The surveillance of Muslims by the NYPD in New Jersey has drawn criticism from Gov. Chris Christie, former Gov. Richard Codey, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and many Muslims. Former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey sat down with NJToday Managing Editor Mike Schneider to discuss the issue. He said he had no problem with members of the NYPD entering New Jersey to follow leads.
Harvey said he was involved in drafting documents that permitted New Jersey law enforcement officers to board trains at Newark that went into New York and make arrests even after the train crossed state lines. The same courtesy was offered to New York law enforcement members. “We didn’t want challenges to the arrest to be raised simply because of jurisdictional argument,” Harvey said.
He explained the reasoning behind that agreement was to protect citizens on the rail lines, particularly after the London bombings. Harvey also said that officials knew about the program.
“The NYPD was conducting undercover investigations throughout New York and in New Jersey,” he said. “Our law enforcement people were conducting undercover operations in New Jersey that spilled over into New York.”
Harvey said that if NYPD officers had information about specific individuals, they may have needed to conduct surveillance in New Jersey on all the places those people frequented.
“If on the other hand you’re simply taking pictures of places because you intend to surveil everybody that comes in and out, that’s a different story,” he said. “In my view that’s somewhat lazy policing.”
The specifics of the undercover work is confidential, which Harvey agrees with. “We don’t know what they were doing here and they’re not going to tell us, nor should they,” he said. “The goal here is to stop them from taking down the building. Once they’ve taken down the building, you’ve failed. chances are the person you’re pursuing is dead in the building.”
Harvey said law enforcement needs to respect constitutional rights and engage the community. “There were plenty of Muslims killed in the World Trade Center,” he said. “We need to engage the community and we can’t engage them if they think they’re being picked on and being targeted.”