NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Newark Mayor Ras Baraka on Tuesday announced what he called the first step in reforming a problem-plagued police force, with the creation of a civilian complaint review board, the first in the city’s history.
The announcement by Baraka came six months after the U.S. Department of Justice said it would appoint a federal monitor to oversee the police department after its three-year investigation revealed systemic misconduct and a lack of accountability.
A nine-member board made up of an inspector general, three members appointed by the city council and five recommended by a roster of local and national groups that includes the NAACP, American Civil Liberties Union and the People’s Organization for Progress. Only the inspector general will be a former member of the police department.
The board will investigate complaints from civilians alleging police misconduct such as excessive use of force, unlawful stops and searches and unlawful arrests. It also will investigate complaints filed by police officers or personnel against other officers. The board will have subpoena power.
But the board won’t have the authority to impose sanctions or discipline. Instead, it will make recommendations to the police director who will decide what actions are needed using a yet-to-be-created discipline “matrix,” Baraka said.
The creation of a review board was one of the terms agreed to by the city when the Justice Department’s findings were announced in July.
The report alleged Newark police used excessive force, routinely stopped people for no legitimate reason and regularly stole property from civilians. It blamed the department’s system for investigating citizen complaints, which, the report claimed, upheld only one excessive force complaint over a six-year period.
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