Baraka to announce Newark police reform initiatives in wake of federal probe

By Bill Wichert | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on December 19, 2014

NEWARK — Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and other city officials on Monday are expected to announce major initiatives taken in response to a federal investigation that found constitutional violations by city police officers.

Those initiatives include relocating the police department’s internal affairs division to city hall, and creating a Civilian Complaint Review Board to investigate complaints against members of the police force, according to a press release issued today by the city.

The board would be created by Baraka via an executive order, and none of its members will be current or former employees of the police department, the release states.

City officials are scheduled to discuss the initiatives during an 11 a.m. press conference at the Police/Fire Communications Center, located at 311 Washington Street in Newark’s Central Ward.

Baraka will be joined by Police Director Eugene Venable, Police Chief Anthony Campos and city council members, according to the city’s press release.

Following a three-year review of the Newark Police Department, officials with the U.S. Department of Justice announced in July that they had found constitutional violations by city officers in their pedestrian stops and use of excessive force.

In about 75 percent of the police reports analyzed for pedestrian stops, officers failed to articulate a constitutionally adequate reason for being detained, officials said.

In more than 20 percent of the force incidents reviewed, the use of force appeared to be unreasonable, officials said.

The violations disproportionately affected blacks in the city, officials said. While blacks represent nearly 54 percent of Newark’s population, they accounted for 85 percent of pedestrian stops and nearly 80 percent of arrests, the investigation found.

The city has been in discussions with federal officials about a pending consent decree to implement a series of reforms in the police department with the oversight of a federal monitor.

A few weeks ago, Baraka said a final order is expected to be issued “reasonably soon.”

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