Seven Democratic state senators called Wednesday for the state attorney general to investigate the New York Police Department's spying on Muslim neighborhoods.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the senators cited an Associated Press investigation that found the NYPD has subjected entire communities to surveillance and scrutiny, often without any allegation of wrongdoing. Police built databases of businesses that catered to Muslims and monitored where certain Muslims ate, shopped, lived and prayed.
The Democrats who signed the letter represent districts in New York City. They asked Schneiderman to investigate whether police surveillance and operations without evidence of criminality or wrongdoing violated the state constitution.
"This dangerous precedent undermines one of the most basic tenets of our nation, religious freedom," they wrote.
Sen. Kevin Parker, who represents part of Brooklyn and said the borough has one of the largest Muslim populations in the nation, said he was "deeply troubled that the NYPD seeks to criminalize an entire faith tradition."
"The message seems to be if you are Muslim, you are guilty until proven innocent," he said. "... We face serious security challenges; unfortunately this approach by the department may not only violate the law but also focuses resources on law-abiding citizens rather than focusing on those who seek to do us harm."
The attorney general's office was reviewing the letter, spokeswoman Jennifer Givner said Wednesday.
Schneiderman was a Democratic senator representing part of Manhattan until his election last year as attorney general. Democrats are in the minority in the Senate.
Signing the letter were Parker and Sen. Velmanette Montgomery of Brooklyn, Sens. Bill Perkins and Liz Krueger of Manhattan, Sens. Gustavo Rivera and Ruth Hassell-Thompson of the Bronx and Sen. Shirley Huntley of Queens.
The New York Police Department and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday. The NYPD has claimed its officers only followed leads when investigating terrorism.