NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP)Newark’s police department will undergo independent monitoring after a three-year federal investigation released Tuesday found what it called “a pattern of unconstitutional policing” that included excessive use of force and inadequate accountability.

The Justice Department probe began in May 2011 after the American Civil Liberties Union New Jersey filed a complaint claiming rampant misconduct in the department. It found problems with stop-and-arrest policies, police handling of complaints from residents and officers’ use of excessive force, which it said was unreasonable in more than 20 percent of cases.

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The monitor should be appointed by September, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.

The report also found the department violated the First Amendment rights of residents who lawfully objected to police actions, and it found a pattern of officers in the narcotics, gang and prisoner processing units stealing residents’ property.

“We believe that our police are a part of the community and not there as an occupying force,” Mayor Ras Baraka said. “We take the Department of Justice findings very seriously.”

The city of Newark cooperated with the investigation and has agreed to court-enforced monitoring. Other cities that have done so in recent years include Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Seattle.

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“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,” U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said.

“They also need to know the police protecting them are doing that important — and often dangerous — work while respecting their constitutional rights. The Justice Department has a long history of making sure of that, and today we have the commitment of Newark’s mayor and the leadership of the police department to make the department the one that the city deserves.”

Newark is New Jersey’s largest city with a population of nearly 300,000 people.

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