Graduating class of Newark police expected to be 'change agents'

By Vernal Coleman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on March 10, 2016

 

Law enforcement officials from across Essex County gathered in Newark Thursday to welcome the latest classes of Newark police and firefighters to their respective departments.

NEWARK — Officials from across Essex County gathered at the New Hope Baptist Church Thursday to welcome a new class of officers to the Newark Police Department.

The 36 new officers represent the latest in what Mayor Ras Baraka has promised will be a series of additions aimed at bolstering the department's ranks. Thirty four Newark Fire Department trainees were also honored at the ceremony. 

Joined by Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose, Newark Police Chief Anthony Campos and other local officials at the graduation ceremony, Baraka struck a somewhat solemn tone in his remarks, telling the assembled officers of the difficulties they'll soon face as members of the city's police department.

"What you have to do is a hard job, and in many cases you'll be unappreciated for the work you do," Baraka said in a speech from the pulpit. "But we expect that the training that you've had will hold you during these difficult times."

The class began as a group of 50 in September. Following six months of police training at Essex County College, 36 remained to officially join the city police department Thursday. 

In addition to keeping the city safe, the new class will also be counted on to "become change agents" and continue the process of repairing the city's relationship with those communities in the wake of the a damning U.S. Justice Department review of the city's police force, Ambrose said. 

To that end, all 36 will be assigned to foot patrols in the most troubled corners of the city, Ambrose added. The officers will receive an additional four weeks of training in strategies including conflict deescalation.

"You will join with individuals who are committed to making Newark safer," Ambrose said. "Enforcing the laws are only part of the job. You are guardians of the community, and a warrior when needed."

Mayor Baraka said the training is reflective of his administration's emphasis on collaborating with residents to reduce crime.

"We believe that 21st century public safety in Newark works to heal the wounds of the past and institute a new philosophy which treats the community like members of our own families," he said.

Released in July 2014, the Justice Department report found widespread abuse of citizens' civil rights and disproportionate targeting of African-Americans.

The agency is currently in the process of choosing a monitor that will oversee a range of reforms to its disciplinary system, training and other procedures — making Newark the 13th city in the country to operate with a federal watchdog.

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