Newark PD Is Latest Police Force to be Hit with Allegations of Making Racist Online Comments

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Mayor Ras Baraka
Mayor Ras Baraka.

Police received yet another black eye when it was revealed a senior Newark officer had compared Mayor Ras Baraka to an ape. According to ThinkProgress, local police are investigating a lieutenant for offensive comments he made on social media.

“Police are looking into a Facebook exchange between the lieutenant and a retired officer after receiving a screenshot of what may be the lieutenant’s personal page,” reported ThinkProgress.

The lieutenant reportedly received a photo of an ape with the caption, “Lmfao….How’s your mayor?”  The on-duty officer allegedly replied, “Exactly!!!!’ and ‘Bring back Sharpaaaa!!!!!”

ThinkProgress reports that the exchange was presumably referring to Mayor Sharpe James, who served as the city’s leader for 20 years. Newark Police Director Eugene Venable said the post not only violated the department’s social media policy, but also reflected poorly on the police force.

“The general order was created as the result of several embarrassing instances of online activity by members of the department that were quite racy and somewhat, quite frankly, borderline discriminatory…Violations of the order could result in disciplinary actions, including dismissal,” Venable told NJ Advance Media.

Unfortunately, these allegations regarding the Newark Police Department only reinforces the Black community’s belief that many police officers harbor racist views.

“The social media exchange also sheds light on a pattern of racist correspondence among police officers,” reported ThinkProgress. “In Ferguson, police and court officials sent emails depicting President Obama as a chimpanzee, the first lady as a bare-chested African woman, and mocked black residents for their speech. Officers from the San Francisco Police Department repeatedly sent the word ‘nigger’ in a series of text messages, in addition to referring to a black person as a ‘monkey’ and an ‘animal.’ The Huffington Post also compiled a list of damning emails that were circulated in Louisiana in 2012.”

ThinkProgress reported that this is just the latest scandal in the troubled Newark Police Department (NPD). A 2014 Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation found several incidences of harassment of Black residents, racial profiling and multiple civil rights violations. The DOJ report showed Black residents made up 79 percent of arrests even though they were only 54 percent of the city’s population.

“We have determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Newark Police Department has engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests, in violation of the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and that NPD’s stop and arrest practices have a disparate impact on the city of Newark’s black residents,” said acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels when the report was released.

“In addition, we have reasonable cause to believe that NPD engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The patterns of misconduct we have found reflect policing that too often disregards the law and alienates the communities with whom partnership is most needed to effectively prevent crime.”

Black Newark residents have grown used to harassment from the police department.

“Community members have come to expect these suspicionless stops, and one called it ‘just part of living in Newark,” reported ThinkProgress.

The damning DOJ report also revealed incidences of NPD officers stealing property and money from suspects.

Baraka, who is the son of poet and social critic, Amiri Baraka, may have created some enemies on the NPD when he established a civilian review board to oversee the police force.

“The Facebook investigation comes three months after Baraka implemented a unique civilian oversight committee in response to the DOJ’s findings,” reported ThinkProgress. “Under consent decree, the NPD agreed to create an independent monitor after the DOJ discovered that only one of hundreds of excessive force complaints were sustained over a five-year period. Baraka signed the executive decree establishing the Newark Police Department Civilian Complaint Review Board in April.”

The board has the power to subpoena records and enforce disciplinary action, according to ThinkProgress.

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