The New York Police Department has announced a new initiative aimed at recruiting Muslim police officers with an eye toward combatting extremism and repairing a relationship that has been marred by controversial surveillance of local Muslims. 

News of the recruiting effort came on the occasion of the NYPD’s annual pre-Ramadan conference, where officers touch base with members of the Muslim community before the holy month begins. The department’s current 800 Muslim officers account for just over 2 percent of the total 35,000 uniformed police force. The NYPD Muslim Officers Society says that its members hold just 20 high-level administrator spots.

Lieutenant Adeel Rana, commanding officer of the community affairs immigration outreach unit, told the Associated Press that those numbers are on their way up. “We are getting more and more recruits. And as they see people of their own religion in uniform, their eyes brighten.” 

The department’s “Demographics Unit” was reportedly disbanded in April 2014, after years of creating an atmosphere of anxiety and self-censorship in the community, using everything from undercover informants to closed-circuit camera spying to track where people worshipped, ate and even shopped. The department said it never actually exposed any terrorist plots and had to fend off lawsuits as a result of their actions.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations welcomes the recruitment efforts. “The more Muslims who work in the NYPD the better,” said spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. “This is a way to break down the mistrust and create bridges in the community. Where an informant breaks down trust, a law enforcement officer builds it.”