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Federal probe finds ‘misconduct’ in Newark PD

A three-year federal probe has revealed numerous counts of misconduct within the Newark Police Department.

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(Spencer Platt, Getty Images)

A report from the U.S. Department of Justice revealed the Newark PD violated the First and Fourth Amendments of citizens, engaged in excessive force, stole property from civilians and regularly stopped individuals with no constitutional reasoning.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman outlined the report Tuesday in Newark, joined by city mayor Ras Baraka and local law enforcement officials.

The report was the culmination of a three-year study following complaints from the American Civil Liberties Union and looks as far back as six years for patterns of misconduct. The report found nearly three-quarters of pedestrian stops were made by police without constitutional reasoning.

“NPD officers conducted thousands of stops that included warrant checks for individuals whose actions were described merely as ‘milling, loitering and wandering,’” said Jocelyn Samuels, acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C.

Fishman said some of the people who were “stopped and arrested were lawfully objecting to police action.” There were also reported thefts of citizens’ property, specifically by officers in narcotics, gangs, and prisoner processing departments.

“The patterns of misconduct we have found reflect policing that too often disregards the law,” Samuels said.

One of the most troubling things Fishman discussed was the lack of oversight in managing conduct, investigating citizen’s complaints and overseeing investigations of excessive force. The U.S. Attorney said in a six-and-a-half-year span, the Newark Police Department sustained only one complaint of an officer using unreasonable force — a “stunningly low” number for the state’s largest city.

“The training on the use of force isn’t good enough, the reports themselves are inadequate, there are a lot of situations where force has been used and not reported at all, and the investigations from internal affairs have been woefully substandard,” Fishman said.

Newark and the Justice Department have reached a preliminary agreement and an independent monitor is expected to be named by mid-September when a federal judge finalizes everything.

The final agreement is expected to have some form of civilian review, closer use-of-force documentation and review, improved internal affairs practices, consistent application of discipline, improved data collection, better safeguarding of personal property and an early warning system of infractions and misconduct to aid management.

A monitoring period expected to last several years will include benchmarks for the department to meet.

“One could look at this, 22 days in as mayor, that the roof is caving in, but I look at it as an opportunity to build a new roof,” Baraka said. “We are excited, not about the bad acts of a few police officers in our department, we are excited that we have the ability to transform the Newark police department.”

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