DOJ Revamps Newark Police Department, Probe Finds Cops Broke Laws, Failed Community

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Flickr/TomLink
Flickr/TomLink

The United States Department of Justice is working to make changes to the Newark Police Department in New Jersey. After conducting an investigation with the department in July 2014, the DOJ announced March 30 they have reached an agreement with Newark police to revamp the way they interact with citizens.

The investigation found that there was a “pattern or practice of constitutional violations in the NPD’s stop and arrest practices, its response to individuals’ exercise of their rights under the First Amendment [and] the Department’s use of force,” against Black residents.

The aim to have those violations addressed through a plan is outlined in the consent decree.

Vanita Gupta, head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said in a press conference that the findings of the investigation showed the department “broke the law, but also eroded trust. We found policies that not only harmed residents but also lacked accountability. And we found systems that not only failed the community, but also failed officers themselves.”

A press release shows there will be 12 areas the city of Newark and NPD will have to reform. They are outlined below.

  • NPD will improve officer training to ensure that officers develop the necessary technical and practical skills required to carry out NPD directives consistently.

  • NPD will revise search and seizure policies, training and supervision to ensure that all stops, searches and arrests are conducted in accordance with the Constitution and in a manner that takes into account community priorities.

  • NPD will integrate bias-free policing principles into all levels of the organization, including comprehensive training of officers and supervisors.

  • NPD will reform use of force policies, including requirements for using de-escalation techniques whenever possible and appropriate, prohibiting retaliatory force and ensuring mandatory reporting and investigation standards following use of force.

  • NPD will deploy in-car and body-worn cameras to promote accountability, instill community confidence and improve law enforcement records.

  • NPD will implement measures to prevent theft of property by officers, including robust reporting and complete accounting of property or evidenced seized.

  • Office of Professional Standards investigators will be appropriately qualified and trained.  Investigations of civilian complaints will be conducted in an objective, thorough and timely manner.

  • Newark will create a civilian oversight entity to give voice to and pursue concerns of its residents.

  • NPD will develop protocols for conducting compliance reviews and integrity audits.

  • NPD will implement steps to ensure that the disciplinary process is fair and consistent.

  • NPD will improve records management and early intervention systems and collect data on all uses of force and investigatory stops, searches and arrests, and develop a protocol for the comprehensive analysis of the data.  The information will be publicly reported.

  • NPD will strengthen its public information programs to ensure that members of the public are informed of NPD’s progress toward reform.

The Newark Police Department is the most recent department to be investigated by the DOJ. Colorlines reports the Department of Justice filed a civil rights suit against the city of Ferguson, Missouri during a back and forth on an agreement to overhaul their police and courts. The NPD also had a similar investigation in 2011, according to Frontline. The American Civil Liberties Union petitioned the DOJ to open the probe after documenting 407 allegations of misconduct, which included police shootings, false arrests and discrimination.

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