NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The federal government and Newark announced a settlement Wednesday to reform the city’s police department.
The deal comes 20 months after a Justice Department investigation concluded officers routinely used excessive force and stopped people on the street for no legitimate reason — practices that disproportionately affected minority residents.
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said that he has recommended to a judge that former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey serve as a monitor over the department for five years. Harvey served as attorney general when New Jersey’s state police department was under a federal consent decree over racial profiling.
The settlement agreement unveiled Wednesday will require Newark police to implement a more community-focused police model, revise policies and training on stops and searches and revise use-of-force policies.
“The culture department will be changed, no matter what it was yesterday or two years ago or 20 years ago,” Fishman said.
Newark police will also equip all patrol cars with video cameras and require most officers to wear body cameras.
“This decree will serve as a roadmap for reform in the city of Newark, and as a model for best police practices across the country,” Fishman said. “The decree will end only after the monitor and a federal judge are satisfied that the police department has demonstrated sustained and substantial compliance with its terms.”
The agreement also calls for a police civilian review board to investigate wrongdoing, which Newark’s city council approved earlier this month.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said this is an opportunity make the police department more efficient and more effective.
“That our police department is policing in a constitutional manner, is respecting the rights and the liberties of the civilians in our town,” Baraka said.
The Justice Department’s three-year investigation, released in July 2014, validated many allegations in a 2010 American Civil Liberties Union complaint that accused police of rampant misconduct, use of excessive force and lax internal oversight.
The ACLU filing cited 418 instances of misconduct that included officers breaking a man’s jaw and eye socket during an arrest and seven deaths attributed to Newark officers. The complaint also found Newark had paid out nearly $5 million in legal settlements over 2 1/2 years.
The investigation also found that over a three-and-a-half year period, 75 percent of pedestrian stops were made without constitutionally adequate reasons, often targeting people who were merely in high-crime areas. Eighty-five percent of those stopped were black in a city where blacks make up 54 percent of the population.
The cost of monitoring will be borne by the city of Newark and will be capped at roughly $7.5 million over the course of the agreement, Fishman said.
Baraka said he was “not ecstatic” about the price tag, but said the cost could be balanced by fewer lawsuits against the police department for excessive force and other complaints.
Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said he welcomed the monitoring as an opportunity for a culture shift in the department.
“We don’t view this as someone looking down our backs or over our shoulders,” he said.
In January, the city announced it will bring in a civilian attorney to run its police internal affairs unit. At the time, Baraka said the move was vital to improving relations between law enforcement and the community.
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