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Monitor to oversee Newark Police Department reforms

Craig D. Frazier | 7/31/2014, 11:27 a.m.

The Justice Department ordered independent monitoring of the Newark Police Department after a federal investigation found “a pattern of unconstitutional policing.” In addition, findings show that city police officers had no constitutional basis for 75 percent of the pedestrian stops they conducted in recent years. It also determined that officers often used excessive force during arrests but underreported the level of force used.

The announcement was made last week at U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman’s office in Newark, N.J. A court monitor has not been chosen, but city and federal officials should have the order finalized by September.

“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,” said Fishman.

The monitor’s many responsibilities will include creating a strong, independent civilian oversight body for the Newark Police Department with subpoena power and independent disciplinary authority. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said he would work with the independent monitor to ensure the reforms happen.

“We are excited that we have the ability to transform the Newark Police Department,” said Baraka.

In response to the announcement, a diverse group of New Jersey organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP and People’s Organization for Progress, said that the findings of the Justice Department investigation and the reforms agreed to by the city of Newark create an opportunity for the Newark Police Department to make historic changes.

“The government has ruled on what we have known for years,” said People’s Organization for Progress leader Larry Hamm. “I think the most important thing citizens can do is get into the streets. Let’s have no illusion about it. We have to keep the pressure on. All of what is happening is as a result of mass struggle.”