Feds to monitor Newark Police

Craig D. Frazier | 2/13/2014, 12:12 p.m.

A spokeswoman for Newark, the state’s largest city, said Monday that officials were in discussions with the Department of Justice to select a monitor to oversee the Newark Police Department later this year. The decision follows a federal review of accusations of misconduct. Reports say that the Police Department failed to address complaints of brutality and abuse lodged by Newark residents over the years. 

“The city of Newark has been working cooperatively with the Department of Justice in connection with its review of Newark Police Department procedures,” said Esmeralda Diaz Cameron, Newark’s chief spokeswoman. “The city and the Department of Justice are working to ensure that the best practices are followed within the Newark Police Department.”

The investigation began in 2011, a year after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a 96-page petition with the Department of Justice accusing Newark’s police of rampant misconduct. The ACLU investigation found citizens filed 261 complaints with the department, accusing officers of using excessive force, biased actions, improper searches or false arrests in 2008 and 2009. The city paid nearly $5 million over a two and a half-year period to settle lawsuits brought against the Police Department by residents or employees, the ACLU said.

New Jersey’s ACLU executive director, Udi Ofer, said Monday that he welcomed the possibility of a monitor being appointed. “Oversight has to outlast any one federal monitor,” he said. “The reforms must be permanent.”

Then-Mayor Cory Booker announced a plan last March to create a civilian review board to monitor police, but he stepped down to successfully campaign for a U.S. Senate seat, and no board was created. If a monitor is appointed, Newark would join other cities, including Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Seattle, in being subject to federal oversight.