The Justice Department and the city of Newark have reached a comprehensive settlement to resolve years-old allegations that city police officers used excessive force, stopped people without just cause and even stole people’s property, officials announced Wednesday.
The agreement calls for a wide range of reforms at the Newark Police Department, including more training for officers, revised search and seizure policies, body and in-car cameras and a civilian oversight body, officials said. It will be overseen by former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey, officials said.
“This agreement holds the potential to make Newark a national model for constitutional, effective and accountable community policing in the 21st century,” Vanita Gupta, who heads the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement announcing the agreement. “The Department of Justice looks forward to working closely with the city as we implement this agreement and begin to change policies, improve systems and rebuild trust between Newark police officers and the residents they serve.”
The Justice Department alleged widespread impropriety in the Newark Police Department in July 2014, outlining in a 49-page report how officers had disproportionately stopped and arrested black residents and retaliated against those who questioned their actions. The Justice Department alleged that officers were unable to articulate a sufficient legal basis for 75 percent of pedestrian stops and used excessive force in more than 20 percent of the incidents reviewed — collectively amounting to what the department called a “pattern or practice of constitutional violations.”
The Justice Department said at the same time it released the report that it had reached an “agreement in principle” with Newark, but, according to NJ.com, officials delayed in signing it and formalizing federal oversight. The agreement in principle called for Newark police to implement many of the reforms that were finalized Wednesday.
According to a copy of her prepared remarks, Gupta said at a news conference announcing the agreement that investigators analyzed more than 10,000 field reports, more than 300 use-of-force reports and more than 50,000 stops and also talked with officers, residents and other interested parties.
The Justice Department is enforcing 20 similar agreements with law enforcement agencies across the country, including two reached recently in Miami and Ferguson, Mo. Ferguson’s case was particularly noteworthy because the city briefly resisted signing the agreement, prompting federal officials to sue. The city then backed down.