NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Across the country, there have been heated calls to defund the police.
But in Newark, the positive police and community relationship is what has led to a steady decline in crime.READ MORE: Community Street Team, Deescalation Training Credited For Newark’s Decreasing Homicide, Violent Crime Rates
On Tuesday, the mayor implemented a historic change to continue that trend, CBS2’s Christina Fan reported.
Inside City Hall, Mayor Ras Baraka announced major leadership changes within the Department of Public Safety, creating a deputy director of community relations and an advisory committee, all to be served by civilians.
“We think that we need to have somebody that the community trusts and a group of people around him that come from the community that they trust as well,” Baraka said.
Building trust has been an ongoing mission of the police department — and it has seen success.
Both 2019 and 2020 saw the city’s lowest homicide rates in 60 years.
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Rev. Ronald Slaughter is the newly appointed deputy director of community relations, and he said he took the job to make sure the city stays on that trajectory.
“Building on the energy and momentum that Newark had in 2020, with no police-involved shootings, building on that legacy as we move forward I think is paramount for our city,” Slaughter said.READ MORE: Only On CBS2: Newark Celebrates One Of Its Safest Years Since 1960s
Baraka also announced Brian O’Hara as the city’s new acting public safety director Tuesday.
When asked what his number one priority was, O’Hara said, “As the mayor mentioned before, the issue of trust.”
O’Hara, who has served in the department since 2001, said de-escalation training and the formation of a community street team recently have helped rebuild relations.
Perhaps the greatest testament of success was during last summer’s protests surrounding George Floyd.
“While the rest of this country, all the other major cities in the United States, exploded in violence this year, that didn’t happen in Newark,” O’Hara said.
The new public safety director said in addition to a decline in crime, the police department is also arresting fewer and fewer people every year.
The mayor also created the new role of deputy police director of operations. That position will help coordinate functions including crime prevention and policy development.MORE NEWS: Back-To-School Hairstyles Helping Newark Police, Firefighters Connect With Kids
CBS2’s Christina Fan contributed to this report