After a three-year investigation, the Justice Department announced that the largest police department in New Jersey, located in one of the most dangerous cities in the Northeast, will receive a court-appointed monitor and will be federally supervised. The Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday, July 22, that the decision to monitor the department was made based on findings that officers were making legally unjustified stops, using excessive force and the lack of discipline they receive from the department.
Newark, New Jersey is located about 15 miles from New York City. It is reported that this city has been a haven for narcotics and gang action. This city also suffers from high poverty and unemployment rates. Here, the Newark Police Department has said to be treating the citizens unconstitutionally.
The Los Angeles Times discovered that between 2000 and 2009 the Newark department received 989 excessive-force complaints against officers. Of these offenses only two percent received any disciplinary action.
In 2011 the federal investigation started looking at the behavior of the department. What was found was alarming. In recent years 75 percent of the pedestrian stops were not legally justified and 20 percent of officers admitted to using excessive force.
Atty. Gen. Eric. H. Holder Jr. said in a statement, “Our investigation uncovered troubling patterns in stops, arrests and use of force by the police in Newark. With this agreement, we’re taking decisive action to address potential discrimination and end unconstitutional conduct by those who are sworn to serve their fellow citizens.”
NBC New York stated that the investigation found that blacks were being targeted, but that there needs to be more evidence for it to be race-based comparison. Some residents would be arrested for retaliatory reasons. and others simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The report reads, “In particular, thousands of the stops — all of which were at least long enough to run warrant checks — involved individuals who were described merely as ‘milling,’ ‘loitering,’ or ‘wandering,’ without any indication of criminal activity or suspicion.
“Some of those were augmented with a notation that the ‘milling,’ ‘loitering,’ or ‘wandering’ was taking place in high-crime areas, high-narcotics areas, or high-gang activity areas. Officers also routinely stopped and ran warrant checks for individuals solely for being present in high-crime areas, near scenes of suspected or reported crimes, or simply ‘in areas.’”
The report also includes that many of the stops made by offers were either under reported or not reported correctly. Suspects were also victims as there were items stolen from them while in the prisoner property unit.
Newark police officials and the mayor cooperated with the investigation. United States Attorney Paul Fishman, “The people of Newark deserve to be safe, and so do the thousands who come here to work, to learn, and to take advantage of all the city has to offer. They also need to know the police protecting them are doing that important -- and often dangerous -- work while respecting their constitutional rights."
Los Angeles Times stated that although all the details have not been made the city and Justice Department officials have signed “‘an agreement in principle’ to implement a consent decree that will include some form of civilian oversight.” The appointed monitor will be evaluating and will report on the city’s. The decree should be done by Sept 15.
There are other department who have also fallen under a federal watch including Los Angeles Police Department and New Jersey State Police. There is no set timeline for this clean up, but it is suspected to take years.
"It will take real work," Fishman said. "Bad habits ... are hard to break. "