Newark residents to play role in years-long fed monitor

By Thomas Moriarty | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on November 29, 2016

 

Peter Harvey, the federal monitor for the Newark Police Department consent decree, addresses city residents at St. John's Community Baptist Church on Monday, Nov. 28, 2016.

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NEWARK -- A federal monitor overseeing the Newark police department will likely remain in place for years, according to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman. And, the monitor will be consulting residents about police reforms along the way.

Those were the major messages of a presentation titled "What does the consent decree mean for me?", the first of a series of meetings officials plan to hold over the next several years regarding the federal oversight of the department.

Peter C. Harvey, the former state attorney general who was appointed federal monitor earlier this year spoke to city residents Monday night at St. John's Community Baptist Church.

He said pollsters from Rutgers University will soon begin conducting precinct-by- precinct phone, text and email surveys to gather information from residents as part of the Newark Police Department's federal consent decree.

"We've done two surveys -- this is the second," said Harvey.

"Survey number one, we surveyed the police officers themselves," he said. "We're now turning to a survey of the community."

Newark residents over the age of 18 will be randomly selected for the surveys, which are scheduled to begin Dec. 1.

All responses will be kept confidential, and only group results will be featured in publications or presentations, according to Harvey.

The court-imposed consent decree, approved in May, resulted from a scathing 2014 review of the Newark Police Department by the U.S. Department of Justice, which said the city's officers had engaged in widespread civil rights violations.

The decree functions as a settlement between the city and Department of Justice. In order for the city to be released from monitoring for a given requirement, Harvey said, it must be found to have been in compliance for two consecutive monitoring periods.

The consent decree requires the monitors to issue quarterly reports, he said.

Fishman, who introduced Harvey, said there is likely a "five-year time horizon, at least" before Newark police are in full compliance with the consent decree.

Harvey said officials chose Rutgers' Eagleton Institute for the survey because the survey takers are able to reach residents on cellphones, noting many people no longer have landline phones.

About 70 residents filled the church's pews Monday night to hear the updates about the decree.

Harvey and Fishman were joined by Ryan Haygood, president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

Haygood described policing as "one of the most pressing issues of our time," and noted 2016 was the 49th anniversary of the 1967 Newark riots, which were sparked by the killing of a black cab driver by white police officers.

Harvey described the ultimate goal of the consent decree as systemic reform.

Part of that, he said, requires evaluation of the police department's existing policies for use of force, stop arrest and detention, property handling and community engagement.

"This is not a war zone," he said. "You are not enemy combatants. This is a community that needs service and protection.

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