we can only wonder what else might need to see the light of public scrutiny. This is why we are writing to strongly support an independent community control and oversight mechanism for the NYPD. There are many reasons why such a mechanism would be beneficial. But at a time when Anti-Muslim hysteria is all too common, and linked to political agendas across our nation, it is especially distressing that New York’s own police force would serve to promote hate and fear. This does not make our city safer.
· We call on you, Mr. Mayor, together with other Administration officials, to demonstrate good leadership and hold those who have lied to the public about this issue equally accountable with those who arranged to show the film. How can police officials continue to maintain public and media trust after this? How can they continue in those roles? Swift action is needed.
· We call on city officials to craft a meaningful oversight mechanism over NYPD that includes both corruption and bias related issues and does not exclude controversial issues like surveillance policies and training standards from its purview. Again, there should be no delay in starting this process.
· We are disappointed to learn that while the NYPD claims to have discontinued use of the film, a spokesperson told the New York Times that it has no plans to correct false impressions set by it. We ask that those officers be retrained; and that a training department audit determine and clarify standards for credentialing and selecting both trainers and curricula.
We know that as the head of your administration, you will expect to maintain order and discipline and accurate public communication. The public also expects an accountable government from you, Mr. Mayor, consistent with many of your other initiatives. Swift and decisive action will not show weakness but rather, begin to repair damaged ties of trust. But on the contrary, business as usual, and a minimizing of this troubling issue, will send exactly the wrong message to racists and haters who would tear the social fabric of our city and our nation.
New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC)
Ethan Vesely-Flad, Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR)
New York Neighbors for American Values
(others to be added)