In Response to Disbanding of NYPD “Demographics Unit”, Communities Acknowledge Symbolic Step, but Await Real Change

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The Demographics Unit mapped every aspect of the lives of NYC Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian Communities, but questions about the actual practices still remain

On Tuesday April 15th, the New York Times released an article, Police Unit That Spied on Muslims Is Disbanded, that announced the NYPD’s disbanding of the Demographics Unit (also known as the Zone Assessment Unit). This unit was responsible for mapping, documenting, and blanket surveillance on the everyday community activities of immigrants, youth, and families.

Over the last eight years, members of DRUM – South Asian Organizing Center, who have been directly impacted by the policies of the NYPD’s Intelligence Division, organized and led campaigns to demand NYPD transparency and accountability. This announcement is a result of that growing pressure and key partnerships. But based on the personal experiences of DRUM families, youth, and workers, it is evident that the Demographics Unit was only one small portion of the larger NYPD surveillance programs. Intelligence Chief John Miller’s comments that the information could be collected by other means raise serious concerns about whether this will constitute substantive change. “We should not confuse this for victory. There are many unanswered questions about whether the already collected data will continue to be used, and whether​ profiling practices will continue in other forms,” said Monami Maulik, Founder and Executive Director of DRUM.

DRUM’s membership of 2,400 families and the broader communities will continue to call for an end to the collection and retention of any data that is unrelated to criminal investigations or leads, and the segregation of any data that has already been collected out of the reach of policing activities. “We also emphasize the need for full accountability of the past policies and the harms done to families, as the most important step to creating any meaningful and substantive change,” said Fahd Ahmed, Legal and Policy Director, DRUM.

An undocumented immigrant woman and DRUM member, who was directly impacted by NYPD spying, emphasized that “we will continue to organize to ensure that we end not just these specific programs, but the actual practices of aggressive and discriminatory policing that continue to treat many communities of color as guilty until proven innocent.”

DRUM- South Asian Organizing Center is a multi-generational organization of over 2,400 low-income South Asian and Muslim immigrant workers, families and youth directly affected by immigration, educational inequity, and economic injustice.  We build the power of the most affected South Asian immigrants to lead social and policy change that impacts their own lives- from immigrant rights to police accountability, education reform, civil rights, and workers’ justice. DRUM is also a member of MACLC (Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition) and CPR (Communities united for Police Reform).


Contact: Fahd Ahmed: 917-744-5526, fahd@drumnyc.org