Newark's top cop says department is ready to 'roll up sleeves' and work with federal monitor

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media, for
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on July 22, 2014

Recently appointed Newark Police Director Eugene Venable said he is ready to begin implementing a host of policy changes after a Department of Justice report sharply criticized its internal affairs system, use of force and treatment of African-Americans. director. Friday February 21, 2014. Newark, NJ, USA.


NEWARK — The city’s newly appointed police director said today that his department is ready to implement widespread policy changes ordered by the federal government in the wake of damning findings about its use of force, pedestrian stop program and treatment of African-Americans.

At a press conference, Eugene Venable, the new director, said he did not object to any portion of the U.S. Department of Justice’s findings over its two-year investigation of the force, which will require officers to comply with several new practices while being overseen by a federally appointed monitor.

“We accept the report. We look forward to making all the corrections that have been offered to us and pinpointed in the Department of Justice report, so I’m not going t put the blame on anything,” he said.

“We’re looking forward to just rolling up our sleeves, working on these problems and solving them.”

Among the data revealed in the DOJ’s report was that approximately 75 percent of the department’s pedestrian stops - made under its so-called “stop-and-frisk” program - were unconstitutional, based purely on an individual’s presence in a high-crime area, or for behaving in a way officers perceived as disrespectful.

The agency also took issue with the department’s reporting of use of force, as well as its internal affairs system, which it said suffered from “systemic deficiencies” that led to inadequate reviews of incidents involving force and officer misconduct.

In addition to adopting the new procedures mandated by the Justice Department,, officers and their cruisers will also be outfitted with cameras to help the administration and federal monitor keep track of their activity and respond to any complaints about their conduct.

Venable said the city plans to institute several new training programs to help change the culture in the department by partnering with other communities and attempting to reinstitute a city police academy. The city has explored a partnership with Rutgers University to help relaunch an academy of its own, he said.

The department also plans to increase so-called “supervisory in-service training”, in which supervisors will travel with officers to help them in the field, help them write reports and review reports before they are submitted to ensure they comply with reformed policies.

“We’re going to a team policing aspect, as opposed to just having police officers themselves taking reports,” he said.

New Police Chief Anthony Campos said that a pilot program for the cameras will likely be launched in the near future, with the hopes that it will work well enough to implement department-wide.

“We are moving in that direction,” he said.

The Jstice Department’s Civil Rights Division will offer the department assistance on much of the new training, according to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.

While a consent decree outlining specific adjustments the force must make is expected to be finalized around mid-September, the department will be solely responsible for any changes in policy or approach between now and then.

Officials said no immediate shifts had been planned in the wake of the DOJ’s findings, but that city and police officials had already entered the planning phase on how to reorganize the department’s internal affairs system and make other changes.

“Obviously there’s nothing that stops the city from enthusiastically embracing the report’s conclusions today and from implementing whatever reforms the city can start to undertake on its own,” Fishman said.

“We hope and we expect that they’re going to do that, given what they’ve said today and what they’ve said over the last several weeks.”

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