An open letter to the NJ Urban Mayors Association with congratulations to Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and leadership team
The Newark Communities for Accountable Policing wants to extend our heartiest congratulations to Newark’s beloved Mayor Ras Baraka upon his election as president of the NJ Urban Mayors Association and to his new leadership team.
This moment presents us all with unprecedented historical challenges and some long-standing ones we should all be aware of.
The New Year comes in with a horrible police killing in Newark, and with an ugly mob attack on the nation’s Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of the results of the presidential election. Both instances challenge us all to not yield to the political convenience of merely “going back to normal.”
Although our previous “normal” was better than the last four years, even that normal is begging us to do more.
At the heart of each incident is corrupt and racist policing without any meaningful civilian oversight. Although the attorney general’s office is just beginning its investigation of Carl Dorsey’s killing, there is evidence from civilian quarters that points to the officer involved as having had a bad, but unchecked, history, prior to the incident. Meaningful civilian oversight may have checked his behavior before it translated into something fatal that is now seeking to undermine our broad efforts of establishing a basic degree of trust between the community and the police.
With the Capitol attack, not only did it involve off-duty police officers from cities all over the country, it involved on-duty officers voluntarily committing security breaches that enabled the rioters to advance inside the Capitol. The “slow response to no response” to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s preliminary call for National Guard assistance prior to the attack also begs enormous questions that absolutely should be investigated.
May august bodies like the Association do and demonstrate what many more ought to do in New Jersey and around the country, and that is to do the following:
Call for and support proposed legislation that mandates strong Civilian Review Boards in any community that wishes to have one, strong necessarily meaning that they must have subpoena power, have authority to conduct independent investigations, have authority to conduct parallel investigations and have a community-driven character to ensure transparency and trust. Give every community who wants and needs what we are trying to make real in Newark.
Have the NJ attorney general’s office publicly report on the progression of
those investigations required of them by the Independent Prosecutors Bill. The police killing of Carl Dorsey is not the first since the bill went into effect. The public has yet to see any meaningful disclosure on police related deaths in Passaic, Orange, Stafford and most recently in Asbury Park with the police killing of Hasani Best.
Any officer found to have racist tendencies or allegiances should be terminated. Our doing that recently in Newark was dismissed in some media circles because the population of the city and the complexion of the police force is increasingly Black and Brown, but the premise was important and absolutely correct. Racist police officers lead to racist, often deadly, policing. Let us be clear, race is not just the central issue in the excessive use of force and police shootings, it was the central issue in the attack on the Capitol. The attack on the Capitol, again which included scores of off-duty police officers, was an attempt to stop the certification of the election on the racist premise that scores of Black and Brown votes were illegitimate!
Demand that the Justice Department of President Biden and Vice President Harris immediately reinstitute Consent Decrees to investigate police forces and to oversee needed reforms, and, beyond where we have previously gone, make provisions for strong civilian oversight to be instituted as the work of a given Consent Decree winds down its affairs (i.e. Civilian Review Boards with the same authority as stated above).
Demand that the Justice Department evaluates and investigates state sponsored voter suppression (i.e. crosschecking, poll closures, voter registration purging, as done by secretaries of state) and promulgates strong regulations against such practices.
To be sure, we dare say that this should not be left up to the NJ Mayors Association to do alone. Social justice organizations and all similar bodies like the Association throughout the state and throughout the country should all do the same.
We not only saw an ugly expression of violence and terrorism in Washington; we saw legions of people come together to do those awful deeds.
For those of us who dare say that we are not like that, that most of us are not like that, we too need to come together and enact the change that should prevent that from happening again! Our actions matter. Our solidarity matters. Our unity matters.
History has decided to challenge us with this incredible moment!
Let us meet that challenge together, head on.
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now…” —Martin Luther King Jr., Breaking the Silence