Newark leaders give mixed reviews on policy directing victims to go to court

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on October 31, 2014

NEWARK — Newark city council members gave mixed reviews today on a new policy that directs the victims of crimes to file incident reports to the municipal court instead of the police.

“What may appear to be minor to the leadership of the Police Department is an extremely serious issue for our residents," North ward councilman Anibal Ramos said in a statement.

"For example, a senior citizen who is assaulted would now to be required to go to court to file a complaint. This is no way to treat our seniors."

Under the new policy, officers direct victims of harassment, simple assault, criminal mischief, to file complaints in municipal court as opposed to filling out an incident report themselves.

The measure also applies to disorderly persons offenses, including improper behavior and offensive language, as well as complaints about bad checks and false information provided to police.

The administration has argued new policy will give officers more time to stay on patrol, and allow residents to "fast track" their complaints.

Director of the Newark municipal court Eunice Samuels-Lewis said today her department has anticipated the change for more than a year, and has reorganized her staff to process any influx of complaints.

But Ramos said the new policy will burden the victims of crimes who may have to go to court multiple times to see that an issue is resolved.

Additionally, he said the Baraka administration should have reached out to city council members about the new change.

“As a member of the City Council and member of the Public Safety Committee, it is simply unacceptable that I was never briefed on this major change affecting the city's ability to respond to the needs of our residents," he said.

Ramos encouraged residents to sign an electronic petition urging the administration to reverse the policy.

City officials did not respond to a request for comment on Ramos's statement or petition.

At-large councilman Luis Quintana echoed similar thoughts, saying he didn't know enough about the policy to form an opinion yet. But he said the council and the public should have been briefed by the city about such a significant change.

“This is something that should be discussed with members of the council and the public," he said in an interview.

But at-large city councilman Eddie Osborne was more optimistic about the new policy.

"We're talking about two major issues here, public safety for our residents, and our city's finances. We have a new Mayor who's trying find ways to save money, and the FOP President fighting for his guys," he said in a statement.

"I'm in support of a measure that decreases response times, doesn't overwhelm the courts, or impact public safety."

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